(Written 11/20) As serious an image as you’ll ever see.
After losing a sixth straight game for the first time in his Eagles career, Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach in Philadelphia looks to be all but over. The losing streak is longest in Philly since a Rich Kotite led team lost 7 straight in 1994 — the year Jeffrie Lurie became owner. Questions swirl if Reid will last the season. Eagles past and present love him as much as fans have grown to abhor his almost antipathy for running the rock. Big Red’s success is well known. He’s 24th all time in regular season wins and 13th in post season victories. Where did it all go wrong? Did the Eagles quit on Reid? Should he get a pass for his son Garrett’s death and would it be erroneous for Eagles brass to let him go given everything he’s done in Philly?
Donovan McNabb over ten years guided ninety-two of those triumphs. The former quarterback coach had to have a quarterback. McNabb was taken over Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams to boos you can still make out if you listen closely. Coach stuck by his field general. Neither could ever do enough in Philly, but Triple 5 Soul (what I call him) and Big Red won and won a lot. Grew up together in a sense. Under Reid, McNabb arguably became a Hall of Fame quarterback. His numbers were elite and his pick ratio (2.2) 4th all time. Brian Westbrook became a top dual threat running back. Philadelphia became one of the most feared teams in the NFL. It wasn’t just offense. Jim Johnson’s defenses were also elite and led by one of the most ferocious safeties of all time in Brian Dawkins. Weapon X is most definitely headed to Canton. Clemson bred, Dawkins hit the city in ’96. Unlike McNabb, Dawkins was and is still beloved. After five NFC Championship games in eight years and a Super Bowl loss to Patriots, McNabb was traded. Westbrook released. A year later, Dawkins released as well. Emotional waves sent throughout the city. Adversity. A new start, but nothing in comparison with what was going on in Reid’s personal life.
Since 2002, Reid and his wife Tammy were dealing with their sons’ drug dependency. Few outside the organization knew the extent until their sons were arrested separately and eventually incarcerated. Andy Reid’s personal life was put on full blast. Garrett more addicted than Britt. Dad head coach was never home but nonetheless affected like any other father would. Mom took care of everything because she had to, though her life was busy as hell. Garrett was really bad off in 2006. Andy and Tammy said their son lost almost 100 pounds in 6 months and lived out of his car in Arizona. He was there to clean himself up after a 2nd rehab stint. Some thought Reid should have taken time off, but he stayed on. Imagine if someone close were dying before your eyes because of drugs and you had to maintain a face of professionalism. This was his child. Visualize Andy Reid on the sideline in a close game worried about his son. How could he escape despite the stakes? Helpless. Garrett probably flashed through his mind many seconds of Reid time. The day he was born. Running around as a toddler. Happy. Football games Garrett starred in. Funny moments brought on by his unique personality. Uncertainty. Difficulty. This is the year after the Terrell Owens debacle. Mad stress in itself. At one point, the Eagles were 5-6. McNabb went down with a torn ACL vs. Tennessee. Jeff Garcia took over. Brian Westbrook stepped up like a champ. Philly defeated division rivals Washington, New York and Dallas three straight weeks — on the road. Remarkable. They lost to New Orleans in the playoffs but that year was one of Reid’s best as a head coach.
No wonder Andy Reid never threw his players under the bus. Football was his solitude and the players his family away from family. After all the craziness surrounding the Michael Vick signing, Philly was probably the best place he could land. Andy Reid resurrected MV7. Helped give him a semblance of normalcy. Wasn’t just in a football sense either. Donovan helped as well. 2010 was a great year for Mike. When underrated fullback Leonard Weaver went down on his first carry of the season that year, it changed the protection schemes. Foreshadowing. Lost a close playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. 2011 not so good. Vince Young Dream Team comments probably taken out of context, but still a national sticking point. 8-8 season. Had to win 4 straight just to get to .500. No playoffs. Probably playing best ball in division at season’s end, but had to watch New York win the Super Bowl. All-Pro Jason Peters goes down in off-season. Out for year. August 5, 2012, Garrett is found dead in his training camp dorm room. Rocked. Andy should go home, but again, he stays on. What coaches do. City and team rally around Reid family. Jeffrey Lurie vote of confidence. Vick hurt first preseason game. Never finds a rhythm the entire campaign. Vick takes most of blame for Eagles ineptitude — even in games he gave team late 4th quarter leads. He’s taken tremendous hits. Top of the league in fumbles and picks. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo fired mid-season. Vick suffers concussion. In comes rookie Nick Foles. City wants Andy Reid and Michael Vick outta there. Now. Right now. LeSean McCoy also suffers concussion. Eagles are 3-7 after rookie Robert Griffin III puts up a perfect quarterback rating in a 31-6 Skins victory. This is no longer a west coast offense team. Reid tried to hide the weakness of his receivers. Putting Vick in seven step drops and airing the ball out to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin was more something Kenny Stabler did Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff in the late 70’s. Antiquated in this day and age. His wide receivers underachieved. So did talented tight end Brett Celek. Reid also didn’t run the ball enough. Didn’t run enough with Westbrook and definitely not with phenom LeSean McCoy. Doesn’t mean the team should have quit.
Former linebacker Hugh Douglas, 4th in career Eagles sacks, offers perspective: “No matter what anybody says, you can fake like you’re playing hard but the eye in the sky don’t lie. It’s obvious that the tackling and effort that’s being given, that these guys are just mailing it in. You know when a player has given up. I guess they think that if Andy loses his job, that they have job security. That’s not the case. Shame because our teams wanted to do everything for him because we knew he had our backs. We played hard every single play and these guys don’t even seem like they wanna play. I thought Big Red should have taken a year off just to take a breather after Garrett’s death, but wherever he lands, he’ll be fine.”
Andy Reid will not be seen as one of the greatest coaches of all time if he decides to walk away from the game. Maybe he trusted his players too much. Maybe he was stubborn in his coaching philosophy, but, like a boxer winning a belt a year after a knockout, don’t be shocked if Reid wins a Super Bowl in another city proud to have him. He is a coach that put Eagles football on the front page. Not too shabby Big Red. This is not about your talent but maybe it’s time to go home, start a fire, kick your feet up, laugh with your kids, crack a beer, hold your wife and live your life. No one would blame you sir.