When Andy Reid Met Charlie Manuel : A Q&A With the Head Coaches of the Eagles and the Phillies

With both teams flying high, there’s never been a better time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. Philly Mag brought Andy Reid and Charlie Manuel together to jaw about their little-known friendship, the players they love, and what they really think about us

“C’mon in, Coach,” Andy Reid says brightly, wearing a pair of tan cargo shorts and flip-flops and standing dead square in the middle of his spacious office in the Eagles’ South Philly HQ, just down the road from the Linc.

Charlie Manuel, taller than you expect and with the kind of long, loping gait that instantly marks him as a onetime jock, pauses briefly in the doorway, smiles, then extends his hand. “Nice to see you, Coach,” he says warmly, in his rumbling Virginia twang. We know them as Charlie and Andy, but on the rare occasions that they’re in the same room, they use the ultimate sign of athletic respect: “Coach.”

If you’re a Philadelphia sports fan, the moment we’re experiencing right now feels like something out of a dream. A very, very good dream. It began last winter, when the Phillies unexpectedly reacquired super-pitcher Cliff Lee and, in that instant, created what seemed to be a pitching staff—and a team—for the ages. Then, in August, with the Phils actually living up to all that preseason hype, the Eagles did something equally breathtaking: They acquired, within a matter of days, if not hours, a slew of high-profile players who instantly turned them into a serious Super Bowl contender.

Yes, Philadelphia, you’ve died and gone to sporting heaven.

The excitement around the city is so palpable these days that it seemed like the perfect time to do something no one ever has before: get Reid and Manuel, the two leaders of our high-flying franchises, together for a conversation about their teams, their fans, their backgrounds … and their unlikely friendship. And so in the second week of August, a few hours before the Eagles’ first preseason game, the two men (accompanied by Manuel’s fiancée, Missy Martin) are sitting down for a sort of sports summit in Reid’s office.

Reid, now in his 13th season in town, and Manuel, now in his seventh, have an easy rapport, helped by the fact that each is a fan of the other’s sport. Manuel, 67, played high-school football in Virginia in the early 1960s (“My first year, we still had leather helmets,” he says), while Reid, 53, grew up in the shadow of L.A.’s Dodger Stadium and bled Dodger blue. “I played in a park right across the street, those ball fields right there,” he says, as the two men relax in black leather chairs. “I was the only white kid on the team.”

“I was with the Dodgers for a little while in ’74 and ’75,” Manuel remembers. “I had a bad leg then—kind of limped.”

Reid nods. “Hey, listen, I saw you. I was the biggest Dodgers fan in the world. I knew everyone.”
The two could probably talk this way for hours. But after a brief aside about Manuel’s black Tommy Bahama shirt (“I think think that’s the only one I don’t have,” Reid jokes), they settle in for some questions. The ones we all want answered.

Philadelphia magazine: Let’s start off with your friendship. How well do you guys actually know each other?

Andy Reid: Well, we’ve reached out and talked a couple times.

Charlie Manuel:
He sent me some text messages. I’d see ’em, but I never learned to text. I’d be sitting, like, in New York in the locker room, and I’d get a message. And I’d be like, “Andy Reid sent me this message.” I think the last one you sent me was when we got Cliff Lee.

Reid: Yeah, that’s right. I was fired up. Actually, I bought season tickets. Right when I heard that was gonna go down, I ordered Phillies season tickets for my sons for Christmas.

PM: Do the two of you feel a special bond because of the positions you hold here in Philadelphia?

Reid: Yeah. I mean, listen, this is a passionate town. Because they come after you. They came after Charlie early. And even when you win, they come after you. I think his first year and my first year—those are man-makers, right there.

PM: What’s it like to go through that kind of criticism from the media and the public? Were you were prepared for it, given Philly’s reputation?

For me, yeah, I expected that. When I came here, the first press conference I had, I told them, “You’re probably not gonna like me, but when you get used to me, more than likely I’ll win you over.” When I first came here, I never really got into talk radio—or actually any kind of press. If there was a paper lying around in our coaches’ room, I’d pick it up to see if it was the truth. Most of the time it wasn’t. And I’d get pissed off after I read it.

PM: Do you pay attention to the media now?

Manuel: Not at all.

What Derek [Boyko, the Eagles’ PR chief] gives me, I get. The rest of it I don’t read. I don’t listen to AM radio. I try to stay away from all that stuff. I think from a management standpoint, you want your own decisions to come into effect. And you don’t want anything messing with it. I don’t care how strong you are—if you start reading all that stuff, it’s gonna sway you one way or another. And then that’s not really the pure you.

Philly fans pride themselves on knowing a lot. But what would average fans be surprised about if they were seeing the games from your side of things? Is it how many hours you put in?

Reid: You probably named one of them. It’s a year-round job. And you give your heart and soul for your organization. There’s a process that takes place. People aren’t aware of that. Now, they don’t have to be—they’re coming to enjoy the entertainment part of it. But there’s a lot of time that goes into the product that you put out there.

Manuel:  We play a lot of games—162. And focus definitely has to come into play. I was a football player in high school, and from a mental standpoint, it definitely helped me—it helped me in basketball, it helped me in baseball, it also helped in growing up. I think definitely at times I have a football mentality when I talk to our team. I’m a very upbeat, loose kind of guy in some ways; I communicate with everybody. But you got to be mentally- tough, and you got to bring it every day. The game. Nothing’s more important than the game. To me, baseball is a chemistry, it’s an attitude. I used to be a talent guy—if you gave me the talent, I’d work with the attitude. But it’s definitely the want-to process on our team that works for us.

PM: So it’s the attitude on this Phillies team that makes the difference?

Manuel: I think attitude and chemistry play a big role in baseball. I sure do.
Reid: In football, you gotta get 11 guys dancing the same dance or it’s not gonna work. And they all have to buy in. And get rid of the fluff. I always tell ’em, “Take off the tuxedo and put on the blue jeans. It’s time to roll, like, right now.”

PM: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Philly sports fans as excited as they’ve been in the last few weeks. Do you guys feel that, too?

Reid: I think it’s great for the city. [points to Manuel] I think Coach made some great moves in the off-season. And there’s a great nucleus of players on the Phillies. They’re like trained killers. And I feel like we’ve got a great nucleus of players, and we’ve added a few guys to it. Now, Charlie’s doing it—he’s leading the big leagues right now and shooting for that championship. And we’re trying to put our thing together and make sure that we work hard to come together as a football team.

Manuel: Everybody who works in our locker room, I’m telling you right now, they love the Eagles. You should see the jerseys and things. The players and the kids who work in there—we talk about the Eagles all the time. Seriously.
Reid: I’ll tell you what’s neat. Free agents that we bring into town here? The first thing they buy—and a lot of them come in with it—is a Phillies hat. It’s a crazy deal.

Manuel: Our players sit there—Howard, Rollins, all those guys—they talk about the Eagles. And they hang jerseys in their lockers.

Reid: The players are friends. That’s kind of the neat thing about the two teams being right here [in South Philly]. The players get to know each other. That’s an awesome deal.

PM: Andy, some people have speculated that the Eagles made all these off-season moves because the Phillies have captured the town’s attention.

Reid: Listen, I respect the heck out of the Phillies. But that’s not what you do. They’re not doing it because of us, and we’re not doing it because of them. We’ve always tried to bring in good players. This has been kind of a weird off-season here, but … listen, Charlie’s done a great job. I don’t want it to sound wrong. The question—that’s a little tricky. Because we’re both trying to do the same thing. We’re both trying to get the best people in place that we possibly can.

PM: Actually, it sounds like you might have been as excited about the Cliff Lee signing as Charlie was.

Reid: [laughs] I admit it, I was fired up. I was sad to see him go [when he was traded in 2009]. Listen, I’m a spectator and a fan, looking at the Phils. I was disappointed when he left. But they filled his shoes quickly with a pretty good player [Roy Halladay], then they brought him back. That’s like double scoops of chocolate chip ice cream right there, man.

PM: One thing you guys have in common is that players really want to play for each of you.

Reid: It’s a people business when you’re a head coach. You gotta be able to communicate. You gotta be able to put everything on the table. You gotta tell somebody when he does good; you also gotta teach him when it’s not right. And make sure that there’s a consequence involved if they step over the line. And I think that’s really what all people want—they want to be treated fair. At the same time, I think 90 percent of people want to know how to get from point A to point B, so you gotta make sure you’ve got a well-thought-out plan. When players see that you’re all over the place, wishy-washy, you’re not gonna last long.

Manuel: I feel like what works for me is, I think I’m very genuine. I’m honest. And like Andy says, when you do something good, we pat you on the back, we applaud you, we tell you how good you are. But at the same time, when you need criticism, I like to bring you right in my office and sit you down and we’ll talk. And we’ll try to get things straight. And that’s where the genuine part comes in. I think honesty definitely plays a big part in it.
How about your relationships with team leaders? Are there specific guys you turn to?

Manuel: On our team, we have leaders. And a lot of them lead by example. Like Utley—he’s a very mentally tough player. Very hard worker. Repetition guy. Studies the game. And I think it’s just what he is, he’s a leader. He’s a guy that doesn’t have to say a whole lot—he just looks at you, and you can pretty much know what he’s thinking. Ryan Howard, he’s definitely a leader when he’s doing good. He kind of leads by example. If we have somebody who steps up—Rollins would be more vocal, probably, than some of the guys. But when we get right down to it, when we get something that’s a problem, they look to me to take care of it. That’s my job.

Reid: In football, it seems the head coach and the quarterback are the ones who are really stuck out there to the public. And so you look to bring in a guy who can handle that. Like Charlie says, I think all our players look in my direction when there’s gotta be a hard hammer to come down. At the same time, that peer pressure those guys can put on, that definitely doesn’t hurt. So Michael [Vick]—it starts with the quarterback. The same way when Donovan was here. It started with him.

PM: Andy, you played in college at BYU. Charlie, you played in the majors and in Japan. At what point did it dawn on each of you that you wanted to coach?

Manuel: I’ll tell you this story, Andy, since you say you liked the Dodgers. I was a bench player for the Dodgers, and for some reason [Dodgers manager] Walter Alston always liked to talk to me. And I remember one time he says, “One of these days, you’re gonna manage in the big leagues.” And I was like, “You gotta be kidding me. I’m gonna manage in the big leagues? Seriously?” And he goes, “I’ll give you some advice. You gotta weed out the losers.” I thought to myself, “Actually, he’s telling me to quit playing baseball.” [Reid and Manuel both burst into laughter]

A few years later, I went to Japan to play, and I finally got serious about baseball—about how much I loved it. I got to experience their culture and their ways, and the thing that I learned was, there were more people in the world than Charlie Manuel. And I made just like a 180-turnaround in attitude. Because I was kind of a red-ass guy, had a temper, a whiner. You know, I never realized how much of a whiner I was till I went to play baseball in Japan. I had a manager over there who told me, “If you could just do a little twinking of your thinking, you could get a lot out of this game.” And once I figured that out, from that day on, I became very positive, and then things started working for me.    

PM:  Andy, what made you want to coach?

Reid: My college coach, LaVell Edwards. He asked me just before my senior year if I’d ever thought about coaching. I hadn’t. I wanted to be a doctor. I was gonna be a doctor. So he said, “Listen, give it a shot.” So after my senior year, I stayed on as a graduate assistant. And liked it. So …

PM: And here we are.

Reid: You know what’s neat about it? He’s called me once a week since I left there—my college coach. He’s checked on me once a week since I left. Isn’t that great?

Manuel: That’s good. That’s real good.

PM: Charlie, if Michael Vick were a baseball player, would you have taken the same chance on him that Andy did?

Manuel: Yeah, I would. We had a kid who lived right next to me in Florida, Billy Hardee. He got a scholarship to Virginia Tech. And he was a safety at the same time Vick went to school there. And I’d always ask him when he came home about how good Vick was and things like that. So I followed Virginia Tech, and I thought Vick was a great talent. And around that Blacksburg area, I saw the good things he did. I saw everything good about what he did. He was a tremendous athlete. I never met him or nothing, but I loved to watch him.

PM: One of the things you’re known for, Charlie, is how loyal you are to your players. You stuck with Brad Lidge as your closer even when he struggled a couple of years ago. Andy, do you have that kind of patience?

Reid: Listen, you asked that one question before about what people don’t know? You’re dealing with young men. And there’s a whole lot of things that go on—not all of them are public. You’re juggling a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different egos. I always say there’s a whole lot of testosterone bouncing around the locker room—these are young men. And so you deal with that. You’re kind of, within the building, in a father role, helping them out through different situations. To answer your question, I probably would [have stuck with Lidge]. I mean, I don’t know the whole story. But I probably would have.

PM: A question for both of you: Who’s your favorite player on the other guy’s team?

Reid: I’ll tell you what, man. Somebody asked me this about the Dodgers [from the ’70s]. And I’m going … Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Lopes, Garvey—those guys were always there together, and they were kind of one guy. It was like this one unit. And so Charlie’s got these guys who have been here for so long. Victorino, and Utley, and Jimmy—they all seem to be tough, tough guys. And Howard. They’ve got the certain attitude that’s kind of neat to watch.

PM: But is there one guy in particular where you go, “He’s a football player”?

Reid: He’s got a few of them. And then his pitching group. Some of those guys are pretty good-sized guys. Good tight ends. [laughs]

PM: Which Eagle could play for you, Charlie?

Manuel: I like Vick. I used to like McNabb. Don came over to the park a few times, and I got to talk to him some. I always had respect for him because he came across to me as a strong, mentally tough kind of guy.

PM: Andy, you’ve lived here for 12 years. Charlie, you’ve been here seven. Tell me something you like about Philadelphia.

Reid: I love the food. I’ll tell you, I didn’t get this way [he touches his stomach] by being a closet eater. The food’s phenomenal. The people are phenomenal. Outside of Philadelphia, people think, “Oh, this is a rough city, they gotta beat you up when you go out in public.” But they really don’t. I’m not sure I’ve paid for a meal when I’ve gone out for dinner. The people are warm, they’re honest. To stay someplace for as long as we have, you can’t dislike it. 

Manuel: When I was in high school, we used to study world history. And Pennsylvania was one of the main states we studied—the Declaration of Independence and all that. When I went to work for the Phillies, I got to go through all the coal-mining stuff in Scranton and that area, the Poconos. I like all that. Matter of fact, I really like that. I like to go to Amish country. It’s a very pretty state. And I’m like Andy, I like the restaurants. But I don’t get to go to a lot of places. Actually, Andy, Missy will tell you, the only place I ever go is from the ballpark to my house.

PM: Do each of you feel a lot of pressure to win it all this season?

Reid: We’re in the day-in, day-out operation of it, so we’re just in the moment. We’re trying to find that next win. There’s no time for the nerves and all that stuff.

Manuel: Pressure’s all in what you put on yourself. I think that excellence and having to master how you play—I think if you stay with that and you stay the course and you love everything about it. … I’ve been in baseball ever since I was 18 years old. I eat and sleep baseball. I’m the first guy to the ballpark—I’m there at eight o’clock when we have a day game. And night games or on the road, I get there at 10 or 11. I’m the first guy to the ballpark. Halladay don’t beat me, because I make it a point to not let him. That’s who I am.

PM: You spend a little time here too, right, Andy?

Reid: [smiles] Yeah, I do.

Manuel: You just get wrapped up in it. It’s hard to explain. Playing was, for me, the greatest thing I could ever do. I used to get sent down [to the minors] from the big leagues a lot. But I loved to play, and it didn’t really matter where at. And I still feel the same way. I’m very fortunate to be managing in the major leagues. That’s kind of how I look at it.

PM: With luck, we’ll have two parades down Broad Street this year. Charlie, you were part of one in 2008. What’s it feel like?

Manuel: When we won the World Series that year, I think it took—for our players, and also the crowd—I think it took a little while for it to sink in. It was like we crossed the finish line and somebody stopped us and told us we won. Really, I kind of felt that way. [But then] everything about it became real. The parade was definitely real. Everything was exciting. Everything was very positive. People are touching you. They’re screaming and hollering. Actually, when the parade started and they started hollering “Charlie!,” I was kind of embarrassed until I finally started liking it.

Reid: You were going like this [Reid raises arms in the air]: “Yeah!”

Manuel: [laughs] Really, Andy, it’s kind of embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell nobody. But I started liking it. Everything about it was absolutely honest and real. They were just excited, they were overjoyed. That was something.

PM: Last thing: predictions. Charlie, are the Eagles going to win the Super Bowl?

Manuel: I think the Eagles can win the Super Bowl. It’s a long journey, but at the same time, you can get it done.

PM: Andy, another World Series for the Phils?

Reid: Absolutely. If the pitching staff stays healthy, right, Coach?

Manuel: Yeah.

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