The Philadelphia Eagles 2012 season has officially ended, and with it ends the Era of Head Coach Andy Reid. For those masochists scoring at home, the final tally for the former Green Bay Packers assistant reads as such; Fourteen seasons, 10 playoff victories, six NFC East titles, five NFC championship game appearances, three Coach of the Year awards, and an NFC Championship. Oh, and zero Super Bowl victories, for all those who decided 2013 would be the perfect time to start getting into Philadelphia Football.
It is a bummer of a story, the demise of Andrew Walter Reid. Highly successful for the first half of his head coaching career, Reid's windows of opportunity (and yes, there were many) have finally closed. And yet, as we sit here fourteen years after he was introduced as the NFLs youngest head honcho, the people of Philadelphia appear to be prioritizing feelings of relief above those of sadness.
Yes, the masses in the 2-1-5 want him gone. Desperately, in fact. They'll be dancing on his casket in Philadelphia when owner Jeffrey Lurie finally does the deed; the public excitement will likely match that of any of Reid's NFC East title victories.
Don't misinterpret that for a second; the need for Reid's exit doesn't mean fans don't appreciate what he's done, or the years of consistent winning. A 12-4 season sure beats the snot out of a 4-12 one, and the Reid Dynasty brought a lot more of the former over the latter. For that, Philadelphia appreciates, and that appreciation will grow in time (For proof, see: McNabb, Donovan).
It is like any real relationship; as one gets farther away from it, they can sit back and reflect upon the good times and bury the bad, to such a degree one may even forget why it ended in the first place. But even being aware of this fact doesn't change the burning anger of the present; that feeling in ones gut that screams Lord Almighty if I have to look at this persons stupid face for one more second, the next stop is going to be a jury of my peers.
How did it get to this point of such disdain? Let me count the ways.
Reid was, and remains, a frustrating dummy, a stupid jerk who was seemingly incapable of learning from his own mistakes. He displays the football IQ of a third grader who's parents never bought him Madden. He'd go up against the leagues toughest secondary and throw the ball sixty times. His offensive philosophy was best described as "throw to set up the pass."
Every loss was followed by the same thing; some nonsense cover-all excuse about accountability, with none being put on display. He said that word more often than he used a first down draw play; accountability. Like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, one wondered if he knew what that word actually meant. Year after year he went to battle with the likes of Todd Pinkston and James Thrash, ignoring the talent in the free agency pool or the sure-fire prospects that arose in the draft. Year after year, he struggled with time management. Year after year, he left points on the field with atrocious red zone strategy.
He'd leave his most talented weapons on the bench, at the most crucial of moments. He'd make you scratch your head, then pull out your hair, then chuck it at the TV.
Reid has coached in Philly for a generation, so for an entire generation, children in Philadelphia public schools have been taught that Einstein's definition of insanity is an Andy Reid Monday morning press conference.
For crying out loud, he took a lifelong offensive line coach and made him the defensive coordinator! No greater example of Andy Reid Insanity exists, and no other bold adventure likely contributed stronger to his conclusion.
And yet, he was brilliant, for both his boldness and his brawn. His first real move was bringing in a linebackers coach from an unremarkable Seattle team. Jim Johnson built Reid's defense into a perennial strike of thunder. Johnson was a mad scientist, and his genius came to Reid's benefit. His schemes and blitzes would put him in the coordinator Hall of Fame, if their was such a thing, and it seems no coincidence the Iggles have not won a playoff game since his death.
Reid's next bold move was ignoring the public outcry for Ricky Williams and instead drafting a goofy quarterback out of Syracuse. No player is more linked to Reid's legacy than Donovan McNabb, and it can be argued no player benefited more. While his final few years may have damaged his public reputation, the reality is that for over half a decade, McNabb was one of the top quarterbacks on the planet.
Reid took a 5'10" running back from Villanova and maximized his talents to perfection. Brian Westbrook would have been a no-name for any other coach; for Reid he set franchise records.
He turned the likes of A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb into highly-desirable quarterback prospects. He got one last productive run out of diminutive Jeff Garcia. He rescued the career... scratch that, life... of Mike Vick, and while that redemption didn't end in a parade down Broad Street, it doesn't alter the remarkableness of it. For an impressive, albeit brief, moment, Mike Vick was back on top of the Sports Universe. And that is due almost entirely to the brilliance of Andy Reid.
"Stinkston" & "Trash" may be punchlines in South Philly now, but the fact that a coach could get anything out of those guys is a gridiron miracle. When Reid finally did win that elusive NFC Conference title, he did so with Freddie Mitchell as his top wide out. FredEx may have thanked his hands for being so great, but if Fourth Down Freddie spoke sign-language, his hands would have been thanking Reid.
And for as PO'd as he got the paying public, he was that beloved by the gentlemen in his lockerroom. Boy, could he rally the troops. Whenever the Birds were left for dead, somehow, someway, Reid righted the ship. In fact, entire seasons went by without Reid's club dropping two in a row. His play-calling left much to be desired, but his week-to-week routine was a recipe for winning.
Whenever a trusted veteran would depart... and many a vet did just that... they would often speak despicably of the front office, of the men in charge who treated players like trading cards. So many bridges were burned on the way out of Philly, it's remarkable the Delaware has any remaining.
But these departing vets, they'd always speak highly of Reid, just as the vets on today's 4-11 roster have. All this, despite final say over roster and personnel being totally (allegedly) under Big Red's control. For some reason... some inexplicable reason... the wrath of a former players scorn was another responsibility Reid somehow found himself free of.
Ah yes, how the locker room loved him. It is a pity, as that level of love was never matched outside of it...
And therein lies the indisputable sadness; if his legacy is indeed close-but-no-cigar, Reid will never receive the unconditional love of Philadelphia that is heaped upon many significantly less-successful men that came before him.
Reid wasn't as brash as Buddy Ryan; he didn't tear up like Dick Vermeil. This, as many a Delaware Valley resident will tell you, proved Reid wasn't a "Philly Guy." After all, if the emotion isn't worn on your sleeve, it must not exist.
That makes as much sense as vomiting on an 11-year-old girl. Reid was more Rocky Balboa than any of them, taking hit after hit and never faltering. He was like a zombie, a thought-less moron with a mustache who just kept marching steadily towards his goal, never deviating from the path he knew was right. In a city like Philadelphia, that's a plan of attack that takes some pretty big stones.
Earlier this season, Reid's right-hand-man, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, said "there are some players that can't play in this city. It's that simple. The tough guy, physically and mentally, can thrive, playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and this city."
Reid is the tough guy. Reid thrived in Philly longer than a plethora of its largest heroes did. Longer than Ron Jaworski or Reggie White, Charles Barkley or Dr J. Iverson requested a trade. Dawkins took more money. And yet year after year, through thick and thin, never a rumor arose about Reid considering departing or calling it quits. And make no mistake; it would have been a heck of a lot easier on him to have taken that San Diego or Jacksonville job half a decade ago.
When the hits against Reid came... and oh boy, did they come... the big fella took 'em with a grunt and a cough and some muttering about having to do a better job... and more often than not, that is exactly what he did.
Reid is not just being fired; he is going down with his own ship. What could be more Philly than that?
And therein lies the true tragedy; not that he didn't win the Big One, not that he goes out with barely a whimper. Not even, though it feels insensitive to write, the terrible havoc the life of a football coach played on the Reid family at home.
The true tragedy is that this is who Reid forever is. This is how he is permanently defined. Even if he pulls a Vermeil and wins that elusive ring in spectacular fashion somewhere else, it will never be him in the way these fourteen years will.
Reid is forever linked to Philadelphia; it is his legacy. But the legacy of this city is not forever linked to him; he is not, nor will he ever be, its favorite son.
It is that dreadful thought that puts a lump in the throat a thousand coughs couldn't clear.