December 20, 2012

A preemptive goodbye to Andy Reid.

It's time for Andy Reid to go.

Everyone knows it. Some even want him out this instant.

But when the day comes and Jeffrey Lurie makes it official, I'll miss him.

Not because he's being unjustly canned: The Eagles are 42-35-1 since 2008, with a points differential that's been consistently plummeting (127 in 2008, 62 in 2010, -122 so far in 2012). Two seasons in a row they've put together a talented roster on paper, only to see it fall apart on the field.

Assistant coaches have been unjustly hired, and then awkwardly fired. Entire drafts turned out to be total disasters. Big free-agent signings like Jevon Kearse and Nnamdi Asomugha tanked. And, oh yeah, Michael Vick.

But good coaches are hard to find, as Bill Barnwell noted quite recently, and Andy Reid is (or was) a good coach. The man is 130-91-2 in Philadelphia, record-breaking numbers that may never be topped in this itchy-trigger-finger era of lightning-quick coach turnover.

Yes, it hasn't been quite the same since his army of disciples -- John Harbaugh, Jim Johnson, even Brad Childress -- were lost to other jobs or illness. And yes, one of the main reasons things got so bad is the futility of almost all of Reid's replacements for the departed players and coaches.

But that doesn't mean Reid's five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl appearance go away. He doesn't have to abdicate his wins because his team officially fell apart in his 14th season as head coach.

Reid was a proud man who probably took on too much responsibility, and he ultimately paid for his mistakes. Maybe his strong suit isn't having final say on personnel; maybe he lost the ability to properly analyze and critique his staff along the way.

Apart from this season, however, disasters were few and far between. The team did sneak into the playoffs three of the last five seasons. It wasn't all doom and gloom; it never felt like we were watching the Cleveland Browns or the Oakland Raiders.

And I think people will recognize that as time goes on. Much like Donovan McNabb is slowly working his way back into everyone's good graces -- being remembered for his successful career as a whole instead of a few high-profile failures -- I expect Reid will eventually attain something close to mythic status.

A new coach will come in and, inevitably, he'll screw up. Maybe it won't be as egregious as making Tony Hunt the fullback, J.R. Reed the punt returner or three wispy ghosts the 2011 linebacker trio, but it'll probably be something close. And folks will call WIP to bitch and moan, wondering where the glory days of the 2000s have gone.

Maybe they won't pine for Reid specifically, not right away. But ask a fan of the Buffalo Bills, or the aforementioned Browns, or even the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Bears, and they'll tell you what it's like to deal with an oft-moronic string of incompetent head coaches. It's a very difficult job, and there's a reason you hang onto the great ones.

Reid will never be Buddy Ryan, who never won anything either but was beloved for it anyway. But he set the bar high and turned his franchise into one of the league's best, bringing Philadelphia nine playoff appearances when most cities would kill for one.

The best coach in team history is about to depart for greener pastures. Even if we don't applaud on his way out, let's try and remember what he did to make football in Philadelphia special again.

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