There are two constants in the lives of Philadelphia Eagles fans in the Andy Reid era outside of ultimate disillusionment: The Eagles will nearly always stagger out of the gates with a record similar to what they have heading into Sunday's home game (4-3) against the Indianapolis Colts, and they will always win the game immediately following their bye week.
The theory goes that if you give Reid and his coaching staff an extra week to prepare for an opponent, the Eagles are one of the safest bets in professional sports. Reid might be the greatest bye-week coach of our generation. My research Thursday morning revealed that Minnesota, New England and Indianapolis are the only teams that are even in shouting distance of Reid (11-0) following the bye. Those teams are 9-3 over the past 12 seasons.
The Eagles' opponents have come into those games with a combined 39-38 record during Reid's first 11 seasons. And yes, there's at least one blogger who's put together a chart with Reid's victims and their records at the time they faced the Eagles following the bye. It's also worth noting that Reid is 3-1 in the postseason when given an extra week to prepare.
So what's the secret to Reid's success when coming off an open date? Well, part of it comes from serving on Mike Holmgren's staff in Green Bay from 1992-98. Holmgren took the unusual approach of basically giving his players and coaches an entire week away from football during the bye, both with the Packers and Seahawks. And like clockwork, Reid brought his players in Monday morning following a 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans and told them to get lost for a week.
I can recall Bill Parcells wanting to keep his players around the practice facility until Friday before the bye so they wouldn't be tempted to secure discount fares to Cabo. Reid simply reminds his players to "be smart" and doesn't put any sort of a restriction on their travel plans. I talked to Eagles tight end Brent Celek on Wednesday night and he sounded like a different guy. He's been battling through various injuries since training camp.
"It almost felt like the offseason or something," said Celek, who returned to his lake house in Michigan for a few days. "I feel a million times better and I think the time off is something that we really benefit from."
Starting left guard Todd Herremans is in his sixth season with Reid. He thinks the Eagles' head coach has an ulterior motive for getting the players out of the building for a week.
"I think our coaches may have an edge because they're able to spend all that time watching film without having to take 4-5 hours out of their day meeting with us during the bye," Herremans told me Thursday. "They already stay up there almost all the time, but with us gone, they can really zero in on the opponent."
It's funny that some of us bash Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips for being soft when he actually makes his players stay around Valley Ranch until Thursday during bye weeks, often thwarting their weekend plans. But Herremans indicated that there's an accountability factor that Eagles players have with each other when they're away from the facility. They enjoy the time away from football so much that no one wants to spoil it for the rest of the team.
I can remember talking to some of Holmgren's assistant coaches in Seattle who were shocked that he let his players have so much time during the bye week. But when they saw how refreshed the players were, they understood his thought process. There's a belief that Philadelphia holds a tougher training camp than most teams in the NFL, which is something I tend to agree with after witnessing the other three teams in the division over the past few seasons. In watching the Cowboys go through a week of practices in Oxnard, Calif., while mostly wearing baseball caps, it never occurred to me they might need a week of rest during the season.
"I think [Reid] could see the looks in our eyes after that loss to the Titans," said Herremans. "There was absolutely no need to keep us around and punish us, because we're already doing that to ourselves."
They certainly don't hand out awards based on post-bye-week records, but based on Reid's, I'd say a win against the Colts is as close to a sure thing as you'll find in this league. And it's also important to note the Colts are coming off a short week following their appearance on "Monday Night Football." But wait, Herremans wants to back off just a little.
"Hey, it's the Indianapolis Colts!" he barked. "The only inspiration Andy's record gives us is that we know he's done his job, so now we have to do ours."