He had some of us fooled for a few minutes. The way Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was talking at his NovaCare Complex press conference, it seemed like he might be announcing a head coaching change. Lurie used words like “frustrating,” “disappointing,” “anger,” “dismal” and “unfathomable.” He said that it’s “completely unacceptable to be 8-8.” Was a cold front moving across hell?
“I want to see our team coached by Andy Reid next year,” said Lurie.
Cut to the sound effect of a record scratch.
What about the coaching staff, Mr. Lurie?
“That’s up to Andy…he will make the best judgment of that…and I have full confidence he’ll make the right decisions there.”
“(T)he goal is to win Super Bowls, it’s not to get into the playoffs.”
On it went, Lurie extolling the virtues of Andy Reid, a man who has failed in his first 13 attempts to do the one thing he was hired to do—win a Super Bowl.
Why then? Why does Andy Reid get a 14th chance after Lurie called the 2011 season “unacceptable”? Clearly it is acceptable, or Lurie would have fired Reid.
And why does Reid get to decide who the coaches are when his first two choices to replace Jim Johnson as defensive coordinator have been bad (Sean McDermott) and worse (Juan Castillo)?
Why, Jeffrey, why?
There are three theories:
1. Lurie is lazy.
The man who inherited his millions doesn’t want to go through the process of searching for a new head coach. He’s been lulled into torpor after 13 seasons with the same head coach, like a married couple that stays together more out of habit than out of love. People are comfortable with what they know.
2. Lurie thinks there are no better options out there.
But how will you know until you try? The last three Super Bowl winning coaches—Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, and Mike Tomlin—were all assistants at one point (who all won their titles within the first five years of getting hired). And it was Lurie who found Reid in 1999 when he was the relatively obscure Packers quarterbacks coach.
3. Lurie is genuinely impressed with Reid.
Looking at the entirety of Reid’s tenure, Reid is unquestionably a good football coach. But good is the opposite of great. And Reid has had a noticeable falloff since his lone Super Bowl appearance. From 1999-2004, Reid was 64-32 (.667 win %); 7-5 in the playoffs, including 4 NFC Championship Game appearances and one NFC title.
From 2005-2011: 62-49-1 (.554 win %); 3-4 in the playoffs, including 1 NFC Championship Game appearance. At this point, the Andy Reid of 1999-2004 would be an improvement over the current head coach.
Whatever the reason is, Eagles fans are stuck with Coach Sisyphus for at least one more season. Lurie expects the Eagles to return to the postseason, noting that since 2008, the Eagles have made more playoff appearances than any team other than Baltimore and that the Eagles have made the postseason more than any NFC team since 2006. But they don’t give parades for making the playoffs.
Besides, all those regular season wins seem like a cruel joke when you can’t win the biggest games. The Eagles were favorites when they lost the 2002, 2003 and 2008 NFC Championship Games to, respectively, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Arizona.
But Lurie seems to think there’s a fairy that drops pixie dust on teams that make the playoffs and eventually she will reward the Eagles. Maybe the Eagles make the playoffs a lot because the NFC East is weak; the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys combined for seven Super Bowl titles in the 13 seasons before Reid took over as Eagles head coach, but only one since 1999. And maybe the Eagles always fall short because they’re playing the best teams in the playoffs.
After 18 seasons, Jeffrey Lurie has not delivered on his 1994 promise of multiple Super Bowl championships. Or even one. He did, however, win an Oscar in February 2011 for producing the best documentary film. Perhaps the accompanying statue was what he meant by the “gold standard.”
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” —The Great Gatsby