Reid era will be remembered for missed opportunities
January 1, 2013, 9:00 am
When the sting of this season fades and the disappointment gives way to reflection, what will we remember about Andy Reid? How will we view the man who coached the Eagles longer than anyone else and leaves as the fifth winningest active coach in the NFL?
At some point, will the same fans who chanted “Fire Andy” at Lincoln Financial Field sit back and say, “You know, he really was a good coach,”? Somewhere down the road when he is inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame – and, yes, that will happen – will he walk on the field to a warm and appreciative ovation?
I believe he will, and that’s as it should be.
Reid is a good football coach. In my view, he is the second best coach in Eagles history. I would put only the late Earle (Greasy) Neale ahead of him.
Neale coached the Eagles to seven consecutive winning seasons which is still a franchise record and won back-to-back NFL championships in 1948 and ’49. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969. Neale’s 66 regular season victories stood as the team record until Reid broke it in 2004.
Reid doubled Neale’s win total – he had 130 regular season victories, 140 if you include the postseason – in 14 years on the job. It is an impressive resume, one that may not be equaled by another coach. It is rare in this day and age for any coach in any sport to last that long in one place. Reid was able to do it although he was under fire for the last two years.
Where Neale succeeded and Reid failed was in taking the final step; that is, winning a championship. Neale took the Eagles to three championship games and won the last two. Reid took the Eagles to one Super Bowl and lost to the New England Patriots. From that point on, it was a slow but steady downhill slide until finally hitting bottom this year.
The long-term view of Andy Reid will be determined, in part, by the coach who succeeds him. If the next coach bombs out and the team remains on the bottom of the NFC East Reid will look better even as he fades in the rearview mirror. But if the next coach comes in and takes the team to a Super Bowl and wins then fans will judge Reid more harshly.
“See, this guy got it done,” they will say. “Andy never could.”
It may not be entirely fair, but in a bottom line business like the NFL and a championship starved city like Philadelphia, that’s the way it works.
To me, Reid’s career in Philadelphia is a mixed bag. It was successful in terms of wins and longevity, but I see it largely as a missed opportunity.
For a three-year period, 2002-04, I believe the Eagles were the best team in the NFC and arguably the best team in the entire league. Give Reid due credit for building those teams, but they should have gone to more than one Super Bowl, and they probably should have at least one Lombardi Trophy in the lobby by now.
Three consecutive losses in the NFC title game, two of them at home as the favorite. All missed opportunities. Another trip to the NFC title game in 2009 and a loss to an Arizona team the Eagles crushed (48-20) just two months earlier. Another missed opportunity.
For a long time, the Eagles were a good team playing in a lousy division. In the years from 2001 through 2004, the Eagles were the only team in the NFC East with a winning record. In two of those seasons, they were the only team in the division to finish above .500. They had an easy road to the postseason and home field advantage, but they kept falling short when it mattered most.
In the past 12 seasons, 10 different NFC teams went to the Super Bowl. Half of them were one-and-dones, including Tampa Bay and Carolina, teams that beat the Eagles in the conference final. Arizona, Seattle and Chicago (Rex Grossman? Are you kidding?) hardly qualified as dynasties. So as a team was in the mix almost every year, the Eagles should have done better.
Some of that can be blamed on Reid, who was outcoached in a number of big games. It is an established fact that he is not a good game manager. He doesn’t handle the clock well and he wastes timeouts and he stubbornly insists on throwing the ball when it would be wiser to run. Those are the things that haunt a team in close games, and most postseason games tend to be close. Reid’s critics have pointed this out, correctly, for years.
But Reid deserves a lot of credit. He took the Eagles job with zero head coaching experience. He inherited a 3-13 team and coached it to the playoffs in two years. He identified Donovan McNabb as a quarterback he could build around and drafted him in a move that was unpopular at the time. He assembled an outstanding staff of assistants, in particular defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who helped him as he learned the ropes.
Reid built a team with young and hungry players with outstanding leadership among the veterans like Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter and Troy Vincent. It was a team invested in the program and invested in the coach, a team that believed in its mission and fought hard for it.
But as that coaching staff scattered and the players aged and retired, Reid was unable to put it back together. He hired coaches who weren’t as good and he brought in a number of veteran players who just didn’t connect and everything fell apart. As this season spun out of control, Reid appeared dazed and out of answers.
Years ago, I interviewed Bill Walsh, the father of the West Coast offense and architect of the San Francisco 49er dynasty. I asked why he retired after the 1988 season. He had just finished his 10th season as head coach and won his third Super Bowl. He said simply, “It was time.”
“I was worn out, the pressure was too much,” he said. “I really think 10 years is the limit for any coach. Even if you’ve had success, there is a need for change. The players need to hear a new voice. A fresh perspective is a good thing. It is necessary.”
Andy Reid lasted 14 years in Philadelphia, which is a very long time. The Eagles need a new voice and a fresh perspective; that’s true. And Reid himself needs a fresh start with another team in another city. Bill Walsh was right. It is time.
E-mail Ray Dididnger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 reply to this topic
Posted 01 January 2013 - 09:59 AM
Posted 01 January 2013 - 01:49 PM
What he's saying is Jim Johnson made it all happen. That and the veteran core of players inherited from the Rhodes era and the simple decision to draft a franchise QB with the 2nd pick when you have no QB. After that he couldn't identify and hire good assistants, couldn't ever game coach, couldn't ever pick good players in the draft. I can't believe Lurie allowed this guy to hold us hostage for so many years. The last 8 seasons were 8-8 affairs. Reid had 5 good years due to other people. He was entitled far beyond what he deserved and produced, more so than any coach we'll ever see in this league. Good riddance.