This isn’t my definitive opinion. Rather, this is a logical case for why Reid should be let go. I’ve intentionally avoided many generic criticisms that I think are tired, overused, and sometimes inaccurate. I will post the argument for keeping Reid in a day or so. No matter which side you agree with, I don’t think this is an easy decision.
“The problem is nostalgia. It’s like a drug. It keeps you from seeing things the way they are and that’s a danger when you got people depending on you.” – quote from a recent episode of The Walking Dead.
Andy Reid is not a good coach. He is a very, very good coach. Maybe great. Some people believe you must win a Super Bowl in order to be considered a great coach. If that’s the standard, then Reid is just below that level. No matter how you slice it, the man has had a remarkable career and brought a lot of success to the Eagles organization.
The question facing Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn’t about Reid’s past and his many accomplishments. The question is this: is Andy Reid the right coach for the Eagles in 2012 and beyond? We saw Andy Reid lead Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, and Brian Westbrook to the Super Bowl. Can he do that with Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy? There are serious reasons to doubt this.
The last playoff game the Eagles won was a divisional round matchup with the Giants after the 2008 season. Since then the team lost to Dallas and Green Bay in the wildcard round. This year…no playoffs at all.
Think about that 2008 team. Donovan McNabb was the quarterback. He had won more than a few playoff games in his Eagles career. The line featured Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, and Jamaal Jackson. Those weren’t just veteran players, but they were also team leaders. Remember Westbrook going to the ground at the 1-yard line in the 2007 game at Dallas? Westy got the credit for that, but it was Runyan who “ordered” him to do it in the huddle prior to the play.
The defense was led by a crew of veteran DBs, Sheldon Brown, Quintin Mikell, and of course Brian Dawkins. Those guys lacked top speed, but blown assignments were few and far between. Trent Cole was the lone star of the front seven, but that group knew how to play the run and didn’t make many mistakes. The mastermind of the defense was Jim Johnson.
Andy Reid came to the Eagles in 1999. He was an offensive guy and knew that he needed a veteran coach to run the defense. Reid might have been the head coach, but Johnson ran the defense. He controlled that side of the ball and didn’t need any guidance. He knew the X’s and O’s. Just as importantly, he knew how to run a defense. Johnson understood how to wield power. He knew that there were times to be tough and times to be nice. He was a leader. He took ownership of that side of the ball. It might have been Andy Reid’s Eagles, but it was Jim Johnson’s defense.
The 2011 Eagles couldn’t be more different from the 2008 Eagles. When adversity hit the ’08 group, they rallied around the leaders and the team came alive down the stretch. They made it all the way to the NFC title game and lost a close game at Arizona. That team struggled with 4th quarter comebacks. They kept games close, but couldn’t get over the hump late in games. The 2011 Eagles are blowing leads. They can’t stop teams from getting over the hump. The 2011 team isn’t faced with adversity. They go seek it out. They track it down and embrace it. Getting the lead is supposed to be the hard part of life in the NFL, not keeping it. Want to sum up the 2011 Eagles in a phrase?
When push comes to shove
The Eagles turn to doves
Life for Reid hasn’t been as good without his veteran core of players and his legendary Defensive Coordinator. The team has continued to win (until this year), but the success has been marginal rather than special. The last bye in the playoffs was 2004. That was also the last team to win 12 or more games.
Reid made some brilliant decisions when he was first hired by the Eagles. He surrounded himself with a mixture of coaches. There were veterans and young guys. There were friends and strangers. The coaches came from a variety of backgrounds so there were a lot of interesting ideas on the table. Look back at the original staff
HC – Andy Reid
OC – Rod Dowhower
DC – Jim Johnson
QB – Brad Childress
RB – Ted Williams
WR – David Culley
TE – Pat Shurmur
OL – Juan Castillo
QC – Tom Melvin
DL – Tommy Brasher
LB – Ron Rivera
DB – Leslie Frazier
QC – Steve Spagnuolo
ST – Jim Harbaugh
That group has produced 6 NFL head coaches. Johnson turned down some interviews or it could have been 7. Amazing.
One of the ways you judge a coach is by who he hires. That shows the ability to find good people and to make sound decisions. Reid suffered from his own success. That coaching staff got pulled apart as the guys got new jobs. At first, Reid did okay with replacing them. He hired or promoted Marty Mornhinweg, Pete Jenkins, Trent Walters, and Sean McDermott. These coaches were “good enough” at the very least.
Then Reid hit a real rocky patch. He hired a slew of coaches that didn’t work out. Rory Segrest, Ted Braisher, Mike Reed, Bill Shuey, and James Urban all spent time on the staff, but are now gone. Reid’s mojo for making great hires seems to be a thing of the past.
He did make some good new hires starting in 2010. Reid brought in Bobby April to be the Special Teams coach. April is acknowledged as one of the STs gurus in the league. This wasn’t a guess on Reid’s part. He paid big bucks for a proven coach. Reid did the same thing after the 2010 season when he brought in Howard Mudd to run the offensive line and Jim Washburn to run the defensive line. For lack of a better term, these guys are star coaches. Go back to the original staff. No one could be described in such a way. That group had plenty of successful veterans, but not guys who were huge names.
Reid was a longtime college assistant before joining the Green Bay staff in 1992. He developed a lot of relationships over the years. He had a good feel for which coaches were highly thought of in the coaching world. That background helped build the great staff of 1999. Now Reid is an established head coach. People no longer talk to him the same way. Since Reid is in a position to hire, he doesn’t get straight talk. He’s now “sold” on other coaches. Everyone wants him to hire a buddy or relative. Either Reid trusted the wrong people or he’s just lost his ability to read people and know who’s selling and who isn’t.
To combat this, Reid filled vacancies with people he directly knew. Mike Caldwell was a LB on the early Reid teams and is now the LBs coach. Mike Zordich played for the Eagles, but left just as Reid got here. He did serve as an intern in recent years and is now coaching the Safeties. Johnnie Lynn ran the Giants defense when John Fox left. Reid gameplanned and coached against him plenty. Lynn is now the CBs coach. Duce Staley is on the staff, working with the RBs. Is this the best way to build a staff or is it the football version of nepotism? You can argue both ways, but I don’t think 31 other teams are all that jealous of the staff that Reid has put together.
Jim Johnson’s death was tough for obvious reasons. Just about everyone loved him. His death was a huge blow to the football side of things as well. Reid thought he had the perfect replacement in Sean McDermott. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. McDermott struggled with trying to fill Johnson’s shoes, both as an X’s and O’s guy and as a leader. After 2 mediocre seasons, he was fired. Reid then made one of the strangest decisions in recent memory. He gave the DC job to Juan Castillo. A lot of people have stated that making the OL coach the DC is unprecedented. That is wrong. The English language does not have a word to correctly describe this move. Maybe the Inuits do. Maybe there is a Gaelic phrase or something in Aramaic. Not English.
The Castillo experiment has failed. I won’t fully go into the thinking behind the move. That’s a lengthy column in and of itself. I’ll simply say that at a time when Reid needed to make a great move, he went with someone he trusted rather than someone who was trained to do the job. Trust is great, but it isn’t as important as training and ability. This is, after all, the NFL…the best of the best.
Reid loves the phrase “I need to put my players in better position to succeed”. Too bad that doesn’t apply to the coaching staff. If Chad Hall begged to play QB, would Reid put him in? Chad was recruited to the Air Force Academy to play QB. Give him a shot. So what if he lacks the size, skills, and experience to do the job. He wants it. Of course Reid would never make a move like this.
After the 2006 season John Harbaugh talked to Reid about moving from STs coach to a defensive spot. Harbaugh was made the DBs coach for the 2007 season. He then got hired by the Ravens to be their HC in 2008. Reid helped a friend. He moved him to a defensive assistant spot in order to further the guy’s career. That was smart and the right thing to do.
Castillo has asked Andy for years to move him to defense, where Castillo played and coached early on in his career. Had Andy made him the LBs coach, that would have been reasonable.
Making Castillo the DC did a dis-service to Juan, the defense, the whole team, and Andy himself. Reid knew he had all new positional assistants. He knew there was a lockout and likely to be a short offseason, if any. These circumstances would have been hard on Buddy Ryan, Bud Carson, or Jim Johnson. They were devastating to Castillo. And the Eagles.
Think back for a minute to the Eagles teams of 2000-03. The team went to the playoffs each year. They won division titles from 2001-03. Would you trade the talent of those teams for the talent of the current roster? I wouldn’t. The results, yes, but not the pure talent. Those teams were very different from the current bunch.
The Eagle way used to be playing good defense, being sound in the kicking game, and finding ways to win. The offense didn’t turn the ball over. The team didn’t make many mistakes. Penalties weren’t a huge issue. The skill players weren’t great, but dropped passes weren’t a regular problem. Those Eagles made you beat them. They didn’t help you out. There was a real toughness about those teams. They were physically, mentally, and emotionally tough. All for one and one for all. They played Eagles football.
The 2002 season was the greatest indicator. Donovan McNabb broke his lower leg vs Arizona. Koy Detmer started in his place at SF on a Monday night game. The team came out laser sharp and had total control of the game. Detmer got hurt about halfway through. He was put on a cart. Before it pulled away, the whole team came over to slap hands with him. I had never seen that before. Now, it is somewhat common. That was the ultimate sign of how together that team was. They loved each other. AJ Feeley stepped in for Detmer and finished that win. He then went 4-1 as a starter. The rest of the team picked up their game to help the young QB along. That was Eagles football.
2011? You have a proven veteran like Vince Young who can’t get the job done. He struggles. His receivers aren’t helping him out. The defense isn’t coming up big. This isn’t Eagles football. I don’t know what the hell this is. 53 guys wear the same jersey, but they don’t play as one.
Andy Reid and his coaches were able to create a certain mindset and atmosphere on those early teams. Being a Philadelphia Eagle meant something. Too many guys now love to put on the jersey, but don’t do the little things it takes to make the jersey mean something. You don’t win because you’re an Eagle. You win by playing Eagles football, something that hasn’t really been here since 2008.
Remember when Andy Reid was innovative and interesting? The main reason he hired Jim Johnson was because he loved JJ’s blitzing. Reid wanted a defense that could attack and be creative. Under JJ’s tutelage, Brian Dawkins went from being a FS to being a weapon. Teams were nervous about playing the Eagles. The team ended Michael Irvin’s career in 1999. The next year they started Troy Aikman on the road to retirement by knocking him out of the season opener and causing him to miss the next 2 games. That was Troy’s final year.
The offense did some good things. Reid didn’t have great players, but he got the most out of his weapons. The ghost reverse first hit the NFL in 2001. Reid liked the idea and stole it. He knew that to make it really work you needed to hand the ball to the WR from time to time so that defenses would honor that threat. How many people remember that James Thrash had 18 carries in 2002? He ran for 2 TDs. That year the Eagles finished 5th in rushing attempts and 7th in yards. Reid was innovative with the run game. In 2003 he had the 3-headed monster in the backfield, turning Duce, Westy, and Correll Buckhalter into one terrific RB.
STs used to be wild. Koy Detmer was great on fake FGs. The Eagles ran some brilliant fake FGs back in those days. Detmer optioned to David Akers for 15 yards in 2002. My favorite was an over the shoulder flip to Akers in 2000. Brian Dawkins scored a long TD on a fake punt in 2002. And of course there was the onside kick to open the 2000 season. That is part of Eagles history.
Not only was that a great STs move, it was a great psychological move. Reid wanted to show his players that it was time to be aggressive. Reid rolled the dice and that onside kick helped to jump start an era of great success. When is the last time Reid did anything remotely close to that? I don’t mean making a risky call. When is the last time he tried pushing the button of the team in an open way?
Reid is famous for punishing OG George Hegamin back in the summer of 1999. Hegamin made him angry one day. Reid punished him by having Hegamin drive the sled up and down the field for an afternoon. The next day, Reid cut him. In the middle of the 1999 season Reid wasn’t happy that DT Bill Johnson was laughing in the locker room after a miserable 33-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Johnson was cut the next day. Reid had control of the locker room. He had control of the team. He knew what buttons to push to scare or encourage the team. I don’t think you see any of that anymore.
Andy has good relationships with his players. Guys love to come here. They want to play for Reid. He has a terrific reputation around the league. Maybe that is part of the problem. Football teams aren’t supposed to be full of love. The reason Jim Burt doused Bill Parcells with the initial bucket of Gatorade wasn’t to celebrate. It was Burt’s way of saying “F you!”. Parcells had ridden Burt a lot that year and Burt was sick of it. Charles Haley hated Jimmy Johnson with a passion. They didn’t “not get along”. There was real, pure hatred. Both Parcell and Johnson won Super Bowls with those players. Tom Coughlin and Plaxico Burress will never go on vacation together. They won a SB. A locker room needs to be functional, not happy.
Andy Reid has a tremendous track record. No one disputes that. Unfortunately, the skills he used to build up that record no longer seem to be present. He hasn’t made great hires. He doesn’t seem to have the pulse of the team. He hasn’t done a good job of pushing buttons to get the team going. You wouldn’t consider him to be innovative or creative based on recent years. Rather than making the most of what he’s got to work with, Reid now delivers a mediocre product made from some really good parts. The Eagles have become underachievers, one of the worst things you can say to a coach about his team.