Is it possible to be simultaneously on the hot seat and gaining power? That appears to be the ostensibly contradictory circumstance in which Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid finds himself today. Reid is coming off of his most disappointing season, and yet the news of the day is that longtime team president Joe Banner is no longer the team president, and that Reid and GM Howie Roseman are now in charge of most of Banner's former responsibilities.
"The new team president will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations of cap management, player negotiations and acquisitions," a senior team official told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "That will all now be the responsibility of Coach Reid and the general manager's office."
There have been indications this offseason -- the contract negotiations for DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy chief among them -- that this has already been the case for a while. Stories of Reid's increased involvement in contract talks and salary-cap matters have been floating around the league for months. Back in March, Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times wrote of a power struggle in the Eagles' front office in which Reid sought greater responsibility. The Eagles issued immediate and unsolicited attacks on that story, and even today they're insisting that the Banner move reflects a natural evolution of responsibility and not a power struggle.
Whatever. They all lie, all the time, the people who run these teams, and we know this. We try our best to peek underneath the information and spin they're willing to give us and seek the real truth. Banner and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie have been friends since before the moon landing. This isn't a move that gets made if everybody's happy and getting along with each other. It's a clear win for Reid, and the easy first reaction is that it makes him safer. If Banner was the guy saying Reid needed to win the Super Bowl to get a new contract (Reid's current deal runs through 2013), then the fact that Banner is out should be a good thing for Reid, right?
I'm not sure it's as simple as all of that. Lurie was obviously upset with the way 2011 went, and if 2012 goes as badly or worse, it's entirely possible the Eagles will change their evolutionary plan. Reid could be fired, or relieved of coaching duties and moved into a front-office position, or resign on his own to go coach the Chargers, or something. If the Eagles flop again and finish under .500, all bets are off.
But the key takeaway here is that the people running the Eagles are acting as though that will not happen. The people running the Eagles do not believe they will flop or finish under .500, or that they'll have to make a tough decision about Reid. The Eagles are running their organization with a long-term perspective, and on the assumption that 2012 will be a good year in which they field a strong contender and continue to build on Reid's long record of success as a head coach. Assuming that happens, 2011 becomes easy to regard as an aberration, and the plan can proceed in the way it's being outlined for us all today.
So in the case of Andy Reid, I think it is possible to be simultaneously on the hot seat and gaining power. His future with the Eagles likely is tied to the on-field performance of the 2012 team in a very significant way. But the fear of 2012 failure isn't keeping the Eagles from running the team the way they believe it should be run or expressing their faith in Reid as the right man for the job. Could something happen this year to change their minds? Yes. On the heels of last year's disappointment, that remains a possibility. It's just that the Eagles have decided not to let that possibility deter them from their long-range planning. They'll deal with it if they have to, but their hope and their belief is that they won't.