Truth is, it’ll probably be months before this one exits the realm of surreality. The realization that, after fourteen years, Andy Reid will not be standing on the Eagles sideline is one that will come slowly for fans. For me, it probably won’t truly set in until 2013′s season opener. Sure, we’ll see the press conference announcing the new head coach, we’ll see the draft and we’ll see him during training camp. But it’ll take a regular season game for it to feel like an actuality.
Fourteen years is a longtime. In the sports world, it’s practically a lifetime.
While many are already looking ahead, speculating on who will man the helm next, I think Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia deserves more than a few day’s reflection. Like the end of a long-term relationship, you need to comes to terms with things and decide what that person meant to you and your life.
How will we think of Andy Reid ten years from now?
I’d like to think I’ll remember the good times: I’ll think of the 33-19 thrashing of the favored Chicago Bears in the 2001 Divisional Round to send the Birds to their first NFC championship of my lifetime, and how happy I felt singing the Eagles fight song with friends on my front porch following the victory; I’ll think of the 27-10 beatdown of Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons to send the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX, another first of my life; I’ll remember 44-6–a score that needs no explanation for Birds fans–and an improbable playoff run that included a hugely satisfying victory over the top-seeded Giants and left the seemingly average Eagles just a few plays short of another Super Bowl appearance in 2008.
These memories, among others, are the ones that standout the most.
But I notice a common thread amongst those three memories, as well as the other good ones that come to mind when I think of the Reid era: They all occurred in the first part of Reid’s time with the Eagles. I think back to 2009 and the seasons following that one, and I’m left with very few moments I care to remember.
So where did Reid lose his course?
I believe it was an inability to successfully transition from the group of guys with which Reid began coaching the Eagles into the next generation of Eagles football that will ultimately be remembered as the chief reason for his dismissal.
Following the 2008 season, Dawkins was allowed to walk via free agency. During that offseason, Johnson lost his battle with cancer. The Eagles, and, more specifically Reid, had lost the unquestionable leader of their locker room, and their mad scientist defensive coordinator. Four full seasons later, and they’ve yet to adequately replace either one. That failure falls squarely on Reid’s shoulders.
Following the 2009 season, Reid made the decision to unceremoniously trade McNabb, the only quarterback he had ever known as a head coach, to Washington and move forward with a new guy under center. The gambit paid off briefly, when Michael Vick caught fire for a good portion of the 2010 season, causing Reid to bank on him when he traded Kevin Kolb (a player so bad, it’s hilarious to imagine Reid thought he could ever fill McNabb’s shoes in the first place). But eventually Vick returned to being the unpolished player he had been for his entire career. Three seasons later, and with the jury on Nick Foles still out, the search for a true franchise quarterback is ongoing. Again, a failure on Reid’s part to replace a key cog in his football powerhouse.
Now, I don’t mean to argue that letting Dawkins and McNabb go were mistakes. In fairness, they were the right moves. Even though both were the best players on their respective side of the ball while in Philly, neither player had much success following their time here. Rather, Reid’s failure was in completing the process of moving on. He recognized those guys were done, but he failed to find appropriate replacements for them. In the case of Johnson, it was a lack of fortune that did Reid in. You can’t help a man dying, but you also can’t wait four seasons to find a competent replacement.
Over his first ten years in Philly, Reid had built a juggernaut with the likes of McNabb, Dawkins and Johnson. The Eagles were not only perennial contenders, they were legitimate threats to win a Super Bowl. It just never came to be. When Reid began losing the foundation on which he built his empire, he never bothered to repair it. His proclivity for coming up short in the past forced the organization to have a short leash regarding these recent failures.
Four years later, Reid’s castle has crumbled to the ground and his time as ruler of Philadelphia football is done.
I’ll remember the good times with him. But I can’t forget the missteps that lead to this, and the lack of slack Reid left himself by never finishing the job when he had the guys to do it.Tags: Andy Reid, Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Jeffrey Lurie, Jim Johnson, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, NFL, Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles