Editor’s note: Written by staff writer Steve Fini.
I believe in the Philadelphia Eagles. They’re a 2-1 team, with their only loss coming to a surprisingly good Arizona Cardinals team. They beat the Ravens and beat a bad Browns team. This isn’t college football. Power rankings don’t matter, there’s no ridiculous BCS system or coaches’ poll and, luckily, the writers have no say in how far the Eagles can go. In the NFL only one thing matters and that’s winning. No matter how you got there or how terrible you play, each win is one step closer to a championship—even if they’re ugly.
Let me also say that I believe in Andy Reid. As a coach, as a play caller, as a motivator, I don’t think there are many men around the league who could have done the job Reid has over the last 13 years. Thirteen years of success is hard to come by in this league. More beloved coaches than Reid have garnered far more respect in this city, but haven’t earned it. Dick Vermeil didn’t have that in Philly. Buddy Ryan didn’t even come close to the success Reid has achieved. Andy Reid is the greatest coach the Philadelphia Eagles have had in the modern era of football.
But what’s made Reid’s success so great are many of the qualities fans find infuriating. His originality and out of the box thinking. His stubbornness. Way back in 1999, in a running back driven league, Reid went against the grain and selected a black quarterback out of Syracuse instead Ricky Williams, the most highly-regarded player in the country and Heisman trophy winner. Luckily, the fans of Philadelphia had no say in that choice.
In a league with players like like Jamal Lewis rushing for 2000 yards and every “expert” on TV was boasting the phrase “you can’t win in the NFL if you can’t run the football,” there was Reid proving them all wrong. The little-known Reid was hired in 1999 and eventually turned the Eagles from a disaster into one of the most consistently dangerous teams in the NFL.
Back to the present. Running backs, even ones as talented as Adrian Peterson, are rarely going 1, 2, or 3 overall. Even Trent Richardson, who went second-overall last year is a reach because teams know they wear down. He already has a lingering knee problem. Running backs can’t carry NFL teams on their backs like they used to. Reid knew this and more importantly put it into practice before anyone else. He believed in building a team from the inside out—focusing on the quality on depth of the defensive and offensive line. Did he invent this idea? No. But he put it into practice much more so than any other coach. He saw what the rest of the NFL was doing it one way and said screw it, I’m doing it my way. Let’s see if it works. And it did, though you can argue to what extent.
His offense? Angered the hell out of fans for years. “Run the ball more, it’s what everyone else does. “ You win by running the football right? Not anymore. The “elite” teams like the Giants, Patriots, Packers, etc. They can’t run the football at all. Reid realized that every offense and every defense was built around the run game. So like a great coach does, he sees teams’ weaknesses and builds his offense accordingly. He believed that if every team is going to practice and play with the idea that running the ball is first and foremost, then they we’re going to pass it and drag you out of your comfort zone. Did he always have the best balance, or call the best plays, or more importantly have the best players? No. But as a coach you have a philosophy, you stick to that philosophy, and you make your players believe in it. Reid has done that in Philadelphia.
Now the entire league and every fan of a crappy team wants to find the next Andy Reid. They want their organization to find the young(ish) assistant who no one is familiar with and who will connect with players and bring a new brand of football to their city. Ironically, it’s even what fans that are yelling “Fire Andy” want. They want another Reid, just apparently nothing like him at all in any way. Good luck.
I’m not trying to say his tenure has been all roses. It hasn’t. I’ve yelled and screamed at the TV as much as anyone else. Probably more. I’ve criticized his draft picks, clock management, and even busted out the occasional “RUN THE DAMN BALL!!!” that we’re all familiar with.
The point is, however, to demonstrate that ever since he’s been a coach he’s been ahead of the game of football in almost every aspect. It hasn’t worked every week, and the Eagles are still without the Super Bowl. Still, his teams win and brought modern day football to Philadelphia over 13 seasons ago.
The only problem? Teams have caught up. Everyone is drafting quarterbacks, and they seem to all be successful. All teams are valuing a great pass rush and a great pass protecting offensive line. Every team has or is building a defense to stop the pass first. Defenders are smaller, quicker, and cover much more ground. Gone are the Levon Kirkland type of middle linebackers that Reid’s offense could take advantage of.
Maybe Reid’s gone as far as he can take the Eagles. Maybe his philosophy is so re-done by so many teams that it’s no longer an advantage. Maybe the game has caught up to him and he doesn’t have an answer. But I don’t buy it. For a coach who has never done anything anyone has told him to do, I don’t expect him to sit back and let this game pass him bye. Not without something else up his sleeve. He’s too smart and too proud to just let other teams outwork him and his staff.
Maybe he’ll have to run the ball now. With the rest of the NFL now a total passing league, the new brilliant offensive minds might need to think outside the box and hand the ball off 40 times a game. Or maybe it’s something completely different that we’d never thought we would see in the NFL. Triple option perhaps? Who knows?
The one thing I can say though is that Reid deserves to be the head coach of this football team. Not because he’s a good guy, but because he keeps the Eagles relevant or because he looks exactly like a Walrus and that’s hilarious. It’s because he’s been ahead of the NFL curve, works to stay ahead of that curve, and is always looking at where the NFL is going and not where it’s at. That’s what keeps NFL teams successful for thirteen years instead of three. That’s what builds franchises. That’s what wins.