So for those that checked back to get my thoughts on Jeffrey Lurie’s press conference, sorry for the delay. No, I did not just return from the longest walk ever with my dog; although it may have taken this long for my brain to defrost since I returned. So much for 50 degree days for those of us in the Northeast. Anyway, my delay was extended as I experiment with the WordPress IPhone app – I’ll need it to write often, as many times I won’t have the freedom to type on my laptop at home with my feet resting on my snoring pit bull. The experimentation also led to the random photo of Bella that somehow ended up at the bottom of my last post. Enough about my problems- on to the problems of the local football team.
While many mocked Jeffrey Lurie’s press conference and his steadfast support of Andy Reid this afternoon, I actually felt quite the opposite. I thought his explanations were reasonable and well thought out, and that the logic behind his thought process for retaining Reid was not irrational, but instead methodical and solid, even if it may be somewhat flawed. I make this observation as someone who has been screaming for Reid’s head for almost three years. I don’t think Andy Reid will ever win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, or anywhere else. I think his tenure as Eagles coach has already peaked, and if he remains, the team will remain on the same plateau- winning just enough to be a playoff team most years and even occassionally defeaingt an overmatched team in the first round. Andy Reid is not a BAD football coach. His steadiness and consistency, while often maddening to the media and fanbase, is to be commended. It is no small feat to keep a team of millionaires even keeled and focused, week after week. He often beats the teams he is supposed to beat simply by being better prepared and having a plan. Sounds simple and nothing to brag about right? Look around the NFL – most franchises would kill for the solid and consistent approach that Reid has brought to Philadelphia, which is why his reputation around the league is much better than it is locally.
In fact, that was one of the most intriguing parts of today’s press conference – Lurie’s explanation that Reid’s players still play hard for him, believe in him, and support him. And he’s right. To a man, every Eagles player I’ve ever heard questioned about Reid has adamantly supported him. T.O. went after McNabb but never ever took a swipe at Big Red. Asante Samuel took swipes at the front office this year while distancing Reid from his targets; this despite the fact that Reid has final say on all personnel decisions. His refusal to answer questions after frustrating losses with anything but the same stock answers – we all know them so I won’t bother enflaming the mob with them- has endeared him to his players at the same time that it has infuriated and exasperated the fanbase (and many of his interviewers). Lurie said it best today when he turned a question about Reid’s perceived “arrogance” into “protectiveness”. We hate it. His players love it. Once again, this may not seem to be a big deal, but really stop and think about it – how many NFL (or any pro sports) coaches have NEVER been criticized, either publicly or off the record, by a single player? And while winning football games is clearly more important than winning popularity contests, there is something to be said for this rare loyalty. Give me 50 players with decent talent that are playing hard and playing together and I might go 8-8 in today’s NFL (an exaggeration for sure but I think I’m making my point).
But therein also lies the problem with Andy Reid and the flaw in Jeffrey Lurie’s logic. Yes, Andy Reid is a decent football coach. Yes, his preparation, and ability to get his players to play hard will win many, many football games. If I was Rams owner Stan Kroenke, or Miami GM Jeff Ireland, I would’ve been crossing my fingers that Lurie had been holding his press conference to fire Reid. If I was San Diego owner Alex Spanos, not so much (although with today’s announcement that both GM AJ Smith and coach Norv Turner would return, I can’t pretend to know what that guy is thinking; do they have blackmail photos on him??). Because Reid is perfect for a franchise that desperately needs to change its culture, and lay a foundation for winning football. He has a plan and sticks to it, which drives us nuts in Philly because we forget what it’s like to have no plan at all.
But in San Diego, like here in Philadelphia, they need a difference maker, not a foundation builder. Andy’s plans and preparation are his strength as well as his weakness- he doesn’t know what to do when his plans go awry. He is one of the single worst game day coaches I’ve ever witnessed in the NFL – he simply can’t adjust. It’s why his teams have always thrived when jumping out to big leads- he can stick to his game plan and used to be able to unleash a Jim Johnson defense on a team forced to throw. Only Reid has never adjusted to the biggest wrench that was tragically thrown into maybe his best plan. While his original plan to hire the defensive mastermind should be lauded, Reid has never recovered from the loss of Johnson to cancer. He has made two consecutive sketchy hires at defensive coordinator, and under Johnson’s succcessors, the defense’s inability to dominate and protect leads has led to tighter games, which expose Reid’s flaws as a gameday coach – time (mis)management, play calling, etc.
A reporter asked today if the “fan fatigue” of Reid factored into his thinking when deciding to retain his head coach and the owner admitted that he took it under consideration. Ironically, while others want Lurie to use that “fatigue”as a primary reason to fire Reid, it was the one thing I hated hearing from the owner (although I doubt it was true – or so I hope). Reid should be on the chopping block (or already gone) because he lacks the ability to win games against equal or superior football teams. Reid has the most wins and highest winning percentage in Eagles history, but his winning percentage against playoff teams is a paltry .364. I’ve never seen a stat that reflected the Reid era more- he beats the teams he’s supposed to beat but consistently gets outcoached and has trouble beating good football teams. Last time I checked, those are the teams the Eagles need to beat to win a Super Bowl, which to Reid’s credit has become the new standards for expectations of his football team. But Reid needs to go (and eventaully will) because he’s incapable of meeting those expectations, not because we are tired of his reasons for not meeting them.