Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich answers a question during a news conference introducing him as the NFL football team's new head coach in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich answers a question during a news conference introducing him as the NFL football team's new head coach in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
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PHOENIX (AP) — Nick Sirianni often credits Frank Reich for his development as a head coach.

The mentor also learned from the student.

Before leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl in just his second season as a head coach, Sirianni spent three years as the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts under Reich from 2018-20. They also worked together as assistants for three years with the Chargers.

While Reich focuses on evaluating his new team in Carolina, Sirianni is preparing the Eagles (16-3) for the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs (16-3) on Sunday.

Reich hasn’t been surprised by Sirianni’s quick rise.

“He’s got an incredible ability to connect with players and it’s just authentic, it’s genuine,” Reich told the AP Pro Football Podcast. “It’s easy for him because he cares. He’s just really good at that. He’s also an elite offensive mind. He’s a great game-planner. He’s got that coaching pedigree. We worked together for six years. It was a real highlight. I know he’s always complimentary because I’m like the older brother who mentored him, but trust me, this was a two-way street. We both benefited from it and I’ve learned a lot from that.”

With the biggest game of his life approaching, Sirianni draws from the lessons he learned from his time working with Reich.

“Frank would always say this to me: ‘No man suddenly becomes different than his cherished thoughts and habits.’ Meaning no one suddenly becomes different. You are who you’ve been the whole time,” Sirianni said. “This is a bigger game than this or this. They’ve all been big. I show a picture to the team every week of a mountain. There’s the top of the mountain, you can see it, but the guy’s vision is just on the steps right there (ahead). Your focus doesn’t change because the situation or the game around you or the opponent changes. You still focus on one step at a time. The higher you climb on the mountain ... it gets windier, the conditions get tougher, it gets a little steeper, it gets a little harder to breathe. So now what an unbelievable time to just focus on the next step and don’t look up.”

Sirianni’s success in Philadelphia is largely due to the development of quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was a finalist for AP NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Hurts took a giant leap in his second season in Sirianni’s system.

Reich didn’t have the opportunity to coach the same starting QB two seasons in a row in Indianapolis after Andrew Luck abruptly retired in 2019. He went from Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan.

The Panthers used three starting quarterbacks while going 7-10 in 2022. Reich knows finding a franchise quarterback is a top priority. He’s working with general manager Scott Fitterer and owner David Tepper to identify the right one.

“It’s a big deal,” Reich said. “It’s just a question of having a plan and executing the plan. Looking forward to that process. That’ll be very enjoyable, studying the quarterbacks both in college and free agents, everybody that’s available. Every option is open. But the main thing, as we’ve talked about, it’s really looking for stability there. That’s really what you need for the consistency that we want to show.”

Reich’s return to Carolina where he was the franchise’s first starting quarterback in 1995 allows him to expand “kNot Today,” a nonprofit that works to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation. Reich and his wife, Linda, formed the organization a year after he became the head coach with the Colts.

“This is a massive problem,” Reich said. “Fifty million people are estimated to be victims of modern slavery, over 10 million of those are children. Human trafficking and slavery is a $150 billion industry, which should make us all sick. ... Our response is to join together as a team, and everybody do our part. For ‘kNot Today,’ we’re about really trying to do three things. We want to push legislation that will protect children. We want to really focus on prevention education. That’s a really big deal. Last year in the state of Indianapolis, we helped do prevention education for many students. And then we want to help support law enforcement.”

The Reichs are partnering with International Justice Mission to also help trafficking victims on an international level.

“They’ve been leaders in this industry for a long time and we’re trying to play our part,” Reich said. “But each one of us have a part, parents, coaches, we all have a part in the process. This is all hands on deck. Let’s each play our part in protecting children from sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.”

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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