This isn’t my definitive opinion. Rather, this is a logical case for why Reid should be kept as coach. No matter which side you agree with, I don’t think this is an easy decision.
32 NFL teams would all love a perfect coach. That man doesn’t exist. Bill Belichick is flawed. So were legends like Bill Walsh, Vince Lombardi, and even Tom Landry. Head coaches, being somewhat human, make mistakes. They call the wrong play, cut the wrong player, or hire the wrong assistant. They screw up.
Successful head coaches get more right than wrong when it comes to making decisions. You don’t win by accident. You might for a year or even two, but not for long. Over time you see a pattern emerge and find out which coaches make too many mistakes and which coaches are more right than wrong. They keep winning.
At the end of 2007 Romeo Crennel looked like a smart guy. His Cleveland Browns had just had a breakout season. Life was good. 6 games into the 2009 season Josh McDaniels had the Broncos sitting at 6-0. Life was good. Both coaches fell apart after that and were fired. Cleveland remains irrelevant. The Broncos were 6-20 the rest of the way under McDaniels, but are playing well this year under new coach John Fox.
Both Crennel and McDaniels had a taste of success, but neither could stand the test of time. Life in the NFL is hard. Too many injuries? Tough. Couple bad calls? Tough. Other teams in your division having fluke years? So what. In the NFL, you win or you hit the bricks. Coaches are hired to be fired. You deliver or else.
Andy Reid has delivered, over and over. 2011 is an obvious exception. This season has been a disaster. Expectations by most were sky high. Struggling a bit is one thing, but 4-8 is mind blowing. That said, firing Reid for having a bad year would be short sighted and a mistake. The second he became available, all but a handful of teams would be interested. Would you really want Reid taking over the Skins, ‘Boys, or Gmen? Um, no. Hell no. Reid is a winner. Hate his faults all you want, but look at his record. The man wins.
But what about 2011? You can’t give him a pass for this year, right? No. I don’t give him a pass. Andy Reid built up a lot of goodwill from 1999-2010. He burned through that this year. His savings account went from huge to empty. A bad season in 2012 would be a whole other story. You’d then have a pattern of losing and that would make it reasonable to fire Reid. History tells you he won’t lose in 2012. Reid has never had consecutive losing seasons with the Eagles.
Having a bad year doesn’t make you incompetent or bad at what you do. In 1989 Jerome Brown had 10.5 sacks. In 1991 he had 9. Sandwiched in there was the 1990 season when Brown had just one sack. Should the Eagles have cut him? Of course not. His track record dictated that the bad year was an anomaly. Study the track record. 2011 is bad, but the Eagles were in the playoffs the previous 3 years.
Check out this list of names:
Those are the other NFC East coaches during Reid’s tenure (minus the Cardinals). All of those coaches combined have a record of 9-13 in the playoffs in that span. Andy Reid is 10-9. Coughlin did lead the Giants to a Super Bowl. That sets him apart and Reid is accountable for not bringing a Lombardi Trophy to the NovaCare Complex.
Take another look at that list of names. Those guys have great resumes. There is a mixture of college coaches, NFL winners, former SB winners, and hotshot assistants. Out of that group, Coughlin delivered one Super Bowl and a lot of luck was involved in that win. Hiring a good coach is hard. Hiring a SB winner is very hard. Finding a great coach is next to impossible.
Point is that a lot of coaches have been hired in Reid’s tenure. Most have been failures. Coughlin won a Super Bowl, but his team has been mediocre ever since. He’s on the hot seat more than Reid right now, despite having the better record in 2011.
If I thought firing Reid would definitely push the Eagles toward the Super Bowl, I’d be all for it. Unfortunately, there is no such certainty. Firing Reid guarantees you nothing but change. Fans want that change because of the nightmare season. That’s emotion talking and not logic.
The only reason to replace Reid is if you can upgrade. That is a major challenge. How many coaches better than Reid are available right now? I know…Gruden, Cowher, and Jeff Fisher. Those are big names, but aren’t necessarily better coaches. If you judge strictly by SB wins, yes, but that also puts Barry Switzer above Bud Grant and I’m not buying that for a second.
Would I take Gruden over Reid for just 1 game? Yes. Absolutely. The problem is you’re hiring a guy for 5 years. Gruden has shown that he’s all over the place. He cannot build a wining program because he tinkers too much. Cowher and Fisher would be fine if trying to build a team from the ground up. Those guys are good coaches. I think both would be lost with the Eagles built as they are. And the Eagles have too much talent in place to go on a rebuilding mission. Also…think about time. Gruden won the SB in 2002. Cowher in 2005. The NFL is different now. Reid went to the SB in 2004 and think how much things have changed since then. Those guys have great reputations, but don’t fall into the trap of hiring names. The Skins did that with Mike Shanahan. Wonder how much they regret that move?
Is there a great assistant to be had? There are some names of interest, but there is no one I find so compelling that it makes me think he would be likely to improve on Reid.
The NFL is all about offense these days. You must have a QB. Reid has proven to be a QB guru. He drafted and developed Donovan McNabb. Ditto with AJ Feeley. Ditto with Kevin Kolb. Then he signed Mike Vick off the street and has him throwing the ball much better than Vick ever dreamed of in Atlanta.
Ask a Skins fan how nice it would be to have good QB play. It has been a while since they had a really good QB down there. Heck, ask an Eagles fan who sat through the wasteland of the 1991-1998 period. The Eagles had good QB play in spurts, but never for an entire season. The team won a pair of Wildcard games in that period, but didn’t come close to anything more than that. Having a franchise QB is critical. Having a coach who can find and develop QBs is hugely important.
A lot of people think Reid has simply been here too long and it is time for a change. I understand that notion and it does make sense, but Reid isn’t your typical coach. Reid became fascinated with the personnel side of things while in Green Bay. He talked to Ron Wolf a lot and learned that part of the NFL. Most coaches obsess on keeping veteran players. They want to grow old with the guys they know. Reid is the exact opposite. He understands roster turnover and even embraces it.
Reid has let a lot of good veterans go in his time here. It killed me to see Troy Vincent and Hugh Douglas leave. That was really heartbreaking. It was the right thing to do, though. Reid had the strength to let them walk and the Eagles were better off for it. Reid had one set of players in his 2004 Super Bowl run. There were a lot of new faces in 2008 when the team again came close. The 2011 Eagles are different than them and the 2012 team will be different than this bunch.
Think about this. Reid clinched division titles with McNabb (2001, 2003-2004), Feeley (2002), Garcia (2006), and Vick (2010) at quarterback. That should tell you that Reid can handle change. That should show you that he’s able to adapt better than people think.
Speaking of which…one of the accusations against Reid is that he isn’t self-aware, won’t self-scout, and won’t change. Not true. Put on an Eagles game from 1999. Then 2002. Then 2003. Then 2006. Then 2008. Then 2011. You’ll see different offenses. The changes aren’t dramatic, but they are there. Reid began here with a simple attack out of the I-formation. By 2002 he was using a 3-WR set. He began mixing in a lot of shotgun after that. 2003 was a real fun offense. Lots of Ace Formation for the first time (2 TE, 2 WR, 1 RB). The offense was efficient. By 2006 the Eagles were vertical and explosive. Reggie Brown and Donte Stallworth were vertical threats. When McNabb got hurt, the offense really featured Brian Westbrook. He became a workhorse RB. The 2008 offense became really vertical with the explosive speed of DeSean Jackson. The FB was phased out. This year, with Vick as the starter and Howard Mudd’s new blocking scheme, there are new running plays and some different passing plays. Middle screens, WR screens, and even TE screens are now featured plays.
Reid had the infamous 2007 game with the Giants where McNabb was sacked 237 times (at least it seemed that way). Since then, gameplans against good pass rushing teams have focused on protection. Reid does this by alignment, by using extra blockers, and by calling certain plays. I don’t think there has been a game quite like that one since then.
No one (except Andy/Marty) like the Eagles pass-run ratio. That said, things have gotten a bit better. After 12 games, LeSean McCoy leads the NFC in rushing (2nd in NFL). He has 215 carries. Brian Westbrook had 277, 240, and 233 in his best seasons. Keep in mind that Shady still has 4 games left. He’s on pace for 286 carries this year. Only Duce Staley with 325 back in 1999 would have had more in a season. And that year Reid had to run because the passing offense was such a mess.
Back in 2005 Reid had a veteran team. He was dealing with the TO situation in the summer and that meant trying to get Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis a lot of reps with McNabb at Lehigh. There was a lot of passing. That Eagles team completely fell apart and went 6-10. The next year at Lehigh Reid had a totally different mindset. He thought the 2005 team hadn’t been tough enough so Reid ran run play after run play. That was a tough, physical camp. Reid was punishing his team for the sloppy 2005 season. Reid was more passive in 2005, letting his assistants run drills and handle things. In 2006 he was more active, and not just on offense. Reid was all over the practice fields. He felt the team needed his presence and he changed his methods.
Reid also made another change at that training camp. He had a play clock on the field. To that point, the Eagles had a really bad problem of getting to the line late. That led to penalties and/or wasted timeouts. Reid used the clock to get the offense in the habit of moving quicker and that issue has gone down quite a bit. Reid also had been calling his own plays from the time he got here. That changed in the middle of the 2006 season. Since then, Marty Mornhinweg has called the plays.
One of the problems Reid had to deal with was his own success. He lost the great coaching staff he initially built when he came to the Eagles. Guys left to go become head coaches and coordinators for other teams. Reid stumbled with many of his replacement hires. This caught up to the Eagles over time. Reid realized this and made a lot of coaching changes after the 2010 season. Reid is fiercely loyal so firing guys wasn’t something that came easy to him. Reid also realized that he’d lost his feel for the coaching community that he had back when he was an assistant. This time when he went to hire coaches he decided to focus on people he knew rather than guys that were suggested to him. The staff now has a lot of former Eagles and/or veteran coaches that Reid had a relationship with. Reid identified a problem and tried to correct it.
Reid did make one mistake in his hires. The Juan Castillo as DC experiment is a major failure and Reid will have to rectify that in the offseason. If Reid is willing to admit the mistake and make a change, he can be forgiven. If Reid tries to fight for Castillo to keep his job, then we’ve got a whole other discussion. I don’t think that will happen. Reid showed with last year’s firings that he’s willing to make hard decisions when they must be made.
Reid is slow to change. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. His stubborn streak is about the size of his gut and that’s not a good thing. The notion that he won’t adjust or change is false. He just doesn’t do it quickly.
Although Reid no longer calls plays, he still has a strong hand in the offense. The playbook is his. He helps design the gameplan each week. Reid is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL. He’s able to keep the Eagles among the top offenses in football by adjusting the scheme to take advantage of the personnel. The early offense was built around McNabb. The 2004 attack fed the ball to a big, physical workhorse WR. The 2006 team was built around a dynamic runner/receiver. Now the offense is a mixture because of Maclin, McCoy, DeSean, Celek, Avant, and of course…Vick. I think a strong case can be made for Reid as the greatest screen coach in NFL history. If you go back over the years you will see the Eagles coming up with different ways to run the screen pass every year or two. It is brilliant the way Reid is able to tweak such a simple play.
Reid’s biggest strength might be his people skills. That sounds crazy to anyone who has listened to a Reid press conference, but it is true. There is a reason that guys like Hugh Douglas, Shawn Barber, Feeley, Dorsey Levens, and Jeremiah Trotter returned to the Eagles after leaving. They loved Big Red and wanted to play for him again. Even disgruntled players like John Welbourn and Terrell Owens hinted that they regretted leaving the Eagles. I’d love to give Donovan McNabb some truth serum and hear his thoughts on Reid vs the situations in WAS and MIN. That would be interesting.
Fans hate to hear “This is on me. I’ve got to do a better job.” They hate it with a passion. Players appreciate it. The thing that I wish more people understood is that Andy isn’t calm and quiet with the team. He gets them in a meeting room and rips them up and down. The thing is that it stays in the room. You don’t have the kind of success Reid has without knowing how to get after players. Wade Phillips is a coach who prefers the nice guy approach. He has success for a few years, but eventually the players take advantage of him and Wade is out. Reid seems harmless to those on the outside, but he runs that locker room. Andy rules the roost.
Notice that in a year where not much has gone right, there isn’t an issue with players going to the media to rip on Reid. DeSean Jackson is in the middle of a highly volatile situation. Reid continues to protect his player and DeSean hasn’t gone off. He isn’t playing like he should, but he could make that situation a lot worse if he started running his mouth to the media. Hasn’t happened.
Some people love to throw the “Reid’s lost the locker room” accusation out there. I haven’t seen any evidence of that. It is a cliched thing to say about a veteran coach in a down year, but there’s nothing to back it up. The team is struggling, but this isn’t a case of players turning their back on Reid or not caring. Did you see Vince Young throw his body into a defender to lay out a block last week? Have you watched Trent Cole play? Jason Avant? Brent Celek? And so on. This team doesn’t lack effort. The guys are playing hard. Problem is that effort can’t make up for mistakes.
Go back to the previous Eagles coaches. Rich Kotite didn’t lose the locker room. He just never had it. Defensive players openly hated Rich. His 1994 team lost their final 7 games and it was clear that he had to go. Ray Rhodes was very popular, but was a bit like Wade Phillips. Ray didn’t control the team and by his final year the players were doing as they pleased. Dave Spadaro has told stories of players being on cell phones while sitting at practice. Can you imagine such a thing under Reid?
Reid is respected by other coaches and players. In his time here, Philly became a place players wanted to go. Vince Young signed here because he wanted to play for Reid. Terrell Owens wanted no part of Baltimore, but did everything he could to get to Philly. Nnamdi Asomugha wanted to be an Eagle. And so on. Go back to the Rhodes era. We landed 2 big time free agents, Ricky Watters and Troy Vincent. Ricky knew Ray from their time together in SF and it helped we paid him a lot when other teams weren’t so keen on him. Troy got a huge deal from us and also wanted to play near his hometown. The other stars we talked to had no interest in coming here. They used us to get better deals elsewhere. Guys like Deion Sanders, Dana Stubblefield, John Randle, and even Nate Newton used our name for leverage. They didn’t want any part of the Eagles. Reid has made Philly an NFL hot spot.
Reid’s most interesting relationship might be the one with Michael Vick. Reid took a flyer on Vick at a time when only a couple of teams had interest. The Eagles had a stable environment that would make life easier for Vick. The Eagles also had Reid, someone that Vick would respect and answer to. Vick didn’t need a buddy-buddy coach. He had that in Atlanta with Jim Mora (jr or whatever he is). That didn’t work too well. Vick needed someone that would enforce rules and hold him accountable. Reid did this and continues to do this. To Vick’s credit, he’s been basically a model citizen since leaving prison (except in the Red Zone).
Reid didn’t plan on the Vick era ever happening. We’re supposed to be in Year 2 of the Kolb era, but he got hurt and Vick stepped in. Mike came alive once in the lineup and Reid rolled the dice. He stuck with Vick and dealt Kolb away in the offseason. This team is now financially married to Vick for a year or two. The question heading into the future is how to get Vick back to his 2010 playing level. I don’t think firing Reid and bringing in a new coach would help that situation.
Vick has looked terrific at times this season, but then makes a crucial mistake here and there and the Eagles end up losing. He doesn’t need major changes. Switching systems would be a setback for him. The best thing is for Reid and his staff to have a full offseason to work with Vick and get him back to the 2010 form.
One of the things I like most about Reid is that he’s faced with tough circumstances, but hasn’t sold his soul to the devil. Reid did add a lot of veterans this year, but has 2 rookies starting on the O-line. He cut veteran DTs to keep Cedric Thornton on the initial roster. Reid knows there is increasing pressure on him as he gets closer to the end of his Eagles career, but he’s still got one eye on the present (coach side of him) and one eye on the future (personnel side of him). Reid was willing to bench DeSean before a game with Arizona a few weeks back. The Eagles lost that and it might cost the team dearly. Reid felt enforcing rules and doing things the right way was more important than cutting corners and letting the players do as they wanted. Reid remains committed to doing things his way. I think that is a very good sign.
Finally, let’s look at a couple of recent Super Bowl winners. Green Bay won the 2010 SB. Back in 2008 they were 6-10. The defense stunk. Mike McCarthy went out and hired veteran DC Dom Capers. The defense was good in 2009 and the team made the playoffs. The defense was outstanding in 2010 and the team won the SB.
In 2008 the Saints were 8-8. The defense stunk. Sean Payton hired veteran DC Gregg Williams to come in and run the defense. That unit improved immediately and the won the SB in 2009.
Both coaches had the right QB. They had the skill players and the OL. They had some pieces on defense, but not the right coach. The Juan Castillo experiment has failed in 2011. Expect to see a new DC in January or February of 2012. If the Eagles make the right hire, there is no reason to think the team can’t be a Super Bowl contender next season.