'Not even close to bitter:' Frank Reich back in Indy for first time since fired by Colts

Frank Reich was back in Indianapolis for the first time on Wednesday since his Nov. 7 firing.

Back with his wife, Linda, to continue the work they began with their foundation, kNot Today, on the east side of Indianapolis early in his coaching tenure with the Colts.

One month, to the day, after Reich was fired as the team’s head coach with a 40-33-1 record, cutting short a tenure he’d hoped would be much longer.

But the fight they started with kNot Today, an organization built to combat the sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of children, isn’t going to end in Indianapolis because the Reichs are gone.

The way they see it, the work is just getting started.

“We’ve got roots here forever,” Reich said. “We started our foundation here five years ago. It was for the long-term fight. … We look forward to continuing years of investing here in Indianapolis.”

Reich is not the first Colts coach to maintain a philanthropic presence in the city. Signs for Tony Dungy’s All-Pro Dad program can still be seen on street corners in the area, and Reich’s predecessor, Chuck Pagano, comes back for the ChuckStrong gala every year.

To that end, kNot Today issued grants to seven organizations Wednesday — Indianapolis-based Allies, Inc. and Ascent 121, Franklin-based ASSIST, Elkhart’s Child and Parent Services, Evansville-based Holly’s House, the Indiana University School of Public Health and The Mama Bear Effect, based in Boston — for a combined total of $150,000.

The final organization on that list, the only one that isn’t based in Indiana, is a sign of kNot Today’s long-term goals.

“The vision was always that Indiana’s the prototype, and we will scale and expand to all different cities,” Linda said. “We are so excited about expansion.”

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Reich wants to be a head coach again

Reich’s had a month to think about his time as the Colts head coach.

An amount of time that’s probably not long enough. The NFL season is still rolling along, and Reich always planned to be here in Indianapolis, fighting for a playoff berth with the guys he knew so well.

“It’s hard,” Reich said. “You go through a couple weeks where you’re so emotionally invested, it’s hard. You love the team, you love the guys. … When things like that happen, it’s never fun. There’s nothing fun about it.”

Reich hasn’t watched all four of the games the Colts have played in the past month.

“The first couple of weeks, it was kind of hard,” Reich said. “Didn’t watch a whole lot, but kind of kept track of what’s going on, and still pulling hard for the guys.”

What Reich has been doing is hanging out with his kids and grandkids — one grandchild was born in October, and another is on the way — and decompressing.

When he’s thought about football, it’s often been about the 74 games he coached in Indianapolis.

Jotting down notes as he goes.

“What have I learned over the past four and a half years as a head coach?” Reich said. “What were the dynamics? What did I like? What did I do well? What can I do better?”

Reich has written down somewhere between 12 and 15 key points, points he chews over almost every day.

He’s not revealing any of those points right now and didn’t take the opportunity of his return to get into any of the details that led to the end for him in Indy — the Jim Irsay-influenced decision to bench Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger, the collapse of the Colts offensive line, the team’s sudden inability to score or start fast.

“A lot of those things I’ve written down are still in process. … At this point, they’re still kind of personal,” Reich said. “I look at those almost every day and think through them, just because I believe there’s so much left in the tank.”

Reich has already declared his intentions.

He wants to be a head coach again in the NFL.

“It’s definitely in my blood,” Reich said. “I’m not presuming anything at this point. I know this: I love the game, I feel like I’m prepared to keep giving to the game and the players and the coaches.”

When he does, he won’t look back on his time in Indianapolis with contempt, even with the way it all ended.

“I’m not even close to bitter,” Reich said. "Upset, disappointed, hurt, but the one thing you learn in this business. … the bitterness pill is not a good pill to take. That’ll drag you down and eat you up and spit you out. I’m thankful for my time in Indianapolis, thankful to the Irsay family. … He gave me the opportunity to be a head coach. Excited about moving forward.”

kNot today's roots spreading beyond Indy

The Reichs never wanted this to happen, never wanted to leave Indianapolis so soon.

But the reality of the firing set in quickly, and the family put their house on the market, selling it almost as soon as it was listed.

None of that is going to affect kNot Today.

When Linda and Frank first began the foundation, they leveraged Reich’s platform as Colts head coach to get it going.

The plan was always to build the foundation beyond that scope, knowing that no NFL coach’s job security is guaranteed.

“People are starting to identify kNot Today, not Frank and Linda as much,” Linda said. “kNot Today is a legitimate, credible organization across the country that’s respected for excellence and for what they’re doing.”

There is plenty of evidence kNot Today’s reach has already spread far beyond Indianapolis.

The Mama Bear Effect is one piece. Another Internet Crimes against Children dog, trained to recover evidence of wrongdoing, has been purchased in Wisconsin, to go with Hunter, the Indiana-based yellow Labrador retriever who’s been on the job for a while.

Friends are hosting a kNot Today event in North Carolina. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni wore kNot Today cleats on the field last week for the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative. Linda has built relationships with politicians both local and national, building relationships that can help the organization extend its reach.

Whenever Reich lands his next job, kNot Today will put down even more roots in another city, committed to making a nationwide impact.

The Reichs want the organization to continue growing beyond football, beyond their own reach, to be a force for good even when they’re not physically there.

“That was always the hope and the prayer,” Linda said. “We knew how the NFL was. We knew we wouldn’t be in Indy forever, and we were building the infrastructure with that in mind.”

They’ll be back sometimes.

The Reichs have built something strong in those offices on the east side of Indianapolis.

They’re going to see it through.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Frank Reich 'not even close to bitter' about being fired by Colts