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Is Andy Reid Under The Gun?

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Without Donovan McNabb, is the Eagles' coach facing a ton of pressure?

Matt Mosley, the NFC East blogger for ESPN, put up a recent post talking about Andy Reid's legacy. Matt makes the point that since Andy has control of personnel moves and traded Donovan McNabb that he's essentially backed himself into a corner with his coaching legacy on the line. Struggle this year and Andy's on the hot seat, with big time pressure on him. 

Matt presents an interesting theory. There are some problems. First and foremost, the Reid/McNabb situation was more complicated than most people realize. Matt summed it up this way:

Reid's also one of only three NFL coaches who have ultimate authority when it comes to personnel moves.

That means that Donovan McNabb would still be with the Eagles if Reid had decided to fight for his quarterback.

The problem is that Reid did fight to keep McNabb. Andy was slow to embrace the notion of making the trade. At least one NFL team that talked to Reid about dealing for McNabb came away very frustrated. They weren't certain if Reid was actually trying to make a deal or if he was just feeling out the market. Reid left them dazed and confused. He wasn't putting on a show for anyone. He was genuinely hesitant to deal McNabb. 

The hesitance had nothing to do with Kevin Kolb and any doubts about his readiness to play. Big Red simply wanted another year with his longtime quarterback. Reid has an emotional attachment to McNabb, and rightfully so. You can't spend that much time with one person without forming a special bond. Reid and McNabb enjoyed tremendous success together. Another season might have led to the elusive Super Bowl that both men have chased since 1999. 

The other key members of the front office finally convinced Reid that the deal had to go down. Since McNabb was in the final year of his deal you had to trade him now or hope for a compensatory pick down the road. Reid got on board with the trade, but it took some time. He did make an effort to keep his guy around for a final year, but it didn't make business sense. Reid the executive finally overruled Reid the coach. 

There is another problem with Mosley's piece. He's right to point out that Reid and McNabb had shared success that benefited both men. However, Mosley should have talked about the fact that Reid has in fact had success when McNabb was hurt. McNabb on the other hand has known only one coach in his playing days. Donovan has to show that he can handle a new coach, team and organization. 

Go back to 2002. McNabb got hurt in Game 10. The Eagles were 7-3 at that point. Koy Detmer started the next week and then A.J. Feeley started the final 5 games. The backup quarterbacks went 5-1 in those starts. The one loss came in overtime on the road against the Giants. We won the division title thanks in part to the great finish. McNabb did return to lead the team in the playoffs. 

In 2006 McNabb tore his ACL in Game 10 (also got hurt Game 10 in 2007...weird or what?). The team was 5-5 when McNabb went down. Jeff Garcia took over and led the team to a 5-1 record and the NFC East title. Garcia was also the starting quarterback in the postseason. He led the Eagles to a wild-card win over the Giants and then a heartbreaking loss to the Saints

Just last year Kolb started a couple of games and had some success. He went 1-1, but threw for more than 300 yards in each start. No other quarterback in NFL history had thrown for 300+ in his first two starts. 

Reid did struggle with Mike McMahon as the starter in 2005 and Doug Peterson in 1999. Neither guy can be considered a good quarterback. Both years the team was also dealing with tough circumstances. Back in '99 Reid was in his first year and trying to put together a good roster. The '05 team was undone by injuries and a devastating storm known as the wrath of TO. 

The bottom line is that Reid has won with multiple quarterbacks over the years. Reid did this by building a strong team and by having his backup players ready to play. The Eagles are a team, not simply a collection of star players. 2010 will be a new challenge for Big Red because this is the first time he's gone into a season without McNabb on the roster. At the same time, you can't overlook the fact that Reid will have a very talented roster to work with. Kevin Kolb will run an offense that is loaded with talent. That makes Kolb's job easier, which in turn makes Reid's job easier. 

The Eagles have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. That is the design of Joe Banner, Howie Roseman and Reid. The roster is built for the long term. Reid is OK with that on a couple of levels. He does have a lot of say on personnel matters. Reid believes in keeping a team young. That is one reason that he and Banner have gotten along so well. Reid the coach is okay with the young roster because it is talented. If the Eagles were loaded with question marks on offense Reid would be a lot less comfortable. Talented youth is a different story. 

Let's get back to Mosley's point about there being a lot of pressure on Reid. Mosley thinks that if the Eagles miss the playoffs this year then 2011 will be the time when the heat really gets turned up. Not exactly. The Eagles expect to be a good team this year, but the organization knows how young the roster is and that Kolb is going to be a first-time starter. I think the hope is to compete for the division title this year, but I don't consider that an expectation. I think 2011 is the year when Reid and the team will be expected to have a big year. The Eagles will have an excellent combination of talent and experience at that point. 

Reid is on the hot seat in the sense that all coaches are. Have a really disappointing season and all bets are off. Coaches, like players, are evaluated all the time. You don't reach a certain status and stay there. Bill Walsh quit the Niners because he felt like it was time. Don Shula, Chuck Noll and Tom Landry were all forced out. Reid's excellent track record buys him some fudge room, but it doesn't guarantee him safety. 

Reid is lucky that he is in a good situation. He, Roseman and Banner tend to see things in a similar way. They have disagreements on certain players, but none of the three has gone nuts about any move or non-move. The closest thing to a crisis situation was losing out on free agent Julius Peppers. That was absolutely heartbreaking, especially to Roseman. Landing JP would have given the team a lot of freedom in the draft. The Eagles could have moved up for FS Earl Thomas or sat tight and gotten CB Kyle Wilson. Instead, the Eagles had to aggressively go after a DE they coveted (Brandon Graham). No one person was at fault for the Peppers situation. And the guys did rally together to come up with a good Plan B. There is always going to be friction in coach/personnel matters, but that is minimal in Philly. The good face the team puts on for the public isn't that far from the truth. There are plenty of teams where that isn't the case. 

Is Reid under the gun?  Not really. He get along with the top brass. He wins games consistently. He was part of the plan to go with a youth movement. The McNabb trade hasn't backed Reid in a corner at all. If anything, it gives him a chance to really grow his legacy. If Big Red can do great things with a new quarterback (and another one that he's developed) that will show just how good of a coach Reid is. The only way things really go bad for Reid is if the team has consecutive bad seasons. I just don't see that happening with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver, Jason Peters, Trent Cole, Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell and Asante Samuel on the field.