Frank Reich was the third-round draft pick of the Bills in 1985. That year, the Bills took Bruce Smith first overall, and he signed his contract well before April's draft. Reich, however, didn't sign his contract until August.
During his very successful career at Maryland, Reich led what was then the largest comeback in college football history. The University of Miami was up 31-0 at halftime when Reich entered the game. He led the Terps to 42 second-half points en route to a 42-40 win.
As we just discussed a couple weeks ago, the Bills had traded for Rams starting quarterback Vince Ferragamo. In 1985, the Bills were a mess. After starting 0-4, Kay Stephenson was replaced by Hank Bullough. Ferragamo threw five touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Amidst all of the turmoil, Reich appeared in only one game, going 1-1 for 19 yards as the third quarterback.
When Ferragamo left after 1985, Reich moved up the depth chart, but Jim Kelly left the USFL and signed with the Bills to be their new starting quarterback for the 1986 season. For the next nine seasons, Reich would back up the future Hall of Fame signal caller.
During his time in Buffalo, Reich was inserted in mop-up duty quite frequently when the potent offensive attack had put the opposition away. He also started eight games, compiling a 4-4 record. His career regular season statistics in Buffalo were 222 for 377 for a 58.9 completion percentage, 2,540 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
That alone wouldn't warrant his spot in Bills lore, however. What Reich did in the clutch is what sets him apart.
In 1990, with Jim Kelly injured Reich led the 12-2 Bills against 11-3 Miami. Reich beat the Dolphins and Hall of Famer Dan Marino, throwing two touchdowns and clinching the AFC East division and home field advantage. They would use that to their advantage in the AFC Championship game that season, defeating the Raiders 51-3 at Rich Stadium.
On January 3, 1993, Reich made his most indelible mark. After throwing an interception that the Houston Oilers returned for a touchdown to make the lead 35-3, Reich led the Bills on the largest comeback in NFL history. He threw four touchdown passes (three to Andre Reed) in the second half to take the lead late in the fourth. After the Oilers tied it on a field goal, the Bills won it in overtime on a Steve Christie field goal. The Bills went on to their third straight Super Bowl.
Following the 1994 season, Reich joined the expansion Carolina Panthers and started the first three games in team history, including a return trip to Buffalo in Week 2. He was pulled during the team's bye week in favor of first overall draft pick Kerry Collins. During his year in Carolina, he went 0-3. He joined the Jets in 1996, starting seven games and securing the team's only win that season. He finished his career in Detroit, going 0-2 in two starts from 1997-1998.
Following his playing career, the devout Christian was a motivational speaker and received his seminary degree, becoming pastor of a church. Bill Polian, the man who negotiated Reich's first contract and brought him to the Panthers, asked Reich to join the Indianapolis Colts and coach. Ten years later, in 2008, Reich called Polian and became the Colts' Offensive Quality Control Coach. Last season, he served as the team's quarterbacks coach, replacing the promoted Jim Caldwell, assisting future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. In an interview with The Buffalo News from February, Reich mentioned a meeting with Polian.
"After my rookie season, he called me into his office and said, ‘Hey, you need to be a coach one day,'" Reich recalled. "He said, ‘Play as long as you can. Then when you retire, I want you to come coach wherever I’m at.’"
Reich is still active in the Buffalo community, annually presenting the Call to Courage Award in his adopted hometown. In 2005, Reich was awarded the Ralph C. Wilson Distinguished Service Award by the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation.