Toward the end of a disastrous Maryland football season three years ago, one of the Terps’ more distinguished alumni, Frank Reich, was having his own troubles.
Then the second-year offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, Reich had quarterback Philip Rivers and not much else. The offense would finish the season 26th in the NFL in points per game, and Reich would be fired shortly after the season, part of a house-cleaning that included current Ravens offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris.
But with Randy Edsall’s midseason termination and Mike Locksley unable to turn the interim head coaching job into a permanent position, Reich interviewed for the vacancy in late November. The job instead went to DJ Durkin, then an up-and-coming defensive coordinator at Michigan. Reich landed on his feet, as he was named the Indianapolis Colts head coach in February.
With Durkin’s future at Maryland now tenuous amid the fallout from offensive lineman Jordan McNair’s death and reports of a toxic culture, Reich was asked after the Colts’ joint practice Saturday with the visiting Ravens about his alma mater.
"Honestly, I haven't even — it's all headlines [that I've read],” said Reich, Boomer Esiason’s successor at quarterback in 1984 and a third-round draft pick the following year. “That's it. I really have no opinion."
The fortunes of the two finalists, Reich and Durkin, have changed drastically over the past year.
After Reich’s departure from the Chargers, the Philadelphia Eagles named him offensive coordinator. With a second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz, dazzling in the regular season and a backup, Nick Foles, overseeing an unlikely playoff run, Reich and the Eagles claimed their first Super Bowl title in franchise history this past season.
Reich is now in his first year as Colts head coach, leading the same team that dismissed him seven years earlier — then a wide receivers coach — along with Indianapolis' entire staff.
Less than a year ago, Durkin was riding nearly as high. After leading the Terps to a bowl game in 2016, his first season, the team upset then-No. 23 Texas in Austin to start the 2017 season. But a series of quarterback injuries and a leaky defense derailed the team’s season, and Maryland finished 4-8.
In late May, just months after the Terps signed their second straight top-30 recruiting class, McNair (McDonogh) suffered heatstroke during an offseason team workout. He died two weeks later.
Last Saturday, Durkin was placed on administrative leave while the university awaited results of separate investigations into the circumstances of McNair’s death and a culture that an ESPN report indicated was demeaning.
McNair’s parents have called for Durkin’s firing, as have analysts and fans. It’s unlikely he returns to the Maryland sideline in time for the team’s Sept. 1 season opener against the Longhorns, if ever.