Two things kept me from wanting to hurl after the Eagles lost an ugly game to the Minnesota Vikings: the Cowboys’ epic fail and my fantasy football teams.
Just as important as Tony Romo’s latest choke-job (at least in my mind) is that I pulled off a first in my roughly 15 years of pretend-sports management — both of my teams advanced to the championship. In one league, that wasn’t a surprise, as I had Jamaal Charles. The Kansas City running back scored five touchdowns on Sunday; the 51 points he spotted me was virtually impossible to overcome. By comparison, Shady McCoy’s team-record-setting Snow Bowl game the week earlier netted 34 points.
But Charles’ gonzo performance got me thinking about someone else who’s in Kansas City these days — Andy Reid, who clinched a playoff berth with Sunday’s win.
When NFL.com made its mid-season predictions, nine out of their 11 experts picked Reid to win Coach of the Year honors. Of course, his team was 8-0 then. Now with a few losses, some other candidates have crept into to conversation, including our own Chip Kelly. If the Chiefs win their last two games and finish 13-3, he may be a lock, given that his squad was 2-14 last season.
This also reminded me of another Eagles expat, Joe Banner, who’s now the CEO of the Cleveland Browns. Like Reid, his team had a woeful record last season; unlike Big Red, the Browns are on a five-game losing streak and nowhere close to sniffing the playoffs. But earlier this season, Banner gambled on a move that seemed Kanye-level crazy — dealing running back Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first-round draft pick. Richardson was the team’s best player. It appeared that the Browns had borrowed the Sixers’ plan for sinking a franchise. Former Cleveland team president Mike Holmgren was so incensed that he said he’d quit if the team he worked for traded its top athlete. Way to go, Joe!
But then a funny thing happened. Richardson became a non-factor in the Colts offense. He vanished, leaving Indy fans to think they were watching an episode of Ghost Hunters every Sunday (until he made a brief end zone appearance on Sunday). In the meantime, Browns wide receiver (and one of my fantasy All-Stars) Josh Gordon transformed from “guy with big upside” into one of the most explosive wideouts in the game this year. Could that have happened if the Browns were still feeding the rock to Richardson all the time? Maybe, but in any case, Banner will have two first-round selections in ’14 to compliment their stud receiver.
Outsiders — including all the national pundits that mocked Philly’s eagerness to send Reid on the first bus to Anywhere, USA — probably think the fans here have a bit of goodbyer’s remorse. Reid is now proving that we let one of the best coaches in football go, while Banner continues to show how much smarter he is than everyone else.
Of course, we know better.
Imagine you had a Magic 8-Ball that really worked (spoiler alert there, kids). You tell me that the Birds are headed toward an epic flame-out in the weeks ahead. They will lose to the Bears this Sunday. They’ll fly to Dallas and it’s another disaster of air-guitar proportions. They will miss the playoffs and everyone’s questioning Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman and the defense sucks and Jason Kelce’s beard must go and we’ll never win a Super Bowl.
I’d take all of that over another year with Reid or Banner. It doesn’t matter what awards they win, or how deep they charge into the post-season, or how crisp their smarty-pants look. (Something tells me Banner’s are pleated.) Maybe this makes no sense to the rest of the country, as they anoint Reid — and to a lesser extent, Banner, whose team still stinks — as geniuses. But the rest of the country didn’t care, like we did, when Michael Vick fell short of his early great expectations, or the Eagles slid to 4-12 last year, or the defense continued to search for a post-Jim Johnson identity. Well, maybe they cared if they play fantasy football and had the misfortune of drafting the Eagles D. But that fix was just one mouse-click away. Ours is a lifetime of Super Bowl oh-fers.
No matter how the season ends, Kelly has exceeded expectations. There’s a new energy around the Eagles now, and most sound-minded fans would have been thrilled with an 8-8 record in the coach’s rookie year. Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs? Face it — you’d be giddy if you knew back in August that this team wouldn’t be mathematically eliminated by week 16. What’s more, it’s fun to watch the Birds again; Sundays are something to look forward to, rather than a sports obligation. The last season with Andy Reid felt like homework. So enjoy the honeymoon, Chiefs fans. Let’s talk again in 10 years, when your coach explains his failures by saying he’s “got to do a better job,” and you’re looking for a championship and the next Chip Kelly.
Follow @RichRys on Twitter.