In the village of the blind, the man with one eye is king. Allow me to be the man with one eye and direct my blind fellow Eagles' fans. When Andy Reid arrived in Philadelphia during the 1998-99 offseason he was greeted by “who the hell is Andy Reid?”
The former Green Bay positions' coach had agreed to take on one of the NFL’s most notorious franchises, and since that time AR has been an unexpected and unprecedented success. Despite what the new, or shall we say late-arriving, Eagles’ fans may lead to you to believe.
Up until this point, Reid had done a magnificent job at making the Birds a contender each and every year. Once the 2010-2011 season began, the stakes changed and AR knew it. Before we go there, though, let us travel back in time for a moment. To fully understand why Reid has done a swimmingly good job, one must first understand what the Eagles were when he arrived.
The 1998 season brought us, quite possibly, the worst Eagles' team since 1968. For those of you who are not familiar with the 1968 cast of characters, the squad lost the opening game 30-13 to the Green Bay Packers. They then proceeded to lose the next 10 games and finished the season 2-12. Their quarterbacks, yes quarterbacks, threw for a combined 16 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.
The 1998 team Reid inherited was 3-13, but the record does not fully display just how horrifically tragic they were. The bunch had been outscored by a total of 183 points, which was just one point away from the league’s worst team, the Cincinnati Bengals, who had been outscored by 184 points.
To put that differential in perspective, Philly lost their games by an average of 11 points per. The starting quarterback that season was Bobby “the Rifleman” Hoying, who threw exactly zero touchdowns in eight games. Surprisingly, not one Eagle was voted to the Pro Bowl that year.
This is who the Birds were, a group of individuals who, on some Sundays, appeared to not even compete. Since 1999 the AR led Eagles have finished last in their division twice and under .500 once. The goal for Reid in 1999 was simple: Compete. No more, no less. Yes, on the surface people said it was to win a Super Bowl, but realistically the Birds just needed to compete. Up until now, they've done that.
We are all aware of the seasons in between 1998 and now. The surprising playoff runs of 2000, 2001 and 2008 are too often forgotten. The disappointing playoff losses of 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010 are recounted and carried around with us like scorned lovers.
Reality has never been a common denominator for Eagles' fans. The tendency has been to fall into the extremes, when the reality of the situation is that the Birds have been what the talent indicates they should have been, until now.
This brings us to 2011, or shall we say the season of despair. In the AR era there have been heartbreaking losses, but never a heartbreaking season. The rotund coach has never fallen this hard and stayed down this long.
The reality is that the Eagles are not a Super Bowl team, but they should by no means be this bad. While we all hoped they would reach the Super Bowl, the changes that were made escorted hope out and walked reality in. Philly introduced a new offensive and defensive line coach with virtually no offseason for them to instill their philosophy. Also, consider that the Birds have a new defensive coordinator and quarterbacks' coach, and you have the ingredients for a disappointing season.
Those were the vital changes made behind the scenes and do not include the major holes this team went into the season with on the field. The national media neglected to mention the lack of defense down the middle of the field when they anointed this group.
The safeties were bad last year and have been tragic this year. The decision to not resign linebacker Stewart Bradley was understandable, but the decision to not sign any starter at linebacker was illogical. Even the most delusional fan had to believe adding just two starters in this shortened offseason would not mask those deficiencies.
Yet, the delusional, for some reason, have gotten a hold of the microphone and refuse to let it go. They are screaming to anyone who will listen that it is time for Reid to go because he has never won a Super Bowl and because the Birds underachieved this season. This would not only be a mistake, but it would also be idiotic.
Often times we celebrate consistent mediocrity and treat it as an achievement. This is not one of those times. Jeff Fisher, when he was head coach of the Tennessee Titans, was an example of a coach who had run his course and needed to be relieved of his duties.
Fisher locked his best player, and arguably the franchise's best player, quarterback Steve McNair out of the building. Fisher, who had made it to just two conference championship games in 16 years, should have been forcibly escorted out of the building. Reid’s accomplishments in Philly should garner him more respect, considering what he started with and where they were prior to this season.
This was not a Super Bowl contending franchise until Reid arrived. Now, all of a sudden, it's Super Bowl or bust. Oh, how soon the natives have forgotten. We as fans have somehow dismissed just how starved we once were for simply a winner.
Forget about the trials and tribulations of 1998 and think about when the Eagles marched into St. Louis for the 2001 NFC championship game. It had been 21 years since their last appearance. 21 years since they even participated in the game that leads to the Super Bowl.
Reid has been a steadfast and true leader, who has always put country before villagers. Yes, he has let go of trusted soldiers for unproven cadets. Perhaps he could be more aggressive in the run game, but what General is without flaw? What leader is exempt from strategic mishap? Reid is stubborn to a fault when he needs to be stubborn to a point.
What Eagles' fan would not like to see a kick returner cut from the cloth of Brian Mitchell, who just so happens to be a former Eagle? What Eagles' fan would not like to see Reid defer to start a game once in a while or deviate from a game plan? Yet, if these are our only complaints, we all need to reevaluate the entire process.
AR wins, and he has conceded shortcomings. Granted it takes longer than it should, but he has conceded nonetheless. Pre-Super Bowl, Reid would never have drafted Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson in back-to-back years. The fact that we are disgruntled because he has not won a Super Bowl indicates just how far we have come.
This season has been a nightmare, but who else should we entrust to take us out of this storm? Who else should we believe in? Reid is not only qualified, but he has done it before. He, more than anyone, is aware of his transgressions and has shown through the most trying of times that he bleeds Eagle green. He was there on the sidelines on Sundays and visiting his incarcerated children on Tuesdays, again proving that he is here no matter the circumstances.
He, unlike so many other coaches, has never quit on us. He never publicly declared war on his players like Bobby Clarke with Eric Lindros or Larry Brown with Allen Iverson.
Reid has stood in the fire with his team. To the long standing Eagles' fan, AR is a breath of fresh air after all the bad coaches in Eagles' history. How dare fans call for the firing of the man who gave us life.
Who are you going to replace him with, Jon Gruden? What has Gruden done besides finish Tony Dungy’s dinner? Gruden as a coach has not had near the success that Reid has. In 11 years as a head coach, Gruden amassed a win percentage of .54 and won the AFC West and NFC South a total of four times. Conversely, Reid has won his division seven times in 13 years.
Bill Cowher and Reid are the same coaches with different philosophies, so who is to say the results would be different. It took Cowher 14 seasons to win a Super Bowl and Reid is in his 13th season. Aside from not needing a change, there is no one capable of being remotely close to AR.
To make a change from a man who has led us out of the abyss once would be disastrous. This would far outweigh the egregious mistake made by Norman Braman when he fired then head coach Buddy Ryan. It was this firing that sent the franchise into a tailspin that Reid rescued them from. Ryan was slowly building something special and it seemed like, if given time, he might have gotten the Birds to the level AR is at.
Reid has turned a morbid franchise with minimum success into a perennial Super Bowl contender, where the playoffs are no longer an acceptable ending point. There is no doubt that this season has been torturous, but entrust Reid to turn it around. Where we are as fans today is a far cry from where we were yesterday.
Some of you have never felt the bitter cold of a December loss at the Vet. So, your coaching vote does not count. For those of us who did not taste the nectar of success until Reid arrived, we would much rather have him next to us when we drink from that goblet once again. A taste we are sure to have with AR in the kitchen.