Frank Reich is returning to the Carolina Panthers as their coach..

 
Frank Reich is returning to the Carolina Panthers as their coach..

Frank Reich is returning to the Carolina Panthers as their coach..

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Frank Reich is returning to the Carolina Panthers as their coach, more than 27 years after starting the franchise’s first game at quarterback in 1995.

The Panthers announced Thursday they’ve agreed to terms with Reich to become the sixth head coach in franchise history. An introductory news conference was set for Tuesday.

Reich was chosen among nine candidates who interviewed for the job, including former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and this season’s interim head coach, Steve Wilks.

Reich received a four-year deal from the Panthers, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not release details of coaching hires.

The 61-year-old Reich joins the Panthers after spending the past four-plus seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, where he went 40-33-1 as head coach before being fired on Nov. 7 after a 3-5-1 start. The Colts went to the playoffs twice as a wild-card team under Reich, going 1-2 in the postseason.

Before joining the Colts, Reich worked two years as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, helping them win the Super Bowl in his second season under head coach Doug Pederson.

NFL analyst and former Panthers general manager Bill Polian, who brought Reich with him from Buffalo to Carolina in 1995 to help mentor first-round draft pick Kerry Collins and provide quarterback stability, called Reich “as fine of a person as you’ll ever meet” and a head coach with “a great football mind.”

“I think he will fit in perfectly in Carolina,” Polian said. “This is where he wants to be. He literally knows the building and has been there as a player. He will bond with the players and put together a great staff. There is a still a lot of building to do with this team, but he will work great with (general manager) Scott Fitterer.”

Polian added that Reich is low key but detail-oriented.

“He’s inspirational when he needs to be,” Polian said. “And he’s very rationale and honest and straightforward with his players.”

Wilks, who is Black, was already part of a lawsuit that included Brian Flores alleging racist hiring practices by the NFL.

Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer who is representing Wilks in the lawsuit, said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday “we are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by David Tepper.”

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