Time may be up for Eagles' Reid
In walking away from the field for good at the tender age of 42 in 1978 — and retiring to the broadcast booth, and to lending his name to a computer craze, never again to return to the sideline — Hall of Famer John Madden opined that no one should coach the same team for more than 10 years.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If Madden was correct in his assessment, and the always-opinionated Madden normally is spot-on in important matters of both football and life, then Andy Reid is already two years beyond his coaching expiration date.
Madden would never suggest, of course, that Reid retire after a dozen seasons of prowling the Eagles' sideline. But in this city, particularly after Sunday's 17-12 loss to the despised Washington Redskins and expatriate quarterback Donovan McNabb, that might just leave Madden in the minority when it comes to matters that involve Reid's shelf-life.
With a record of 2-2 at the season's quarter pole, mediocrity defined, the Eagles seem to be at a crossroads.
And maybe Reid, the NFL's second longest tenured coach in terms of continuous service to the same franchise, is, too.
The ugly loss to the Redskins, who clearly outplayed the homestanding Eagles in virtually every facet of the game, rubbed open some scars for Reid with the folks who fork over big bucks to second-guess him. Among them: His clock-management skills. The absence of a running game. The perception that Reid and his staff don't adjust well in-game. Some head-scratching play-calling. An inability to dominate teams in the really big games.
All of those things were on display Sunday afternoon and Reid never offered a fair or satisfactory rationalization for any of them. Anyone who has ever attended a Reid postgame news conference knows what to expect: Reid is typically gracious, but there is always the unspoken question of whether his patience with the assemblage of inquisitors will expire before his comatose audience does.
A walking sound bite he ain't.
His explanation of a late second-quarter call, when the Eagles were flagged for an inexcusable and inexplicable delay of game after a timeout and a lengthy review of a LeSean McCoy run — the series ended with a David Akers 23-yard field goal — left a lot of people scratching their heads. Reid thought the call left Philadelphia with a fourth-and-inches play and, after the ball was placed and the play clock wound, it was more like fourth-and-one.
Said Reid: "I take full responsibility."
If he doesn't, angry radio talk-show regulars — and this city is toxic with enthusiasts who love dialing up such gab-fests to vent their ire — will make sure he does. In a town where the first part of the equation in any love-hate relationship only exists following a victory, the phone lines are certain to sizzle.
Just as venomous can be the newspapers, one of which on Monday morning noted that Reid only knows two speeds for making decisions, "slow and slower," and also termed him an "in-game bungler."
Just as confounding as the delay-of-game infraction was Reid's fourth-quarter decision to punt, trailing 17-6 and with a fourth-and-5 at the Washington 44-yard line, and just 10:21 remaining in the game. And then there as the offensive play-calling, with first Michael Vick and then relief pitcher Kevin Kolb seemingly content to throw the ball underneath all day against the Redskins' Cover 2 umbrella.
And, of course, there are the annual grievances about the running game.
Or, more correctly, the lack thereof. If he could tear himself out of his NFL Films dungeon long enough, former Eagles quarterback and terrific ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski would note that, more than ever, it's a passing league. But in 11 previous seasons under Reid, the Eagles have statistically rated 20th or worse in league rushing more times (four seasons) than they have ranked in the top 10 (three).
In his 11 previous seasons, Reid has won five titles in what is regarded as the NFL's sternest division. He has been to the playoffs eight times, four NFL title games, and a Super Bowl. Counting the postseason and this year's 2-2 mark, his record is an impressive 120-77-1. But he doesn't own a Super Bowl ring and, in a city giddy with the recent successes of the guys across the street, baseball's Phillies, that's viewed as pretty much unacceptable.
Reid, 52, is a terrific guy, and he's always been gracious. But we're especially glad to have had an early flight out of here, because so perplexing was the loss and strategy, and so damning the day-after analysis certain to have come by now, that all the local telephone service providers would have been wise to install fiber-optic cables coated in asbestos overnight.
It is fashionable to blame Reid and wife Tammy for the indiscretions of their adult sons, Garrett and Britt, and suggest that the "family in crisis" headlines that were so dominant here in recent years were the result of the hours the coach devoted to his team. But take it from someone who has experienced siblings in trouble — and whose mother used to fret that maybe she treated those incorrigible kids different from the others — it's usually a function of life more than home-life.
Which isn't to say that perhaps Reid, for his own good and that of his sanity, should maybe consider a breather.
After all, his best quarterback is without a contract beyond this year. The offensive line is a mess. The defense hasn't been the same, marauding bunch since the death of Jim Johnson a year ago. The front office, which never seemed to make a mistake in the past, has had several deals blow up in its face. Most important, The City of Brotherly Love may never hold Reid close to its bosom.
After the game Sunday afternoon, McNabb was asked if he had any emotion upon his return to the city he called home for 11 years. "I think the relief I got," McNabb said, "was the fact this was over with."
Certain to be an embattled coach is the wake of the defeat, probably more publicly criticized than at just about any time in his career, Reid might heed those words.