Reid will survive Eagles' nightmare
Coach is still the best man for the job -- even if Philly doesn't make the playoffs
Andy Reid is not going to lose his job. Not during this season, or afterward, no matter what happens Sunday against Arizona or later this month against the Giants or in December against the Jets.
It is simply not going to happen.
Nor should it, at least not yet.
The Eagles could miss the playoffs -- as it certainly looks like they will, sitting at 3-5 after the Monday night loss at home to Chicago -- and Reid would survive. They could finish with a losing record, and Reid would survive. They could completely bottom out at something as embarrassing as 6-10 (or worse), and be all out despite having declared they were all-in, and Reid still would survive.
At the moment, all anyone in Philadelphia is talking about is Penn State and Joe Paterno's culpability in former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse of boys. The allegations are horrifying.
But at some point, the discussion on local sports talk radio will return to Reid and his underachieving team. Eagles fans were outraged at the team's 1-4 start, at Reid's arrogance in defying football intelligence and promoting his offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, at strategic in-game mistakes and mismanagement. The vitriol subsided after the Eagles beat Washington, and then Dallas. But after losing to Chicago, it undoubtedly would have returned had the Penn State case not happened.
The situation is simple. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie likes Reid and the setup he has in the front office. Reid is the executive vice president of football operations, which means he allegedly controls all football decisions. Team president Joe Banner is the cap guru who makes the contracts work. And Howie Roseman, the team's young general manager, is Banner's apprentice.
Egos and personalities being what they are, the Reid-Banner-Roseman union is far from a perfect partnership, but it is symbiotic, and from Lurie's perspective, it works. Lurie's leadership style is to trust his people to do the jobs he pays them handsomely to do, and he generally butts out.
Lurie fancies himself a big thinker. He has a master's degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in social policy. He is not prone to irrational decisions or to bowing to the wishes of his fan base -- which has called for Reid's head before, to no avail.
While I do believe Lurie really does want to win a Super Bowl -- the fan base isn't convinced here, either -- he is equally proud of the sustained success the Eagles have had with Reid as their coach. Reid has a 131-87-1 record. The only active coach with more wins is Bill Belichick. Reid's Eagles have won six division titles and been to five NFC championship games, with one Super Bowl appearance. And they typically get stronger as the season wears on, which is a testament to Reid's ability to read and manage his players.
Which is plenty of evidence for Lurie to keep him. The Eagles players also like Reid. He rarely throws a player under the bus to the media -- David Akers being the exception -- and is even-tempered. He doesn't get too high after wins, and he doesn't get too low after losses.
Reid also is under contract through 2013. Buying him out would not be cheap. That undoubtedly will be a factor for Lurie as well.
A more herky-jerky owner could find plenty of evidence to can Reid. After a monster spending spree in August, when the Eagles added six Pro Bowlers -- including free agency's biggest prize, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha -- the team has grossly underperformed. While they have moved the ball at will at times, they have been done in by turnovers. Despite tweaking defensive line coach Jim Washburn's Wide 9 scheme, the defense has been incapable of stopping the run, in large part because Reid has a habit of not using high draft picks on linebackers. And four of the Eagles' five losses, including the one to the Bears, have come after Philadelphia held a fourth-quarter lead.
But, along with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Reid is the brains behind Michael Vick 2.0, and Vick trusts him implicitly. To change coaches, and likely systems, after the Eagles gave Vick a long-term contract doesn't make sense. Who is to say Vick would be as effective, or as successful?
The Eagles are third in the league in offense and on pace to be one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. They are loaded with young, talented players. They just need to protect the ball, and a lead, better.
They are running out of time, but even if it all comes crumbling down, the Eagles owe it to themselves to give it one more run with Reid. Eliminate the excuse of the lockout and trying to get a bunch of talented new faces to jell without the benefit of an offseason. Give them one more cycle.
While much of the fan base has soured on Reid, the players haven't. It was extraordinary that Asante Samuel ranted against the Eagles' front office two weeks ago, alleging that Banner and Roseman were playing "fantasy football" with Lurie's money, but in the same breath defending Reid, who has ultimate control. If Philadelphia had traded Samuel, it would have been because Reid had pulled the trigger, a distinction that Samuel either didn't make or ignored.
The players play for Reid. His message isn't stale, at least not to them. The players who went to the Super Bowl in 2004 are long gone, replaced by Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and Vick.
As he does every offseason, Lurie will evaluate Reid. He will look at his strengths and weaknesses, the wins and losses, and then make the same determination he has made in the 12 previous offseasons: that the Eagles are better with Reid than without him.
Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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