NFL

Reid struggling to meet expectations

Image: Andy Reid (© Howard Smith/USA Today Sports)
Jan 01, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid along the sidel...
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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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PHILADELPHIA

He has more wins than any other head coach in franchise history.

Only three others in NFL annals have ever reached 100 career victories as quickly.

He is currently the league’s longest-tenured head coach with one team at 14 seasons, only two of which have ended with a losing record.

And along the way, the Philadelphia Eagles reached five NFC Championship games, one Super Bowl and captured six division titles.

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None of this will matter if Andy Reid can’t get his slumping squad back into the playoffs. And even then, that may not be good enough for Reid to keep his job.

Just ask Don Shula.

He won more games than anyone in NFL history. He led Miami to two Super Bowl titles — including the league’s only perfect season — and three more championship appearances. He enjoyed iconic status in South Florida during 26 years with the Dolphins.

What did all this mean when the 1995 Miami Dolphins fell short of Super Bowl expectations?

Nothing. Shula retired under fire even though Miami was coming off its fourth playoff appearance in six years.

“I got to a point that last season where we were 9-7 and it wasn’t good enough,” Shula told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “The fans were angry. The talk shows were on me big-time.

“Once you set a standard and then can’t live up to that standard, fans did not give a lot of leeway.”

Reid can relate.

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The proverbial “hot seat” for embattled NFL coaches got fired up in Philadelphia before the season even began when team owner Jeff Lurie proclaimed a second consecutive 8-8 season would be “unacceptable.” The Eagles enter the FOX America’s Game of the Week against visiting Dallas (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday) headed toward an even worse fate after falling to 3-5 with four consecutive losses.

Critics are skewering Reid publically. Rumors have already started about potential replacements. Long-time Philadelphia radio and television host/reporter Howard Eskin sent a tweet on Thursday speculating that Jon Gruden could be in the mix if he decides to return to coaching.

Not that Reid himself would be out of work long. The resume he has compiled assures that.

Perhaps it would even be a good thing for Reid and the City of Brotherly Love to end their relationship. Just one other head coach in NFL history — Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher — spent at least 14 seasons with the same franchise before winning his first championship. Most teams are unwilling to exercise nearly as much patience as the Steelers and Eagles did with Cowher and Reid respectively before making a switch.

Maybe the Eagles need a fresh start after a series of Reid’s personnel and coaching decisions have backfired the past two years, including those that made then-backup quarterback Vince Young’s 2011 preseason proclamation of Philadelphia as the “Dream Team” into a running punch line.

Maybe the club has plateaued under Reid’s watch without being able to get over the hump and capture that elusive Lombardi Trophy. Maybe he needs a change of scenery and his message has worn thin after spending so much time in the same place.

This doesn’t mean Reid’s players feel the same way.

“We don’t want to see him go with all the speculation,” Eagles free safety Kurt Coleman told FOXSports.com. “We really want to leave it all out there, especially for what he’s done for us and the hours he’s put into this organization.

“We would hate to say it’s our fault that anything happened to him.”

IN THE GENES

Football is truly a way of life a way of life for some families.

Some of the blame for Philadelphia’s failings does fall directly on the players and their lack of execution, especially in red-zone situations on offense.

Nobody personifies this more than quarterback Michael Vick.

Already coming off a lackluster 2011 campaign, Vick has committed 14 of Philadelphia’s 19 turnovers. Although they managed to overcome Vick’s miscues when winning three of their first four games by a combined total of four points, the Eagles simply weren’t good enough to compensate for the long haul.

In Vick’s defense, he has received awful protection by an offensive line that has now lost four of five starters to injuries. Vick has gotten sacked 27 times — and those weren’t even some of the most brutal shots he has taken.

It was Reid who anointed Vick as Philadelphia’s franchise quarterback in 2010 after trading Donovan McNabb and changing course on Kevin Kolb as his heir apparent. But while this may prove Reid’s ultimate undoing, it isn’t the only poor choice he has made in recent seasons.

The draft classes from 2006 to 2009 were largely disastrous. Only six of the 34 selections remain on the roster. Among the 33 players chosen the past three years, none will draw legitimate Pro Bowl consideration in 2012.

That’s 67 picks in seven years and the Eagles have two elite players to show for it — running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

The absence of impact players on defense has forced Philadelphia to add veterans via trades and free agency. Those acquisitions have produced mixed results.

There is no questioning that the boldest coaching decision Reid has made during his reign is the one proving the most costly.

Rather than hire an experienced defensive coordinator in 2011 after Sean McDermott had flopped, Reid thought that long-time offensive line coach Juan Castillo could handle the role. This defied logic on a number of levels, especially since Castillo had no NFL experience on that side of the football.

The defense was a mess last season as Philadelphia went 4-8 before rallying to finish at .500. The late-season success Castillo’s unit enjoyed didn’t carry into 2012 as offenses learned how to pick apart Philadelphia’s “Wide-Nine” scheme.

When the Eagles didn’t generate a sack for three straight games, Reid made his first in-season staff change since joining the Eagles in 1999. Reid fired Castillo last month and replaced him with secondary coach Todd Bowles.

There is no defensive improvement so far. Following last Monday night’s 28-13 loss to New Orleans, the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a senior team staffer as saying the switch to Bowles was a “miscalculation.”

Dismissing Castillo was of the few uncharacteristic moves Reid has made in Philadelphia. One of his strengths is consistency. Players say Reid’s approach toward them hasn’t changed even as the heat rises.

“He doesn’t panic,” Eagles left guard Evan Mathis told FOXSports.com. “If there’s external pressure that could rattle people, he doesn’t let it. He stays with what he believes in.”

Reid told FOXSports.com that the need to remain even-keeled was a lesson he learned from numerous coaches he worked with and played for, including Mike Holmgren and Lavelle Edwards. Reid knows trying to portray someone he’s not to motivate or spur better results is a desperation tactic that always backfires.

“I’ve been very lucky to be around good people who have stayed consistent,” Reid said following Thursday’s practice. “But I’ve heard stories (about those that don’t). I keep my eyes open. I see how things work.”

As if there isn’t enough on his shoulders, Reid also continues to deal with a family tragedy. His son Garrett died in August at age 29 from a heroin overdose.

Asked how he has remained strong through this year, Reid said, “It’s faith. That’s what it is. I’ve got a great wife who is strong. I’m also surrounded by good people. That helps, too.”

Shula said there is one way Reid can help himself — and it’s the obvious one.

“You have to win early and often and keep winning,” Shula said with a laugh. “That sort of guarantees you’ll be around.”

Lately for Reid, that’s easier said than done.

Tagged: Eagles, Michael Vick

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