What If Jon Gruden Coached the Eagles?
Football is a game of passion. Nowhere is that more evident than in Philadelphia, where passion can turn into a steroid-induced rage in a second. We are witnessing that rage right now as talk radio has helped form an angry mob calling for Eagles’ coach Andy Reid’s head.
The problem with passion, anger and rage is that they all cloud common sense. The mob wants a Super Bowl and nothing short of that will quiet it. The irony is that Andy Reid is their best chance of getting there, and so the mob is railing against its own self-interest.
If Andy Reid is fired, who replaces him? Since 1999, when Reid took the Eagles’ head coaching job, there have been 128 head coaches in the NFL. The vast majority of those coaches came nowhere close to the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl. I know that Eagles fans dream of Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden to burst out of the broadcast booth and lead the team to the Super Bowl next year; but it took Cowher 14 seasons with a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team to finally win a Super Bowl. Gruden had the exact opposite problem; he won the Super Bowl his first season with Tampa Bay and then had difficulty putting together another winning season. Gruden’s record with Tampa Bay ended up being 57-55.
Reid has a much better record with the Eagles — 125-81-1. He has led the Eagles to the playoffs nine times and to the NFC Championship five times. The nine playoff appearances in that span are better than any other team in the NFL. Only Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots have as many championship game appearances, but he turned them into four Super Bowl appearances and three wins.
That is the case against Reid, who has only one Super Bowl appearance (and his team lost to New England). It doesn’t seem to matter that Reid has the second most wins of NFL coaches during his 13 years, trailing only Belichick. Eleven different coaches have won Super Bowls in Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach–117 (or 91 percent) did not. Eagles’ fans are tired of being the 91-percenters, and they plan on occupying the Internet and talk radio until they get their way.
But you can’t get to the Super Bowl if you don’t make the playoffs, and you can’t make the playoffs if you don’t win. So as frustrated as Eagles’ fans are, Reid is still their best chance of getting to the big game. In his 13 years, the Eagles are second only to Green Bay in wins in the NFC, and the Packers just passed him this year. In their division, the Eagles’ 125 wins have dominated over the New York Giants (113 wins), the Dallas Cowboys (101) and the Washington Redskins (91).
In the haze of disappointment over the failings of this year’s “Dream Team,” it remains forgotten that last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year–predictions were for five to eight wins behind quarterback Kevin Kolb. Andy Reid’s reclamation project took over and the team won the division with 10 games and was a bad interception away from the Super Bowl. Michael Vick and his development as a quarterback is all Andy Reid. Fans love to focus on his failings in personnel (Juan Castillo) and player selection (Danny Watkins), but his successes in both areas far outweigh his failures.
It is Andy Reid’s success that is also his downfall. In the NFL there are not great coaches, good coaches, mediocre and bad coaches; there are coaches who have won the Super Bowl and everybody else. Andy Reid has brought the Eagles and their fans so close to rings that they could feel them on their fingers. My guess is nobody wants to win here more than Reid. If the Eagles beat Washington this week, Reid will have won his last four games to save his career record from only his third losing season. In his first season, the Eagles were 5-11. The next year they were 11-5 and won the NFC East. In 2005, the Eagles were 6-10. The next year they were 10-6 and won the NFC East.
There is no doubt in my mind that next year the Eagles will win the division and will contend for the Super Bowl. That is, if Andy Reid is back as coach. If the mob gets its way and we have to start over with someone else, then I am not so sure. Reid is such a part of this team that to remove him now would defy all common sense. But then again, it is not common sense that’s driving the angst of the 91-percenters.