How easy will it actually be to fire Andy Reid if the Eagles underachieve?
The month of October brings many American traditions. October means the first full month of fall. It means playoff baseball and the World Series. It means Halloween, pumpkin and apple pies, sweaters, falling leaves and brisk weekend afternoons. October also ushers in the now annual tradition of Philadelphia Eagles fans wondering if their team should part ways with head coach Andy Reid.
Any self-respecting Philadelphia Eagles fan will admit that, each year, the chanting and urging for Reid's mustachioed head on pike is a bit preemptive. During Reid's 13-season tenure as head coach in Philly, his Eagles teams have gotten off to precarious starts before; and let's not forget how badly things looked for Reid last season after the Eagles were destroyed by the New England Patriots to move to 4-7 on the season.
However, no matter how upset Eagles fans get, no matter how loud the "Fire Andy!" chants get at Lincoln Financial Field, when the season ends, there is always some thread of logic that the Eagles front office and Philadelphia natives alike can both follow to justify bringing Big Red back.
After the 6-10 2005-2006 campaign, the logic was a "Super Bowl hangover" and "it was T.O.'s fault!" In 2009, after the Eagles got destroyed by the Cowboys in the Wild Card round, it was, "Well, he's the best head coach we've ever had. I mean, one Super Bowl and five NFC Championships? Let's give him another shot."
And last year, after an 8-8 finish, there were a variety of excuses: "It was the lockout's fault!," "The defense needed time to learn the system," "Juan Castillo had never coached defense before," and the all-popular "It was Vince Young's fault!"
This season, things are a little more complicated. In August, when Reid's son, Garret, was found dead in his dorm room at Leigh, a shadow was inevitably cast over the season. And that shadow raised quite a few doubts and questions. Questions such as, "Are the Eagles cursed?" and "How is Andy going to continue coaching?"
The question that no one asked was, "What happens to Andy Reid if something goes wrong this season? This season out of all of the others?"
There is a moral conundrum with firing Reid if the Eagles underachieve this season. Even in late August, just a few weeks after Garret Reid's death, Jeffrey Lurie implied that if the Eagles did not finish above 8-8, that he would strongly consider cutting ties with Reid.
Yet, how much do you have to factor in the death of the man's son? Many people lose their children every year and still continue on with their jobs; however, most people are not head coaches in the NFL—head coaches in one of the most pressurized markets of the country with the most rabid fanbase in the league. A man as stoic and generally composed as Reid is surely still grieving the loss of his son, and perhaps part of that grief is affecting his work.
Yet, as others have astutely pointed out, Andy's mistakes this year are nothing new. The near-debacle that occurred with Lawrence Tynes at the end of the New York Giants game would have been his biggest blunder as head coach of the Eagles.
There are still misused challenges and timeouts; there are still baffling play calls around the goal line; and there is still the inconsistent use of the team's best player—LeSean McCoy. The Eagles can very well iron out their early season flaws.
At 3-2, there is plenty of season left for this team. However, you know at heart that every Philadelphia Eagles fan holds his or her breath each time Michael Vick takes a snap, and that is not a good place to be after five games.
In the end, There are times when even the longest tenured coach has to go. The closest comparison in the NFL is with former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans coach and current St. Louis Rams head coach, Jeff Fisher.
Fisher was beloved in Nashville and by the Titans fans, however, there came a time where he had to leave the city and the team after 16 largely successful years as coach (albeit without a Super Bowl). It feels as if Reid is nearing that situation. If the Eagles do not makes the playoffs this year, it may be time to put all of Andy's past success firmly in the past and move on to a new era.
The murky moral question is: After a summer filled with tragedy for Reid and his family, how easy will it actually be to finally fire the most successful coach in franchise history?