You heard that warm welcome Andy Reid received last night, right? That had to feel good, even if his blank expression during pre-game hid what I’m sure was excitement. Eagles fans are (well, mostly) a disagreeable group. Nationally there is a rep that we are classless, but there was no way Andy was walking out of Lincoln Field feeling anything but appreciated.
Even better for him, he walked out of the joint victorious. For Eagles fans it’s still a bit jarring to see him looking all holiday season-ish in bright Kansas City Chief red. It was even more weird at the end of the Chiefs 26-16 win, to see him get the Gatorade bath, since, for the last 14 years seeing Andy wet was a positive sign for us.
Any true fan is happy to see him smiling again, because he didn't do much of that in these last few seasons. He became, for professional and personal reasons, a broken man. The team was in rebuilding mode, but that wasn’t the worst of it. His two oldest son’s battled drug addiction for years, and one of them unfortunately succumbed to those demons in the summer of 2012. Many people thought he might resign, figuring he’d need time to focus on his family life. He had nothing left to prove as HC anyway, his 14 years spent presiding over the Eagles represented a high point for the franchise.
130 wins, nine postseasons appearances, five NFC title games and a 24-21 loss to NE in Super Bowl XXXIX. His style – a players coach, but with task master sensibilities -- produced a lot of victories. He’s the most successful coach this franchise has ever had and he could have wiped his hands and walked away. At times last year, especially in those stoic press conferences after a bad loss, I thought he’d announce his retirement then. But he pushed ahead with an out of focus 4-12 campaign.
That the Eagles also retired McNabb’s jersey last night was fitting; you might as well make it a tag-team event, since these guys are joined at the hip. Phive’s standing ovation was less of a guarantee, but he got one too.
Last night, the door officially closed on the Reid/McNabb era. Fans can now really focus on the future. Reid, now 3-0 on the young season, is already off to his new life with another reclamation project in KC. This looks like a playoff team, and with a roster full of young talent, an extended run similar to what he had in Philly is on the table. Long mentioned as one of the best people in the NFL, he’s a football pro and a man of high character – you’d be hard-pressed to find many naysayers.
However, there is a lead lining to Andy’s playbook. He’s a stubborn SOB. The reason why the Eagles didn’t win a Super Bowls was mostly due to his arrogance. He held steadfast to his methodology, regardless of what the circumstances suggested. His West Coast offense derivative functioned with lots of passing, hulking (but slow) lineman, versatile RBs, underwhelming tight ends and whatever he could find in regards to the WR position. I’m not saying he didn’t care who ran fade routes, I’m just saying he believed he could win with this offense, regardless of who he had out there. Fortunately for him, he had a QB who masked his offensive deficiencies.
McNabb was sensational in those early, pre-injury years. Drafted in ’99, the Eagles were in the NFC Championship game in his third season, losing to the “Greatest Show On Turf” Rams. His WRs in that game? Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston and James Thrash. The next year those same guys were back and again the year after that. Reid asked McNabb to do more with less and he did, winning games with the worse WR group in NFL history. Had Reid and the Eagles upgraded just one of those WR spots, they likely would have won a title (T.O. came on board in ‘04 as a last resort). By the time DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin came on board, McNabb was too far past his prime.
Reid also had a legit blind spot, every year repeating the mistake of leaving one position totally under populated. One year it was middle linebacker, another it was safety, another time it was offensive tackle. It was a consistent problem. One of the main reasons he was let go, was due to his struggle in naming a competent defensive coordinator. After the untimely passing of Jim Johnson, the Eagles went through a turnstile of DCs, each one progressively worse than the previous. Reid was too smart, seemingly to allow these mistakes, and yet, he always lacked a Plan B. More often than not, that one thing ended up being the reason why the Eagles lost. There was that whole not-running-the-ball enough thing, too.
I’m sure thirsty Chiefs followers don’t care anything about his past mistakes. They’ve been down for so long, that they’ll take anything that they can get. As far as the Eagles, this is Chip Kelly’s team now, and the hope is he can get this thing turned back around. He can only be so lucky to last 14 years, get fired and then come back to a standing ovation by 60,000 people.