Failure To Replace Key Personnel Led To Andy Reid’s Downfall

Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie at press conference announcing the firing of Andy ReidThe reality of the situation still hasn’t set in.

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.

There are three guys specifically that come to mind: Jim Johnson, Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb.

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.

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Ryan Dinger

Along with The High Phive, Ryan also writes for Phillies Nation and The Grapevine. While his sports expertise lie with the Phillies and the Eagles, he is a diehard fan and avid analyst of all five major Philadelphia sports teams. Follow Ryan on twitter @Ryanfromjersey.

3 Responses

  1. JustSay'in says:

    Nice summary of Reid’s Career. Don’t be surprised if he surfaces as the HC of another team within a year. Remember Mike Shanahan in Denver, many years two super bowls, got stale. Now has a winner in Washington. Question is what are the Eagles going to do with Vick and his $15.5 million for next year? Let him go, get a new coach and a new (maybe rookie) quarterback. Eagles are a rebuilding project for the near future.

  2. M Coyne says:

    Excellent piece! It is nice to read something for once that doesn’t mention ‘Clock Management’ or ‘Putting the players in a position…’. You are right, the heyday of Eagles football was during his early period, then it quickly went downhill. I think his Joe Hardy moment was when he signed TO: his insistence on ‘Quality Players and Quality People’ went out the window. His best teams mostly consisted of players he inherited and once they began moving on, he was unable to restock with the same combination of skill and leadership.

    Andy will be employed by the end of the week: good for him, as by all accounts he is a fine man. I wish him well, and Ryan, I thank you for not trashing the guy, when it seems to be the popular thing to do these days.

  3. Ryan Dinger says:

    I think there’s a very good possibility they opt out of Vick’s contract before the early February deadline so they’re not on the hook for any money going forward. That seems to be the common line of thinking around the team. Even if they decide not to opt out before the deadline, they can still cut ties with him before the start of the 2013 regular season and only owe him $3M. Honestly, though, I don’t see them doing that.

    As far as the QB position after Vick: I believe they should go with Foles in 2013 for two reasons. 1) The chances of finding a franchise QB in trade or free agency are slim and none and 2) The draft class at QB this year is very weak and I’d hate to see them waste a high draft pick on a QB who ends up being a bust just because they feel like they need to draft a QB.

    This season, Foles wasn’t particularly impressive, but he did show some good tendencies. Playing behind a terrible offensive line, and without most of the team’s offensive weapons in some games, he completed 60% of his passes and threw more touchdowns than interceptions. Not outstanding numbers, but numbers that show promise, especially given the circumstances. Going with him for a year with an improved team wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It gives you a year of evaluation with Foles and allows you to allocate your high draft pick to a much bigger need (and also a much lower risk).