PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles watches an instant replay during an official review during a game against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Joe Banner is out as president of the Eagles. This would seem to be good news for Andy Reid, but his future is far from certain. 2012 is a crucial to Reid's future.
Joe Banner is out. Depending on what you believe, Andy Reid either won a power struggle or just happens to be the last man standing. Whatever the case may be, Reid has issues of his own.
Some people have the perception that pressure is now off Reid. That is not the case. Owner Jeffrey Lurie wants the Eagles to get back to winning big and being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. That has not been the case in recent years. The Eagles haven't won a playoff game since the 2008 season, when they got as far as the NFC title game. The team hasn't won more than 11 games since 2004, when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.
There has been plenty of success since the Super Bowl. The problem is that Reid set the bar very high in his early years and the team hasn't reached that previous level of achievement. Other teams would be happy with only a single losing season to go along with a pair of division titles and four total playoff appearances. That's not good enough in Philly. Reid is a victim of his own earlier successes.
There isn't a stated, definitive goal in 2012. Reid hasn't been told "win the Super Bowl or else". He doesn't have to win 13 games or get the top seed in the playoffs. I think Lurie will judge the season based on the specifics of the situation. The Houston Texans had a fantastic season in 2011, but didn't even make the AFC title game. Major injuries finally caught up to them at that point. The New York Giants had a marginal season, but got hot in the playoffs and won it all. I think Lurie needs to see Reid have a very good regular season or postseason. He needs to see real success.
You can't hold a team/coach to the expectation of Super Bowl or bust. There are too many variables in an NFL season. In a seven-game format, the best team generally wins. In a one-game situation, anything can happen. We've had more than a few upsets over the years (Eli over Brady twice - ugh). Firing Reid for coming up short of the Super Bowl due to some fluke play or unbelievable game by one player would not be wise or fair.
I think the key is for the Eagles to pass the eye test as much as anything. Back in 2002 the team started off 6-2 and finished 12-4. The Eagles were good all year. There were a couple of ugly games, but for the most part the team impressed you each week. The 2004 team started off 7-0 and was dominant for much of that stretch. That team was special.
In 2009 the Eagles finished 11-5. That record sounds good, but the team was 5-4 at one point and needed a six-game winning streak to break out. That team lost the season finale with the NFC East crown on the line and the following week the team lost to Dallas in the playoffs. The final record looks impressive, but that team never really passed the eye test. Look at some recent years and their low points:
2011 - 4-8
2010 - 4-3
2009 - 5-4
2008 - 5-5-1
2007 - 5-8
2006 - 5-6
The Eagles always finished hot. That's good, but if this team really wants to get where it needs to be, Reid must have them playing at a high level all year long. Digging a hole and then fighting your way out of it hasn't proven to be a good formula for postseason success under Reid. His best teams showed they were good all year long.
If Andy Reid gets the team back to where it needs to be, then he is safe for the next couple of years. If the team struggles or is once again inconsistent, Lurie will have the tough decision of whether or not to keep his coach.
The 2011 season burned through a lot, if not all, of the goodwill that Reid had built up over the years. He chose to hire Juan Castillo as his defensive coordinator in a season where the lockout made things brutally hard on veteran coaches. Did Castillo cost the Eagles any games? The Eagles only missed the postseason by one win. I don't know if Castillo did cost the team any games, but I'm fairly certain he didn't win any games for the team. Had Reid gone with a more conventional choice, maybe the Eagles win the NFC East. That would have kept the Giants out of the playoffs and from winning the Super Bowl.
Reid's choice of Vince Young as Michael Vick's backup turned out to be bad, if not disastrous. It was Young who uttered the phrase that seemed to curse the Eagles and haunt them all year long - dream team. I genuinely believe that label and the media attention and pressure it brought with it really hurt the team.
There are several other decisions that Reid made that resulted in less than ideal results. 2011 was not his finest hour. That said, Reid never lost the team. He kept plugging away and by the end of the season everyone finally seemed to be on the same page. Reid can still coach.
The problem for Reid is that he's got to deliver big time results. Keeping the team together and making the best of a bad situation is no longer good enough. Lurie can't sell that to the fanbase with the Giants winning titles, the Cowboys still a contending team, and the Skins now landing RGIII. Good enough isn't good enough anymore.
Lurie needs Reid to get back to winning in a big way. The fans will put up with Reid's less than charming personality, "interesting" gameday decisions, and pass-happy attack if those things result in wins. When the team is struggling, Reid is in big trouble because he has no style points. He can't use his personality to shift blame or garner support from fans the way that someone like Buddy Ryan could.
Some people have wondered if Reid could now transition to a front office role with Banner gone. That's possible, but I'm not sure it makes much sense. Howie Roseman looks more and more like a good general manager. Would you really want to have him working with Reid and a new coach? Who would have more say in hiring the coach, Reid or Roseman?
Reid could go to a new team as either coach or team president. I think he could do very well in either capacity. The question that Lurie would be dealing with isn't whether Andy Reid can coach, but rather whether he would be the right coach for the Eagles in 2013 and beyond.
The focus is winning a Super Bowl. Can Reid get that done? At what point do you start to think that Reid isn't the right guy to get the Eagles to that level? I know more than a few fans and writers who feel that way now. The 2012 season should give us a big clue as to whether he is the guy. Reid has a good coaching staff. He has a very talented roster. He has a full offseason to get his players coached up and his team ready to go.
Banner's departure should not be a viewed as too much of a positive by Reid. If anything, it is a sign of how tough the NFL world is. Nobody stays put forever. Reid is the king of the castle for now, but he better produce the desired results or the first major press conference of 2013 will be another shocking goodbye from the Eagles.