This piece is inspired by a statement made by NFL Network analyst Heath Evans. Commenting on the Lincoln Financial Field chants of “Fire Andy!” The former fullback said, “The only thing I hate more than bad football is stupid fans. Where will you find a coach better than Andy Reid? You Won’t.”
Interesting how Philadelphia fans are always a punching bag. Even more interesting how the national sports media is only capable of seeing things abstractly. Do these analysts really believe there's no better possible coaching option than Andy Reid?
First, let’s just say that the likelihood of Reid being let go are, well, not that likely. He has been a hard worker, a good soldier and a stable force in his 12-plus years with the organization. He also has another year on his contract.
Reid is also fortunate enough to have the excuse of a very short offseason to implement a host of new players and coaches, as well as a front office that loathes ever admitting wrongdoing.
Andy Reid is a very good football coach. There's no denying that. His tenure in Philadelphia has produced more sustained success than any prior regime. This is how his supporters see things. The problem is, most of his supporters just don't look deep enough.
Supporters will point straight to his career achievements. A career win-loss record of 132-90-1., .594 winning percentage, 10 postseason wins, 49-33 career record against the NFC East, 9 playoff appearances, 6 division titles and 5 NFC championship game appearances. It’s all quite impressive at face value.
“Big Red’s” claim to fame is his meticulous planning and attention to detail. It’s a wonderful trait for a head coach to possess. Allegedly, he wowed owner Jeffrey Lurie and team president Joe Banner with his in-depth knowledge of long-snapping.
His undoing, however, is a complete lack of ability or willingness to ever adjust. Most people think of adjustments as “halftime adjustments” or “in-game adjustments”, but it also carries over into his entire career as the Eagles’ head coach.
Interestingly, his tenure breaks almost evenly into two halves. One, the flawlessly planned first half, from 1999-2004, and then the poorly executed second half, from 2005 through today.
The first half was almost brilliant, culminating in a three-point Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. The second half was just a series of mediocre seasons passing with no clear-cut plan and a failure to adjust.
Andy Reid was hired after a dismal 1998 season, which saw the Eagles finish 3-13. He implored the Philly faithful to trust him, because he “had a plan.” And a plan is exactly what he had.
Despite a 5-11 opening season, he had put together an incredible coaching staff that would get the most out of the talent that was still in town from the disastrous Ray Rhodes era.
The staff included defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, quarterbacks coach Brad Childress, linebackers coach Ron Rivera, defensive backs coach Leslie Frazier, offensive quality control coach Pat Shurmur, defensive quality control coach Steve Spagnuolo and special teams coach Jon Harbaugh.
Now that's a coaching staff. Kudos to Andy for putting that All-Star team together. Fortunately, he inherited a budding and tenacious defense led by players like Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter and Troy Vincent.
In addition to those leaders, Reid was also handed Pro Bowlers Hugh Douglas, Bobby Taylor, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Chad Lewis. To his credit, he did draft quarterback Donovan McNabb and added David Akers, who turned out to be the greatest kicker in franchise history.
With that core group of leaders and winners on both sides of the ball, Reid formed something close to a dynasty. His first half with the Eagles, from 1999-2004 saw him lead the most dominant team in the NFC.
In those first six seasons, Reid led the Eagles to an NFL-high 71 victories, including the playoffs. They also ranked third in winning percentage, second in playoff wins, fourth in playoff winning percentage and first in playoff appearances.
Eagles fans, for the most part, were happy. The most negative feeling was frustration, which came from the lack of a Lombardi Trophy. Not because of some sense of entitlement, but a sense of underachievement. Three teams in the NFL had more than 70 wins during that span, and only the Eagles failed to win at least one Super Bowl.
Their .657 winning percentage was incredible, but the two teams ranked ahead of them (New England Patriots, .667 and St. Louis Rams, .660) won a combined four Super Bowls.
The Eagles were one of seven teams to win more than four playoff games. Only the Eagles, Raiders and Titans failed to win the big one. Philadelphia saw their team post a .583 playoff winning percentage, placing them among five teams over .570. Every other team but the Eagles won a championship.
Five playoff appearances in Reid’s first six years was tied for the most with the St. Louis Rams. It put them two ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But to add insult to injury, both of those teams eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs, and both won a Super Bowl.
Frustration aside, Eagles fans had reason to be happy. Their coach led their team to five consecutive double-digit win seasons, winning 11 in 2000 and 2001, 12 in 2002 and 2003 and 13 in 2004. He took them to four consecutive NFC championship games and had just won his first. Clearly, Andy Reid was steering this ship in the right direction.
That’s when the whistle blew on Reid’s first half. The second half, from 2005-2011 was about to begin. That’s when the time came to adjust.
Being so successful, assistant coaches left for promotions with other teams. Terrell Owens drove a wedge between Donovan McNabb and his teammates. To make matters worse, Owens was released and McNabb was injured.
Now, anyone who watches the Eagles with regularity knows how this organization adjusted. It patched holes instead of filling them. In some cases, they didn’t even bother patching, they almost seemed to just hope for the best.
Stalwart linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Carlos Emmons both left, and they were replaced with the likes of Nate Wayne, Mark Simoneau and Dhani Jones. The draft never helped much either.
Picks were made like Barry Gardner, Quinton Caver and Matt McCoy who couldn’t play. Chris Gocong, a pass-rushing defensive end was drafted and groomed for some reason to cover tight ends. Stewart Bradley, a red flag due to chronic injuries was drafted as the middle linebacker of the future. His career was predictably derailed by chronic injuries.
Then there is the case of Casey Matthews. He was a 225-pound outside linebacker drafted in this year’s fourth round. He was then forced into being the starting middle linebacker—a position he never played. He was done by week three.
Before Casey Matthews came the Brian Dawkins' fiasco. Dawkins was a leader and a winner. He was tough and physical. He was the best safety in franchise history. They allowed him to leave unceremoniously after a 2008 season which saw him win the Defensive Player of the Month award in December.
How did they replace their perennial Pro Bowl safety? With a cornerback they drafted in the fifth round, named Macho Harris, who had never played safety. After that failed, they whiffed on consecutive second-round picks Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
How did they replace the proud offensive tackle tandem of Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas? With saps and nobodies like Stacey Andrews, Winston Justice and King Dunlap. Jason Peters has been very good, but he’s had no track record of being a winner or a leader.
They have gone entire seasons without wide receivers. This from the pass-happiest coach in NFL history. They have gone an entire season without a punt or kick returner. They have gone an entire season without a fullback. They have gone all this season without a single competent NFL linebacker or safety.
One personnel area that has been handled flawlessly though, is the aforementioned long-snapper position. It was a seamless transition from Mike Bartrum to Jon Dorenbos.
On top of all these egregious errors in planning and judgment, is the ridiculous promotion of offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator. Castillo is a hard worker and was one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. But is that reason to let him try to fix the worst red-zone defense in the NFL? Not surprisingly, it‘s been equally inept.
This team has been a mess over the last six-and-a-half years. Remember those wonderful numbers from 1999-2004? They aren’t nearly as impressive since.
This is not to say that the Eagles are a basement-dwelling team. They have actually still won more than they‘ve lost. But for an organization that claimed it wanted to be the “gold standard,” mediocre or slightly above mediocre shouldn’t be enough.
In Reid’s first half, they posted a 71-37 record, .657 winning percentage, 7-5 playoff record, .583 playoff winning percentage and five playoff appearances, which tied for most in the league. Oh, and also zero Super Bowl victories.
Here's the rundown of his second half. Win-loss record? 61-53-1. Winning percentage? .535. Playoff wins? three. Postseason winning percentage? .429. Playoff appearances? Four. Super Bowls? Still sitting on zero.
You may look at those numbers and think that isn’t a bad six-year run, but it doesn’t compare to the first six. Not to mention, they are sitting at 4-8 this year and have been all but eliminated from the playoffs.
To get a clearer look at the decline, in all of those categories listed, the Eagles were in the top five in the entire NFL from 1999-2004. Since 2005, they aren’t in the top five in just the NFC, let alone the NFL, except for playoff appearances.
In wins, the Eagles trail the Giants, Bears, Packers, Cowboys and Saints. They trail those teams plus the Falcons in winning percentage. They rank sixth in playoff wins behind Green Bay, Seattle, the Giants, New Orleans and the Arizona Cardinals. They are eighth in playoff winning percentage, with a losing record at 3-4.
Extend your view to the AFC and the Eagles look even further in decline. They also trail the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Chargers and Ravens in victories, placing them 11th. They rank 12th in winning percentage behind the same group. They are also 11th and 14th respectively in playoff wins and playoff winning percentage.
Are Philadelphia fans “stupid,” because at this point, maybe they would trade a few playoff wins to watch their team hoist the Lombardi Trophy? Isn’t the point of sports to win? To be the best? Andy Reid hasn’t been able to achieve that. And he becomes further away from it every year.
Obviously, nobody’s resume looks good against New England or Pittsburgh who have 14 and 12 playoff wins since 1999 respectively. The Pats have won three Super Bowls, and the Steelers have won two. But how about the Colts?
Indianapolis has underachieved in the postseason, holding a 9-10 record over the last 12 years. The Eagles are 10-9. Is it stupid to prefer a championship to an extra playoff win?
Andy Reid, by any measure, has been a successful head coach. He will probably be successful wherever else he goes. But the truth is, he isn‘t running the tightest ship anymore.
As good as he admittedly is, he had quite a bit of good fortune. During those first six seasons, he played in an unimaginably weak NFC East. Through 2004 he pounded divisional foes for a 29-13 record. The combined record of the three rivals during that time was a woeful 132-164.
Since 2005, the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins have improved to 181-154. In that span, Reid is just 20-20 in NFC East games.
Andy also inherited the wealth of talent mentioned earlier, from the Ray Rhodes regime. It was that talent that brought him his greatest run of success. With his own personally selected players, his results have been much more pedestrian.
He has been unable to replace that talent or cultivate his high draft picks into difference-makers. He has not produced a single leader on his team since the departure of Brian Dawkins.
He traded down in a draft for his quarterback of the future Kevin Kolb. Yes, the same Kevin Kolb who is now the much-maligned starter for the dreadful Arizona Cardinals.
He traded up in drafts for players such as Jerome McDougle, Shawn Andrews and Brandon Graham. Andrews was a Pro Bowler but is now out of football. McDougle had three career sacks, and Graham has been injured, but he’s yet to make a peep for this team.
Since Reid’s peak seven years ago, many teams have turned their fortunes, and quite a few good head coaches have been found. Mike Tomlin, Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton have all been hired since 2006, and all three won a Super Bowl.
Don’t forget about Mike Smith, the Brothers Harbaugh, Jason Garrett and Hue Jackson, who is actually winning in Oakland of all places. So are they the last new guys who can be successful, winning head coaches? The idea of that is absurd.
Anyone who says the Eagles can’t do better than Andy Reid, do some research. Watch some game tape. Look at this year’s standings. Andy is not the only hope for a good coach in Philadelphia, he is just the one that should be the most recent former head coach.
Andy Reid is famous for the phrase “Time’s yours,” but Andy, guess what? Time’s up.