Monday, July 11, 2011

Fire Andy Reid? For Who? For What? 

As Published on
Listen to the radio in Philadelphia for a minute these days and you’ll hear it over and over again: Fire Reid! Skim an article online you’ll see it repeated ad nauseum in the comments section: Fire Reid! Ask any guy in line at Wawa what he’d like to see the Eagles do in the offseason and he’ll tell you loud and clear: Fire Reid! It’s the battle cry du jour in the City of Brotherly Love. This is often the case at this time of year, after the Eagles season has ended with an all too familiar thud.
After 12 years of coming up too short, Eagles fans seem to have had their fill of Andy Reid’s stewardship. In some ways that’s fair. Andy never seems to improve his weaknesses. But in other ways it’s almost childish entitlement, after all, this year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, a year where the Eagles jettisoned all the veterans and handed the ball over to all their young talent.  But then from out of nowhere Mike Vick, the supposed back-up QB, showed up with a Superman cape and dumpster full of fireworks, makinh us all believe again. And all of a sudden a 10-6 record, a division championship, and a playoff berth became a big disappointment in a year where none of that was even expected in the first place. And so the fans cry out once again, Fire Reid.  But for who? For what?
If you ask Andy Reid’s detractors who they would rather see piloting the Eagles, many would summon the name of Bill Cowher, the former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and by popular opinion one of the greatest football coaches still alive today. Cowher has been one of the most coveted coaches on the market since he retired from the Steelers in 2007, and many Eagles fans see him as a guy who can finally deliver a championship to this “close but no cigar” franchise.
Cowher earned this reputation by winning exactly one Super Bowl, in his 14th year as the head coach of the Steelers. Before that he, like Andy, was the overrated coach that could never win the big one. He, like Andy, was on the losing side of four Conference Championships and one Super Bowl. But eventually he did win a Super Bowl and transformed himself from the guy the Steelers just wouldn’t give up on, to one of the greatest living NFL coaches. One Super Bowl, it’s all that separates the idiots from the geniuses in the NFL.
Thanks to that Lombardi Trophy, Bill Cowher is widely considered a great football coach, a winner. A man who understands how to win the big one. A brilliant defensive mind who knows the importance of a power running game. A real genius. By contrast, Andy Reid, who has never held that trophy as a head coach, is to his detractors, an idiot who will never win the big game. After 12 years as head coach, they say he is too stubborn, that he doesn’t run the ball enough. That he can’t make in-game adjustments. He can’t manage the clock or challenge calls appropriately. He’s too nice. Too fat. Too Mormon.  But Bill Cowher also went 12+ years without winning a Super Bowl, surely they must’ve said the same type of things about him in Pittsburgh. A quick search reveals that yes, they did.
Here’s a little excerpt from the comments on a blog post from January of 2005, just after the Steelers lost another conference Championship game, 12 months before Cowher would win his only Super Bowl.

“4 Championship losses at home and in all of them but one they were favored and in 2 of the ones that he lost they were favored by double digit points. Also, him deciding to kick that field goal in last year’s game made him look like a retard. He is not an x’s and o’s coach he is a system guy, when he faces a defense that can stop the run he is not smart enough to handle it…”

Here, Cowher is criticized for not being able to adjust to a defense “that can stop the run”. In other words, Cowher runs too much. Reid, as the old song goes, passes too much. They are 2 sides to the same coin. The commenter goes on:

“As long as the man is our head coach he will never win anything major. [...] they need a Bill Parcells or someone who has a track record of winning. Bill Cowher great in the regular season a drooling retard in the playoffs …”

Sound familiar? What would’ve happened if the Steelers fired Cowher that year and hired Parcells? Would they have won the Super Bowl? Ask yourself that when you demand Reid’s head. What would a guy like Cowher be able to do with this Eagles team? You might say, “Cowher is a better coach than Reid”. The numbers tell a different story. Let’s take a look at their careers side by side, through 12 Seasons.

Through 12 Seasons    Reid       Cowher
10+ win seasons
Division Titles
Losing Seasons
Conference Championship
Super Bowl Record
Regular Season Record
Playoff Record

The symmetry of this chart is uncanny. Through 12 seasons, each coach enjoyed several Division titles, conference championship games, and winning seasons. Their overall records are separated by only three wins. They each even have one tie for crying out loud. Each coach came frustratingly close to the Super Bowl a number of times, and each lost their lone Super Bowl opportunity to a budding dynasty (Eagles to the 03 Patriots, Steelers to the 95 Cowboys) with their quarterback throwing 3 interceptions (McNabb, ODonnell) in that game.
Through 12 years, the two coaches are in a dead heat, but only through 12 years. Add in Cowher’s next 3 seasons, and he wins a Super Bowl, adds five more playoff victories to his resume, and retires as a genius destined for Canton. As for Andy Reid, we’ll have to wait and see.
Perhaps a similar fate awaits Andy. Perhaps his next 3 years with the Eagles will be magical. Maybe he can break through and win that Lombardi Trophy and cement his spot in the Pantheon, next to the Great Bills, (Bellichek, Cowher, and Parcells). Perhaps not.
The fact is that we will definitely get to find out. The only people who truly want Andy Reid fired are a large portion of the fan base, and a few radio hosts that have an axe to grind, or a show to fill. We all know that Jeffrey Lurie has no intention of firing Andy. After all, he has two more years on his deal, which will bring him to his 14th year. Maybe Lurie has been following this Cowher parallel all along. Maybe if he doesn’t win it in one of the next two seasons, the Eagles will finally have to turn the page and move on.  But until then, don’t waste your breath trying to fire Andy. He’s here to stay. For now.
I used to make analogies between McNabb and Steve Young, but then later I learned that he was really Drew Bledsoe. So it remains to be seen, is Andy really Bill Cowher …  just without a running game, a defense, and a Super Bowl Ring, or is he merely Jeff Fisher. Only time will tell.