After 14 seasons that pushed the organization to new heights but never to the summit, Jeffrey Lurie finally parted ways with the man that will be widely considered the best Eagles head coach of all time.
Lurie made it official Monday after weeks of speculation. His press conference, originally scheduled for noon, has been moved to 1 p.m.
“Andy Reid won the most games of any head coach in Eagles’ history and he is someone I respect greatly and will remain friends with for many years to come,” Lurie said in a statement. “But, it is time for the Eagles to move in a new direction. Andy leaves us with a winning tradition that we can build upon. And we are very excited about the future.
“The search for the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles will begin immediately.”
Reid ends his reign with the most wins and best winning percentage in club history. He will be remembered for consistently fielding a competitive team and guiding the Eagles to nine playoff berths, five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance in 14 years. However, all that success never brought home the Lombardi Trophy, and that too will be part of the legacy.
Reid’s fall from power began last year as a star-studded team stumbled out of a lockout-shortened offseason and had to rattle off four straight wins at the end of the year just to finish .500. An animated Lurie called the stretch run “fool’s gold” but brought Reid back for a 14th season with the edict that “substantial improvement” be shown.
Instead, the Eagles fell apart, dropping eight straight after a 3-1 launch to cement Reid’s fate. In the midst of the losing streak, Reid dismissed his longtime friend Juan Castillo after mistakenly promoting him from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator the year before. Letting him go in-season was another miscalculation, as the defense began leaking badly under Todd Bowles. Soon Jason Babin and defensive line coach Jim Washburn were jettisoned as well. The stability that once defined Reid’s tenure was lost.
With the offense decimated by injury and team generally disoriented, the Eagles finished 4-12. It was just the third losing season under Reid; the club went 5-11 in 1999, his first season at the helm, and 6-10 in 2005 when T.O. was making noise and Mike McMahon was the quarterback for seven starts.
Lost seasons like this one were the exception during the Reid era. The Eagles reached the playoffs nine times under his stewardship, collecting a franchise-best 10 postseason victories along the way.
Some of Reid’s accomplishments:
— Has the highest win total of any coach in Eagles history.
— Is one of four coaches to guide a team to 100-plus wins in a decade, joining Bill Belichick, Tom Landry and Don Shula.
— Is a three-time Coach of the Year recipient (2000, 2002, 2010).
— Coached in five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl.
— Coached 29 players to a total of 66 Pro Bowl berths.
— Led the Eagles to six division titles.
For all his achievements, the relationship between city and coach was less than blissful. Where Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan let their emotions fly, Reid kept his cards close to his vest and often came off as defensive when speaking publicly in the name of protecting his players and his organization. While those close to Reid painted the picture of a warm , funny and fiercely loyal man, outsiders were rarely let in and some felt a disconnect between themselves and the coach – and, therefore, their team. That, mixed with the frustration of coming up just short year after year, put strain on the marriage.
Still, Reid fought on. He was the fourth-longest tenured coach in all of professional sports, trailing just Gregg Popovich (Spurs, 1996), Lindy Ruff (Sabres, ’97) and Barry Trotz (Predators, ’98).
The respect that he gathered over that time both in Philadelphia and league-wide was evident upon the news that his son, Garrett, had died of a drug overdose at training camp in early August. Some 900 people gathered at Garrett’s funeral to show their respects.
Reid returned to training camp a day after the services and continued to coach amid personal tragedy.
“That’s not the reason the season is going the way the season is going,” Reid said back in mid-December. “You handle your personal things separate. Nobody wants to lose a son. That’s obvious. But that has nothing to do with how the season has gone.”
Lurie was asked in late August if he would have a difficult time separating the personal from the business side in his evaluations given the difficult circumstances.
“Andy will always have our sympathy and support but this is a business. You are there to win and win big and you have to separate the two. All of the analysis will be on Andy Reid the coach,” said Lurie.
And so it was.
Reid helped establish an organization that was sound all the way through. He built largely through the draft and was buttressed by a high-octane coaching staff — six of whom went on to land their own head-coaching gigs.
The draft largely failed him in 2010 and ’11, and the Eagles were forced to rely heavily on free agency to fill the holes. Homegrown leaders were scare, and the Reid culture was diluted. His staff had weakened significantly as well. Reid never found an adequate replacement for defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who died of cancer in July of 2009, months after the Eagles’ last trip to the NFC Championship game.
A team that had been a perennial contender under Reid had lost its way, forcing Lurie to part with the coach that reshaped his organization.
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