Andy Reid's departure from the Philadelphia Eagles organization felt more like a retirement celebration than a firing. Reid and owner Jeffrey Lurie met last Friday to discuss the future of the franchise where Lurie told reporters he did not fire Reid. Then, after a 42-7 dismantling by the New York Giants—a team not even good enough to make the playoffs—Lurie walked down to Reid's office at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia on Monday to give him the official news.
The franchise is moving on.
Reid met with his players and told them how much success he expects for the Eagles in a future that will come without him, then went to the organization's cafeteria for a going-away party with front office personnel and staffers who wanted to thank and congratulate Reid on 14 years of service.
The only thing missing was the gold watch. And the Super Bowl ring, of course.
Lurie actually presented Reid with a commemorative ball, a gesture the Eagles' PR people were sure to tweet out to their followers (look, we do care!) while Reid thanked everyone he worked with over the years before heading back to his office to clear out a decade-and-a-half worth of junk.
The whole story did feel like a retirement, because really, 14 years at one head-coaching job may as well be a lifetime in the NFL.
Reid, however, doesn't seem ready to retire. He's not even ready to take some time off after a terrible year, both professionally and personally.
Reports indicate Reid is ready to move on after his final tumultuous season in Philadelphia, with the Arizona Cardinals a likely landing spot. Reid has West Coast ties and has a connection to the Cardinals already, having traded quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona before last season. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted that Reid could use his relationship with Kolb as a pitch for the Cardinals job, making the case he can "fix" the embattled (and often injured) quarterback.
In Arizona, the new coach may be hired before a new GM, a dynamic that really never seems to work in the NFL. Arizona may promote their GM from within, making the job all the more attractive to someone like Reid, who would command control of much of the player personnel decisions.
No matter where Reid goes—rumors during the season speculated San Diego would be a good fit—he has made it clear he wants to coach next year. That seems so quick for Reid, doesn't it?
Really, after spending 14 years with one organization, jumping in with a new team less than a week later seems quick for anyone. That a coach can be fired on a Monday and already start interviewing for jobs on Wednesday or Thursday (with a holiday in between) is, after all, the nature of the business in the NFL, especially if you want to get another job.
For Reid—after this year—it seems particularly abrupt to jump right into another coaching situation, and many fans (and media) who have seen the toll the last few seasons have taken on Reid wonder why he wants another job so quickly.
Alas, the Cardinals need a coach and Reid is a good fit, so it's not like he can tell them he wants to wait a year. With so many openings this offseason, there's a pretty good chance the pickings will be far slimmer in January 2014.
As for all the off-the-field distractions being a reason not to take another job right away, well, that's for Reid to handle in his own way.
In and out of Philadelphia, people have been playing amateur psychologist for Reid this season (just listen to sport talk radio or read any comment section on Reid this season), mostly imploring him to take time off from coaching to properly grieve the loss of his son, Garrett, who died of a drug overdose during training camp in August. Garrett was employed by the Eagles at the time of his death, which happened in one of the dorms at the Eagles' training camp facility.
Andy Reid took just two days off from training camp after his son died. Upon his return, Reid showed amazing strength in dealing with such a private moment that, because of his status in the community, became a very public story. At the time, people speculated that if Reid came back too soon, he wouldn't be giving himself (or the rest of his family) enough time to mourn.
Reid, himself, told reporters he thought that's what his son would have wanted. Even if that was just Reid giving a platitude the media needed to hear, the fact is, football coaches are wired differently than regular people. They live differently than most of us, so they probably grieve differently too.
The second-guessing never stopped. Throughout the Eagles' horrible season, fans and media in Philadelphia speculated if Reid had come back too soon, wondering if his son's death took more of a toll on the coach (and his team) than he wanted to admit.
Two weeks before his firing, Reid was still answering those questions during media sessions, as reporters searched for an answer why the season fell apart after a 3-1 start. In December, five months after his son's death, Reid answered a question in a day-after-game press conference by stating, "Nobody wants to lose a son, that's obvious."
That is obvious, and it's unthinkable what Reid must have been going through this season, as his personal and professional lives were in tatters.
That question came around the time reports surfaced of the younger Reid's involvement with steroids, a hot topic in Philadelphia after law enforcement and the Eagles were pressed to determine if he had enough drugs at the time of his death to warrant a distribution investigation.
While the details of his son's death are certainly more than just a footnote in the 2012 Eagles' season, no one other than Reid can truly know if his personal struggles had anything to do with why things became so unraveled professionally.
Reid left Philadelphia with a 130-93-1 record, as the winningest coach in franchise history. But he was 66-61-1 since making the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, and he was 12-20 in his last two years in charge in Philadelphia.
Reid's decision to look for another coaching job so quickly after being fired may have as much to do with the off-the-field stuff as his record. Surely, Reid hated the way his Eagles tenure came to a close. Losing nearly 63 percent of his games over two years is not the way a coach with a .583 career winning percentage would want to end a very good head-coaching career.
But maybe—and this could be hard for those amateur psychologists to accept—Reid wanted to get back into coaching because that's how he can best cope with life outside the game.
To you, me, any normal person, taking time off after a traumatic experience may be the prudent thing to do. For a football coach who would spend 25 hours a day at the office if it were possible, maybe getting right back into football is the best way for him to deal with everything else.
How could it help for a guy who is constantly on the go, meticulously focused on every minute detail of a football program for years, to just…stop. For normal people, taking a break from the grind may be the way to best handle life outside of work. For a football coach, there isn't always life outside of work.
Another example: Before coming back from his fight with cancer, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano spoke with ESPN's Rachel Nichols and told her that things didn't feel right until he was back in the football facility. Pagano explained that it felt odd being home in the fall.
Thanksgiving, to a football coach, isn't a time for family; it's a time for football. Pagano's best way to heal—to get back to who he is as a person—was to get back to who he is as a coach.
Maybe Reid is wired the same way. Maybe that's just the way Reid best handles life: through football.
For us—for people in Philadelphia who saw what he went through in 2012—it's easy to say he needs time off to get his life in order. But what if that's what works for us, or for you, but not for a guy whose life is only in order when he has something he can control? (I know if I had to go through something as painful as Reid, I wouldn't stop writing. In fact, I might write even more. It's how I process my thoughts and how I can compartmentalize life. Maybe for Reid, football is how he best processes and compartmentalizes.)
Regardless of the motivation, Reid is going to be on a sideline in 2013, if not in Arizona, then certainly somewhere. While his tenure in Philadelphia surely played out like a retirement, Reid isn't ready to stop, or even slow down for a year. He shouldn't have to.