Phil Sheridan, Inquirer Columnist
Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2012, 2:04 AM
Philadelphia has never had a day quite like this one. Chances are, we'll never see another one.
Except for Connie Mack, no one has coached or managed a professional sports franchise here for anywhere near as long as Andy Reid has led the Eagles. Chances are, no one will last as long as the 14 years Reid presided over the local football team.
Children who were starting school when Reid took over are college age now. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have occupied the Oval Office during Reid's tenure. Ed Rendell was mayor in 1999, served two terms as governor, and has been out of office for nearly two years.
So it's hard to know exactly what to feel when Reid walks off the field at the Linc for the final time with an Eagles cap on his head. There is no doubt his time has come. There is little doubt that owner Jeffrey Lurie will let Reid go soon after next week's season finale at the Meadowlands.
For most of the last few years, and especially this season, the prevailing emotion among Eagles fans has been anger. Future fans will look back at 2012 the way we once viewed the Joe "Must Go" Kuharich episode as the epitome of fans demanding change.
But that message has been sent. Lurie knows how his paying customers feel about the direction of the franchise. There is little to be gained by heaping anger or scorn upon Reid in his valedictory appearance on the Eagles' home sideline.
This game is an opportunity for Philadelphia fans to show their detractors in the national media that this city gets it. By giving Reid a respectful and appreciative send-off, anyone left in the stadium at the end of Sunday's game can put an end to one of the more annoying aspects of this whole sad process.
That would be this idea that Philadelphia fans don't grasp how good a coach Reid is, that wishing for a change after 14 seasons somehow proves we don't understand football. We've been hearing that from TV commentators (many of them members of the coaching fraternity) and writers from national publications and websites who are under the delusion they understand this situation better than those who have lived it.
Reid has been a very good head coach here. For the first half of his tenure, he was better than very good. For the last five years, he has been in steady decline.
Really, what's the worst that could happen with a coaching change? The Eagles don't win the Super Bowl for 14 years?
Reid's early success and his later decline result from pretty much the same personality trait: utter certainty that his plan will work. The original plan, which borrowed heavily from Mike Holmgren's championship recipe in Green Bay, came achingly close to delivering the Eagles' first Super Bowl title. Reid did deliver a half-dozen seasons of excitement, anticipation, and regular appearances in the sport's biggest games.
Since then, Reid's certainty hasn't wavered a bit. It is the quality of his plan that has fallen off. Instead of making sound decisions and then believing in them, he came to believe his decisions were sound because he made them. The results have been well-documented over the last two abysmal seasons.
Unfortunately for everyone, including Reid, his original plan called for him to create an invisible wall between himself and the fans. He was so determined not to provide the kind of gotcha quote that would be used against him - "gold standard," for example, or "dream team" - that he opted to say almost nothing.
The downside was that fans never fully embraced him, never got a feel for the real person. When he was winning, that worked. When things started going sideways, though, Reid had no equity of genuine affection to draw upon. He will be better appreciated in time, but he'll never be as beloved as D Vermeil.
The quality of his team was the only reasonable way to evaluate Reid. Unfortunately for him, that's still true. And that's why, after 14 good and great and bad years, this day has arrived.
Contact Phil Sheridan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe.
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