There has been a lot of recent speculation about Andy Reid and his future as head coach of the Eagles. People read into every move and try to find some angle that portends to Reid's demise or departure. This isn't necessarily Reid-bashing, but rather a desire to be the first to say "I told you so" when the dots are eventually connected.
I do agree that Reid is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but that is due to one factor - time. NFL coaches just don't last 20 years very often. Reid has been in charge of the Eagles since 1999. At some point he will walk away or maybe even be fired. I don't see that happening any time in the next few years, much to the chagrin of recent prognosticators.
They point to recent moves and find the juicy angle to each one. Sean McDermott was fired after Andy said he'd be kept. That must mean there was a power struggle and Reid was forced to fire him. Reid traded Donovan McNabb. That must have been his way of blaming McNabb for the team not winning it all. Or, Reid didn't want to trade McNabb. Again, he lost a power struggle. They can play both angles on that one. The fact that Reid has fired assistant coaches quickly in the last couple of years shows he is a desperate man. Reid's failure to add a big name at defensive coordinator is a sign he feared that person could be his successor. And so on.
I'm not buying it. I don't see a desperate football coach. I do see a coach who has 12 years under his belt. He's changed over the years. Reid began with a pair of veteran coordinators in Rod Dowhower and Jim Johnson. He added a young coaching staff around them. Those coaches developed and many of them moved on to better jobs. Dowhower retired years ago. Johnson stayed until his death in the summer of 2009. In the last couple of years Reid has been rebuilding his coaching staff. There have been hits and misses. Upon seeing a move hasn't worked, Reid now pulls the trigger quickly. I applaud him for that. Haven't we all gotten on Reid for being too slow to move in the past? Now he does what we want and he's labeled "desperate".
Reid has also had the chance to add some great coaches. Howard Mudd, Jim Washburn, and Bobby April are "all star" coaches, guys who are among the best in the business at their position. Heck, Mudd might be the greatest line coach in league history. I love the fact that Reid has pounced on these great coaches when they became available. The Eagles have a young roster. The best way to develop those players is through good coaching.
Let's talk about the roster. Why would Reid be keeping so many young players around if he truly felt a sense of desperation? Coaches on the hot seat generally load up on veterans so they can "win now". Reid has never been one to add a lot of veteran players. He seems to be sticking with his M.O. in this area. We'll find out for sure when (and if) free agency rolls around. If Reid has the Eagles going after Logan Mankins, Namdi Asomugha, and Jason Babin in the first week, I'll re-visit my position on Reid. I just don't see anything like that happening.
The promotion of Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator is hard to judge, from either side. You can argue that Reid is so comfortable with his status that he felt complete freedom to make a bold move like that. You can also argue that Reid feared bringing in an outsider, someone that wouldn't be as loyal as a homegrown coach. Honestly, the Castillo promotion is so strange I don't think anyone can accurately get a read on it at this point.
Reid's situation with the Eagles has changed over the years. He came in here completely unproven. Reid showed quickly that he was a good coach and also got the big picture. He and general manager Tom Modrak worked well together at first, but inevitably one of them had to be in charge of the situation. Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie chose Reid to be "the man".
Reid brought in Tom Heckert to run the personnel side of things. Reid would remain the ultimate decision maker, but knew he wasn't capable of doing the legwork that goes into making those decisions. Reid trusted Heckert and they worked well together. That lasted for several years. 2007 was another changing point. Reid's sons got arrested. He took a leave of absence from football for a while in the offseason. It didn't affect the team at all, but I think Banner and Lurie got a bit worried about Reid being in charge of everything and having these serious family matters to deal with. I'm not sure that they trusted Heckert to run the show on his own. Heckert worked well with Reid, but must not have seemed like the kind of guy meant to lead an organization.
Howie Roseman was ascending through the organization. He worked well with Heckert, Banner, and Reid, but had a very independent side as well. It was decided to give him a chance to do more on the personnel side of things and see if he could handle it. Roseman had taken advantage of every opportunity the Eagles gave him and did the same with his new personnel duties. At some point it became obvious that he was going to get a major role in running the personnel department.
Heckert moved on to Cleveland. Roseman eventually worked his way into the role of general manager. He and Reid work well together. They get along well. There is no great divide between them, the way that some would like to make it seem. The difference between Heckert and Roseman is that Howie isn't as aligned to Reid's way of thinking on everything. Heckert and Reid were basically two peas in a pod. They agreed a lot on which players they liked and also how to run the team. Roseman and Reid have different styles. They tend to agree on players, from what I can tell, but Roseman is much more aggressive. He's more likely to roll the dice. Reid is normally patient.
Reid and Roseman do have their disagreements, but I think that is a good thing. I liked Heckert, but too many similar minds can be unhealthy for an organization. Groupthink isn't always good. You need someone who sees things differently. Heck, you wonder if Roseman hasn't started to rub off on Reid a bit with the way things have been handled recently.
I really do think people underestimate how much Reid has changed over the years. He gave up his playcalling several years ago. Some people still don't get that. Just because Reid keeps his giant chart doesn't mean he's calling the plays. He is making suggestions and keeping track of certain things, but Marty Mornhinweg is the man making the calls. Reid has been more hands on with the whole team in the last couple of years. You now see him talking to defensive players as well as offensive players on the sideline. Reid seems more fiery and emotional than ever before. I think that is a result of the youthful energy of the team. We see him trying to jump up and do hip bumps with DeSean Jackson. It isn't pretty, but you have to love the way the veteran coach is trying to connect with his young players. I don't think he ever did that with Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, Na Brown, or Gari Scott (insert failure to make big plays joke here).
The whole notion of Reid as a desperate coach has one major flaw even if you disagree with much of what I've written. The second that Andy Reid became available his phone and that of agent Bob Lamonte would start ringing like crazy. Teams would be desperate to hire him. Reid wants to stay in Philadelphia. He wants to finish what he started, meaning to make the Eagles Super Bowl champions. That was his goal in January of 1999 and remains the same today.
The Eagles were one of the youngest teams in all of the NFL last year. They have a very strong core in place. They have a dynamic quarterback in Michael Vick. There are now some great assistant coaches to help guide the young players. Reid should be on cloud nine when it comes to the future of the Eagles. He's got a heckuva good situation. He'll have a chance to challenge for the Super Bowl title in the next few years, if not 2011.
Players have come and gone. Coaches have come and gone. Executives have come and gone. The one constant in the Eagles success remains Andy Reid. He's not the same guy he was in 1999, 2004, or even 2008. He's a changed man and the Eagles are a better team because of that.