A Look at Andy Reid’s Best Eagles Moments

Requiem for a heavyweight.

We all have a friend or family member who simply stays at the party too long. You’re happy to have him show up and you enjoy his company for most of the time, but when it comes time to go home, it just doesn’t happen. John Belushi embodied it in the classic Saturday Night Live skit entitled, “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.”

In recent weeks, Andy Reid has reprised Belushi’s role. But instead of saying, “I’m going to make a long-distance call. Okay?,” Reid wondered if Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie would let him hang around for one more season, because he “want[ed] to coach.”

Reid came to Philadelphia with great expectations and had a run of success that was truly impressive, though not completely fulfilling. Now, it’s time to go. But like most house guests who can’t figure out when to leave, Reid is being tossed out of the house. Of course, he’ll be taking $6 million with him, not the worst consolation prize for being bounced.

That’s the way to look at Reid’s time in Philadelphia. He was a great guy to have around for a long time. He accomplished a lot, and anybody who refuses to recognize that should have to start watching DVRed episodes of Glee every Sunday afternoon. Reid made football mean something in Philadelphia every single season. From the moment he took over and brought Donovan McNabb to town (more on him later) until the months leading up to the 2012 debacle, Reid made Eagles fans crave the start of the season. That’s 14 years of anticipation and excitement, a rarity in the NFL.

But, again, it’s time for him to go.

Things never end the way we want them to end. In a perfect world, Reid would have won the Super Bowl and retired on top, instead of suffering through a season of self-inflicted misery. If given the chance, Reid would return for 2013, because he “wants to coach,” as he reminded us last week. That’s why Jeffrey Lurie has to kick him out of the NovaCare complex. Reid doesn’t know that it’s time to go. He wants another 16 games. Another season.

No way.

As we bid Reid farewell, it’s instructive to appreciate what he accomplished, particularly within the context of a franchise that has had precious little success during its 80 years of existence. Every other head coach in Eagles history combined participated in 20 playoff games. Reid made it to 19. The others won a combined total of nine times in the post-season. Reid has 10 victories. Yes, Greasy Neale (two) and Buck Shaw (one) captured NFL titles, and Reid didn’t. But neither did Dick Vermeil, who is mentioned in hushed tones by Birds fans. Nor did Buddy Ryan, whom some still consider the best coach in team history, even though he never won a post-season game.

Reid isn’t destined for the Hall of Fame, unless he goes to Arizona or Jacksonville or Somewhere Else and wins a couple of Super Bowls. But he has the highest winning percentage in Eagles history among those who coached more than one game. (Fred Bruney went 1-0 in 1985.) And his six division titles are another gold standard. Reid may not have been great, but he’s the best this town has seen.

Still, get him out of here.

There can be no denying that Reid has made some crushingly misguided decisions in the past two-plus seasons. Choosing Jim Washburn to be his defensive line coach effectively chased off every other top-flight coordinator, because no one wanted to work within the framework of the wide nine. It can also be said now, after learning about what a colossal horse’s backside Washburn was during his tenure in Philadelphia, that the coaches probably didn’t want to deal with his personality, either. Installing Juan Castillo atop the defensive flow chart before the ’11 season and then firing him in the middle of the season not only gave the impression of desperation; it also sent a message to other assistants that Reid didn’t have the necessary loyalty to stick with his people in tough situations, something that could prevent him from assembling a quality staff at his next coaching stop.

But drafting Donovan McNabb in 1999, when many people—including blowhard talk-show hosts and now-former governors—wanted him to take running back Rasta Williams of Texas, was a great decision. McNabb was thought by many football savants to be nothing more than an option signal-caller who was incapable of playing the position in the NFL. Reid believed differently, and McNabb rewarded him by having a fine career. It was a great move. It was also made nearly 14 years ago. Lately, there haven’t been enough like it.

Because of that, Reid must go.

It’s time. His tenure is over. Remember the good times, but know that things rarely stay great forever. The next Eagles era has officially begun.

The last one wasn’t awful. It just hung around too long.

SUCKER PUNCHES
• Oh, boy! The NHL might be back in mid-January with a 48-game season. Won’t that just be great? Actually, no it won’t. Surveys in the U.S. and Canada have revealed that most people don’t miss the sport. That’s good news, because these greedheads, who have forced the cancellation of thousands of games in the last decade, deserve to pay. Hockey wasn’t a “major” sport before this work stoppage, and it might fall behind pro bowling in the athletic hierarchy after it. Good.
This college bowl season has featured the largest collection of duds in history. Bad teams are playing in front of half-filled stadiums—if they’re lucky—and tiny television audiences. No matter how hard ESPN tries to make it seem like these games are great, and that the teams participating in them matter, it’s more and more obvious every day that a huge chasm exists between the big-conference schools and everybody else. No amount of contrived bowl games can change that.
• Here’s what happens when you don’t play great defense and rely too heavily on a weak-kneed big man: You end up ninth in the rotten Eastern Conference playoff hierarchy. Even if Andrew Bynum starts to play in 2013—rumor has it that he has begun thinking about running—the Sixers are still too soft on the perimeter and lack any frontcourt depth.
• Here are your wild-card weekend NFL picks, for amusement purposes only, of course: Houston minus-4½ over Cincinnati; Green Bay minus-7½ over Minnesota (best bet); Indy plus-6 against Baltimore; Seattle (pick) over Washington.