As the city stands on the precipice of another NBA season, and reaches the half way point of football season, it is hard to imagine another fan base that is blessed (or cursed) by two more contradictory head coaches than Andy Reid and Doug Collins. In a city that wears its emotions on its sleeve and its opinions as a badge of honor, our perceptions of these two coaches can only be described as bi-polar in nature, for better or for worse.
On the one hand we have Andy Reid. Despite the indisputable fact that he is the most successful head coach in Eagles’ history, his personality and stubbornness on game day drives the fans ballistic. When the Eagles were going to NFC championship games and of course the lone Super Bowl under his reign against the Patriots in 2004, Andy was no different. It felt like the team was winning in spite of him, and instead flourishing due to immensely talented players like Terrell Owens, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and of course Brian Dawkins. He was tolerable when the team was winning, but when losing or average seasons start piling up as they have recently, he’s impossible to admire or compliment. His arrogance toward the local press (he’s a big friendly teddy bear with the national media), his droning explanations for weak performances, even his penchant for never sharing player issues, preferring to state that they’re being addressed “in-house” exudes an attitude that treats the fans as being on a “need to know” basis. That is all well and good, except the fans DO know what under achievement on the football field looks like, and would like to see some accountability. Even the wretched play of Mike Vick can and should be placed at the feet of Andy Reid, since giving Vick a shot as an NFL quarter was all his call. But instead, we get the same non-answers and transparent culpability that he’s showered on us for years. Promises to review the tape, get players in the right positions, right the ship, etc…
And when one of the few “nice guys” on the coaching staff , Juan Castillo, is promoted to a position by Andy that even the least knowledgable observers knew was over his head, he is dismissed altogether without even a chance to find another spot in the organization. Once again, Andy justified this move by placing empty blame on himself, but not addressing the real issue with the team’s recent failures, which is their offensive and his pass-happy game planning.
On the other hand, there is Sixers coach Doug Collins. Despite the fact that he has not been at the helm very long, and obviously has nowhere near the track record of success that Andy Reid has established, he is a breath of fresh air in every way compared to the Eagles’ skipper. Granted, Collins has his stubborn ways as well. His penchant for singling players out and keeping them on the bench for extended periods of time, or his tendency to overmanage at times by tinkering with the starting five during a game to the point that is almost maddening. But unlike Andy Reid, there are glaring differences in his coaching style and personality that endears him to the public and to his players. His post game press conferences and interviews in general are like listening to a PhD in basketball prowess explain the game. When Andy Reid is at the mike, you have a tendency to seek out the remote to hit the mute button, or hurl something at the screen. When Collins is speaking, you find yourself turning up the volume and paying attention to what he says. He’s usually assessing his young talent, citing specific flaws in how he managed a game or a player, and describing in detail what needs to be done to address any problems. Although my favorite characteristic of Collins is his grasp of the history and tradition of the NBA, which he usually exhibits by telling a story about an old coach or teammate. His emotions will range from laughter to nearly welling up as he recounts someone or something that profoundly affected his career as a player, analyst and head coach. He’s been known to spew a profanity now and then during a post game presser, and I for one am never offended by such indiscretions. In fact, I’d welcome Andy Reid getting pissed off enough after a dismal loss to express the same emotion, and I can guarantee most other fans would as well. Collins squeezes the most out of average to above-average talent, while Andy garners complete under achievement from a team full of supposed stars.
I supposed these two divergent personalities are actually tailor-made for a sports town like Philadelphia. Having both coaches with one or the other’s personality would probably be even more maddening. Having championship success from both would be even better.