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Reid Era Coming to a Close...

November 20th 2012 17:50
The end of Andy Reid's 14-year tenure in Philadelphia was solidified after the Eagles' 31-6 loss to Washington on Sunday.

In “The Dark Knight”, the second installment of the most recent Batman movie franchise, Gotham City’s District Attorney Harvey Dent opined that, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain.”

Despite the fact that he was speaking about a fictional character who used his wealth to outfit himself as a superhero who spent his evenings hunting down bad guys, that quote in some ways rings true for the coaching profession – albeit it not the literal life or death theme.

Coaches in the NFL are either the greatest thing since sliced bread when they are winning and leave on a high note (which most don’t), or their wins and accolades pile up so high that they are eventually crushed by them when they fail to meet the accompanying raised expectations, falling victim to their own success.

While we all could see the writing on the wall after the Eagles' recent five-game skid - the longest of Andy Reid's head coaching career - it is now painfully obvious to even the most ardent Reid supporters (myself included) that, in the wake of his team's disastrous performance against the Redskins that made it six in a row, the reign of the franchise’s most successful head coach and NFL’s longest-tenured football boss is coming to a close.

It is no longer a matter of if Jeffrey Lurie dismisses his longtime coach, but when.

And hopefully, for Reid and his legacy in Philadelphia, it will be sooner rather than later.

The Eagles' 31-6 loss in Washington was their latest low point after starting the season by winning three of their first four, including big home wins over the Baltimore Ravens and World Champion New York Giants. This current streak of ineptitude hasn't been seen around these parts since 1994, when one Rich Kotite presided over a late-season collapse that turned a 7-2 start into a 7-9 finish and a one-way ticket out of town for Kotite just one year into Lurie's ownership of the franchise.

With this year's team at 3-7 and showing no signs of improvement or caring, this death spiral could result in a 3-13 finish season, which last occurred in Philly under Ray Rhodes' watch in 1998 - the season prior to Lurie hiring Reid.

For the winningest coach in Eagles' history to have his reign come to an end being mentioned in the same sentences as Kotite and Rhodes would have been unimaginable just a few seasons ago. But, here we are.

That Reid will be out of a job within the next six weeks should not be news to anyone. For starters, Lurie made his disappointment with last year's "Dream Team" debacle very clear before the season, and stated that anything close to another 8-8 campaign would be "unacceptable". In a lot of ways, this season has been even worse than 2011, as in several of those early season losses the Eagles at least had the lead before their defense folded late in games.

Since the bye week firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo shortly after the defense blew a late lead against Detroit by Reid, they seem as though they've been playing from behind almost from the opening kickoff, with penalties, turnovers, big plays allowed, boneheaded mistakes and the ever-present Reid time management gaffes growing in number by the week.

The other reason Reid and Lurie's impending split should not be a surprise is because that is the nature of the business in the NFL, and in professional and college sports in general. Coaches get hired, have a limited amount of time to build their program, change the organizational culture, and ultimately win games. And when that honeymoon period is over and that initial positive momentum stops and the team struggles, that coach is fired and the process starts over again in earnest with his replacement.

With that in mind, the really surprising aspect of this is that Reid survived and, for the most part, thrived for 14 seasons in one of the toughest and most pressure-packed sports markets in the country. Part of that is due to Lurie's loyalty and obvious fondness for Reid, and a large part of that is the success that the franchise has enjoyed under Reid's leadership.

While the Eagles have enjoyed only two losing season since 1999 (even though we’re well on our way to #3 now), made the playoffs nine times – going 7-2 in their playoff openers, won six NFC East titles – including four in a row from 2001-04, advanced to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl under Reid, the rival Cowboys and Redskins have won a combined three playoff games and have had a combined 11 different head coaches during that span.

Reid’s detractors point to the fact that his teams have struggled to maintain his early levels of success due in large part to the passing of Jim Johnson, the defensive coordinator who led one of the top-ranked defenses in the NFL up until his final season in 2008, and that it was his defensive genius that masked some of Reid’s deficiencies.

In reality, this is true on some levels because the defense hasn’t come close to performing as well as they did under the late Johnson. However, to point that out as a fault of Reid’s isn’t exactly fair. A major part of being a successful head coach in any sport is to surround yourself with people who are going to make you better, and with Reid’s offensive background he went out and made a great hire in Johnson to essentially become his “head coach” on the other side of the ball.

And when you take a look at other members of his coaching staff here who have gone on to become head coaches – Brad Childress, John Harbaugh, Steve Spagnuolo, Pat Shurmur, Ron Rivera and Leslie Frazier – it further reinforces that fact. Even the recently departed Castillo was one of the top offensive line coaches before Reid moved him over to run the defense – a move that was widely criticized at the time for its unconventionality, and one that is a big reason why we are discussing Reid’s ouster today.

In Philly, we as fans have a propensity to take the short-term view when it comes to a player or coach approaches the end of his career. Fans today routinely chastise Donovan McNabb for his propensity for throwing low passes, forgetting the fact that he holds every statistical passing record in franchise history, won more games while running the offense than any other Eagle QB, and also outgained current Eagles’ QB Michael Vick in rushing yards in their head-to-head matchup in the 2005 NFC Championship Game.

Despite what Charlie Manuel has accomplished in his great run at the Phillies’ manager, fans are now saying he’s clueless and should be replaced by the unproven Ryne Sandberg.

And on and on it goes. Unfortunately for Reid, many fans are going to remember the last two seasons and the fact that for all of his regular season wins and playoff victories, he was unable to deliver this championship-starved city its first Super Bowl title.

Those fans who have clamored for Reid to go are about to get their wish, and while I was always in the corner of “Be careful what you wish for…”, it’s clear that it is time for the Birds and Reid to part ways, a fresh start for both being the best thing for all parties.

Whether or not Lurie makes as good a selection in is successor as he did with Reid remains to be seen, but I get the feeling it’s going to be a long road back to ruling the roost in the NFC East and being an annual participant in the NFC playoffs – two things that seemed like our birthright at the height of Reid’s run.
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