You’re not from around here, are you? I can tell.
Everybody is talking about Andy right now. We’ve been kind of hard on him, we’ve always been. And if you’re not from around here, then that doesn’t make sense to you.
He took us to the Super Bowl, right? And a bunch of playoff wins. Never happened before. And you can’t watch a pregame show right now without hearing from someone how we never appreciated him, and how it will be so much better somewhere else for him.
We had it bad. The Ray Rhodes era was tough. Buddy’s Boys never got as far as we thought they should have. Before that, there was Dick Vermeil. Before that… the 1960 Championship team. Man, those were lean years at times.
But there’s something you don’t get.
Cities have a personality, an identity. And ideally, their sports teams match the cities temperament. Detroit is going through a tough time, has been for years. And they’ve got a tough team, a team that bruises you at the line of scrimmage, a team that makes you pay for every throw. They hit late, they kick, they taunt, and no one in Detroit holds it against them. New England has a perfect team for their area, a phlegmatic, cerebral, (white), highly disciplined team that downloads teams, makes adjustments and then systematically takes opponents apart. Perfect for the team that represents Harvard and MIT.
This is Philly. The median income is 16 grand less than the national average. You might think times are tough right now, but we KNOW they are. In the last couple decades, jobs fled, crime went up. Just making it became a badge of honor.
We had a team just like us.
They were Buddy’s boys. Everyone was terrified of them. The defense wasn’t all Buddy either, the architect of the Steel Curtain, Bud Carson worked with him to create one of the most terrifying defenses ever made. So did Titans coach Jeff Fisher. We might win. We might lose. But you didn’t walk out of a game with Buddy’s Boys. You crawled and prayed you never had to see them again.
You had to try to stop Jerome Brown (you couldn’t) and Mike Golic up the middle. Reggie White and Clyde Simmons were on the outside. Seth Joyner and Andre Waters were there to punish you. Eric Allen was the elite cover guy. Everyone was a pro, Wes Hopkins, Bryon Evens, Bill Romanowski, William Thomas, Otis Smith, Mike Pitts, it just went on.
Andy came from Green Bay. We knew things weren’t going to be the same. We just wanted to win. But in the back of our head, we still wanted everyone to be afraid.
The guy was smart, there was no doubt of that. He looked like a winner. We weren’t crazy about McNabb, we wanted a franchise back, but we rolled with it. In the end, we still had some of what we wanted. We had defensive coach Jim Johnson, and he wasn’t the kind of guy to go out with any bullets in his gun. We had Brian Dawkins. We had Jeremiah Trotter, and Tim Hauck, and a few good years out of Corey Simon.
We. Had. Brian. Dawkins.
Andy was kind of cocky, and some guys on the team got like that too. It was a little weird but you could endure it. Andy was one of those guys that really thought he was smarter than the average bear. He did little things and you got the feeling that he was doing them just to show that he could make it work. He made defensive tackles fullbacks, offensive line coaches defensive coaches, stuff like that.
He didn’t like to run. Running doesn’t make people think you’re brilliant, and he wanted people to know how clever he was. Even though he had been an offensive lineman, he didn’t want to run. But running in football is like throwing a body punch. Everybody wants that knockout, but sometimes to get your guy to drop his hands, you have to pound him in the ribs, slow him down, make him hurt. That wasn’t Andy. But it was Philadelphia.
You kept thinking it would change. When he got the Big Nasty, Jon Runyan from the Titans, we figured it was on. Then he made him mostly pass block for the rest of his career. Andy likes big lineman, especially tackles, but he won’t run, so the big guy has to bend over all the time. It doesn’t work too well.
Andy was a great planner, but he wasn’t good at halftime adjustments or managing the clock. When it was time for the split second decision, he often looked frozen, conflicted. Again, it was something you could get past if you had the players.
Eventually he got them. And it was success that killed Andy Reid. The Eagles got Terrell Owens and they were unstoppable. We had the quarterback that just wanted to throw deep and the receiver that just wanted the ball deep. We finally mattered. We were winners. Everyone was talking about us.
And then it was all gone.
As it turns out, Andy hadn’t taught his quarterback the no-huddle. The team still can’t run it. The New England Patriots were on the ropes, and we couldn’t do anything. No one moved with any urgency. Our quarterback puked and then said he didn’t. Our receivers cramped up, or disappeared aside from Owens who pressed on with a broken leg, confused by what was happening around him.
It got worse. Owens had a peculiar contract that plummeted his salary in the second year and then raised it in the third. Being the sort of person who really didn’t think ahead, he complained about it. The Eagles stubbornly stuck to their guns. McNabb stayed out of it, like he did anything that involved anyone but himself. Owens began to throw a tantrum.
Someone should have stepped up. Andy or Banner should have just kept the money over two years and just split it differently. McNabb should have taken control of the locker room. We wanted him to be a man, grab Owens by the facemask and get him in line, but he ran to management, because Andy had coddled him his entire career. And then it was all over, and we weren’t at the top anymore and there was no reason why any of it should have happened. We just had to trust Andy.
And Andy hadn’t learned. His stubbornness and cockiness kept him from improving. He still couldn’t manage time. He wouldn’t run. McNabb was just like him, a Pro Bowl quarterback that couldn’t throw a short pass, and refused to get better at his job.
We started losing guys. Joe Banner and Andy Reid didn’t believe in older players, even ones that could play. We lost leadership, toughness. We hoped it would work out, but it was uneasy watching Derrick Burgess move on and become a sack machine.
Jim Johnson passed away. Without Johnson, things came apart quick. Reid no longer had that defense he could rely on to bail him out of bad spots. No one was afraid of us. And then, for some Godawful reason, they let Brian Dawkins go, in one of the lousiest, low-down moves a team has ever done to its fans. He was 30 or so, and there was a chart that said he wasn’t good enough anymore. A chart.
We’re from Philly. We’re tough and we know football, and every week we had to hear how tough Pittsburgh was, or how aggressive Green Bay was, or even at times the Cardinals (!). Bill Cowher was out there. So was Jon Gruden. (So is Sean Payton, methinks.) But we couldn’t have them. We had Andy. Andy and his condescending press conferences where we knew he wasn’t ever going to learn from his mistakes or be any better than he was now. Why should he? He was smart, and it was us that didn’t get him.
Last year, he had a top quarterback (at the time), a loaded roster and a nice division. But because Joe Banner brought in some guys, Andy sulked and wouldn’t play them. The city that didn’t have a big back for years had former All-Pro Ronnie Brown ride the pine all season. Andy also decided that linebackers weren’t important (he’s always felt that way) and that instead of hiring, say, Mike Singletary to run his defense, he would have his offensive line coach do it. When it flopped he got bailed out again. He learned nothing.
He’s not a bad guy. And he’s lost his son. Andy shouldn’t have coached this season, he should gone the Tony Dungy route and just took some time to himself. Grief is sneaky like that. You would think that it dissipates over time, and that every day is a little better. But it doesn’t work like that. But it ambushes you, it sneaks you months later, when you’re not ready. Grief is a nag.
Maybe he thought he could just lose himself in the game, but there comes a point where there’s a guy in forest green tights running on a field holding a leather bladder in the middle of winter and none of it means anything because your son is dead. To me, that’s where Andy Reid is right now.
Its a cheap shot to fire a man in this spot. And I suppose its cruel of us to think about football. Reid’s family has contributed a lot to the community. Even now, his wife still dedicates herself to charity work for people she knows despise her husband. That takes real heart. But Andy Reid and Philadelphia were a tough marriage to keep together, and it doesn’t look like anyone is willing to try anymore.