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Appreciating Andy Reid

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Andy Reid is a good NFL head coach, but he's even better as an offensive coach which sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Just how good is he?

CINCINNATI - AUGUST 20:  Andy Reid the Head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles is pictured during the NFL preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 20 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - AUGUST 20: Andy Reid the Head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles is pictured during the NFL preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 20 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Andy Reid has had tremendous success as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Rather than describe all of his accomplishments it is easier to say that the only thing he hasn't done is win the Super Bowl.  We're still hopeful that will happen in the future. 

I think sometimes we lose sight of how good an offensive coach Reid is.  Let's start by talking about quarterbacks.  Reid developed Donovan McNabb into a Pro Bowl player and potential Hall of Famer.  In 2002 McNabb got hurt and we all wondered what would happen.  Koy Detmer played well in his one start.  Then A.J. Feeley took over and went 4-1 down the stretch.  McNabb got hurt again in 2006.  Veteran Jeff Garcia stepped into the starting lineup.  He had really struggled the previous few years and no one was sure what to expect.  Garcia played very well and went 5-1 down the stretch.  He won a playoff game for us.  He might have won another playoff game if the defense had showed up. 

In 2007 Reid drafted Kevin Kolb.  He sat for a couple of years, but played well when he got on the field in 2009.  Kolb was the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in his first two starts.  He started slow this year, but is certainly heating up.  Kolb was just named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in last week's win over the Falcons.  There is a lot of reason to be optimistic about his future. 

Michael Vick is the most interesting of Reid's success stories.  Vick was a major star and elite talent when he played for the Falcons.  He was also a major underachiever.  He made his living as a runner, not a passer.  His highest quarterback rating in Atlanta was 81.6.  His highest completion percentage in a season was 56.4.  Right now Vick has a rating of 108, tops in the NFL.  He has completed 61.5 percent of his passes.  Vick is playing the best football in his life.  Ask him why and I'm sure he'll tell you that Big Red should get a lot of the credit.  Andy Reid is a very good quarterback coach. 

Reid is also a versatile coach.  The Eagles offense gets re-invented every few years.  Back in 2002 Antonio Freeman was added to the team.  That was the first time we made 3-receiver sets a big part of the playbook.  In 2003 we used the "3-headed monster" at running back.  Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, and some kid named Brian Westbrook split time and touches.  They played great and helped us reach the NFC title game.  That offense threw a lot of short and intermediate passes.  It was a very ball control kind of attack. 

2004 was vastly different.  Westbrook became the feature back.  We traded for Terrell Owens and the world changed.  McNabb suddenly had his elite receiver.  The two of them became a deadly duo.  The offense went vertical.  Big time.  In the first five years of his career McNabb had 27 completions of 40 or more yards.  In 2004 McNabb had 20 of them.  That should give you an idea of just how different things were. 

In 2006 and 2007 Reid had to once again change things up.  An ACL tear by McNabb forced him to feed the ball to Westbrook on a regular basis.  Westbrook's rushing yards almost doubled from 2005 to 2006.  The number went up again in 2007.  Westbrook thrived as a workhorse back.  He had over 4,000 total yards in those two seasons. 

The addition of DeSean Jackson in 2008 led Reid to get even more creative.  Jackson was the Wildcat quarterback in his rookie year and still gets some snaps in there now.  The end around is a regular part of the offense.  Jackson is the most explosive player so gameplans are built around how to get him the ball.  The offense in the last year and a half has been dynamic at times.  This is the most skilled player the Eagles have ever had.  Reid is finding all kinds of ways to take advantage of his weapons. 

I think Reid is one of the best screen pass coaches in the history of the league.  You can go back over the years and see that we've re-created our screen game several times.  We started off with the traditional screen pass where a couple of pulling linemen get out in front to block.  After a few years Reid switched up and went to a new look.  He had only center Hank Fraley pull and block for Westbrook.  That confused defenses who were used to multiple blockers.  Linebackers read keys on every play.  When guards start moving they know that is a screen or outside run.  Our guards stayed put and that threw them off. 

In 2003 Reid started throwing screens from the Ace formation (single back, two tight ends, two receivers).  Previously we had done it from the standard I-formation. Reid mixed in middle screens in the ensuing years. He did anything he could to keep defenses off balance.  Reid mixed up the formations and packages that we ran screens from each year. Reid has gone back to more standard screens in terms of blocking, but he has always remained creative. With Westbrook and Buckhalter on the field together he would fake a screen to one guy and throw it to the other. And all of this talk is about screen passes to the tailback. There are also screens to the fullback, tight ends and wide receivers.

When Eagles fans talk about offensive gurus they seem to think of guys like Mike Shanahan, Sean Payton, Mike Martz or Norv Turner.  Many Reid critics always ran with the notion that McNabb made Reid.  After watching the progress of Kolb and Vick, and taking a look at the big picture, I think people should start to realize just how good of an offensive coach Andy Reid is.  He belongs in that same category. 

We all have our frustrations with Big Red and how he does things.  He doesn't run the ball enough.  I don't think he consistently uses his backup running backs enough anymore.  There are times when his love of trick plays and offensive gadgets is a bit much.  I've used the analogy before that his coaching style sometimes is too much icing and not enough cake.  These are valid criticisms, but they shouldn't overshadow all of the success we've had. 

The league went to a 16 game schedule in 1978.  The Eagles never managed to score 400 points in a season between 1978 and 1998, the year before Big Red's arrival.  During the Reid era we've topped 400 points on three occasions and we're on pace to do that again this season.  Style issues aside, this offense does produce points and yards. 

The most exciting part of all this is the fact that we've got a tremendous core of young talent in place on offense.  LeSean McCoy is emerging into a star running back.  Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are stud receivers.  Brent Celek is a very good tight end.  Jason Avant is a terrific role player as our slot receiver.  Mix in the young guys that are still unknown like Riley Cooper, Clay Harbor, Chad Hall, and Joique Bell.  Who knows how good this offense might be in a year or two. 

Players will come and go.  Schemes will be tweaked and changed.  As long as Big Red is running the show, the Eagles should remain potent on offense.  After all, he is an offensive guru.