Opposites attract. Subsequently, it would make sense that those with similar traits could create friction. In the case of Andy Reid and the city of Philadelphia, an argument could be made that Reid was just too Philly-like for Philly to handle.
When Reid returns to the city of brotherly love Thursday with the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s time for Philadelphia Eagles Nation to stand in appreciation of one of their own — a chance for the greatest sports community in the world to shine in the national spotlight by demonstrating the respect, passion, and class that the NFL’s most knowledgeable fan base possesses.
Inheriting Ray Rhodes’ squad that finished with the NFL’s worst record of 3-13 in 1998, Reid brought with him a philosophy he learned as an assistant under Green Bay Packers’ Mike Holmgren. Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie was said to be blown away by the thoroughness of Reid’s preparation for their interview, waxing philosophic about the intricacies of the game’s most mundane X’s and O’s.
Philly fans are gutsy. Reid is gutsy. His first major move as head coach was spurning the desires of the Delaware Valley to draft highly-touted running back Ricky Williams, instead taking Donovan McNabb with his first pick. McNabb went on to be the centerpiece of the greatest era in Eagles football, becoming the franchise’s best quarterback.
Reid is a gutsy businessman who was able to put feelings aside to do what was best for the team. Ignoring the fans’ wishes and going against the then NFL grain, Reid and former team president Joe Banner started dumping star players when they eclipsed the age of 30. Letting aging Philly legends leave town was not at all popular with the throngs of Eagles supporters, but 99 percent of those moves turned out to be correct.
Philly fans are loyal. Reid is loyal. The city’s aggressive media hammered Reid for 14 seasons about the vanilla nature of his dealings with the press. Reid constantly took the blame for all the team’s failures, never pointing a finger at one of his players. The loyalty he showed by never publicly throwing a member of his team under the bus is one of the many things that make him so popular with his players and admired as a leader.
Philly has a reputation for being a hard-working, blue collar town who appreciates nothing more than an unbridled work ethic. Reid’s work ethic is legendary; basically living at the team’s offices year-round. The many days and nights of diligent work and sleeping in his office came at the cost of his physical health and time with his family.
Sadly two of his sons, possibly rebelling against an absentee father, had several public run-ins with the law, culminating with the tragic drug overdose of his son Garrett Reid last summer. Many would have taken an extended break to mourn their son’s death; the maniacally hard-working and passionate Reid returned to coaching two and a half days after Garrett’s body was found, and just one day after the funeral.
Philly fans are stubborn and passionate. Reid’s stubbornness and passion for what he believes in drove the city nuts. While everyone screamed for him to run the football more, he was addicted to the pass. That same stubbornness is what kept Reid in Philly a couple years too long. In hindsight, Reid should have sought a fresh start at the end of the McNabb era, saving himself from two brutal seasons that diminished his Eagles legacy.
Despite his inability to bring the Eagles the Lombardi Trophy, Reid’s tenure restored pride in a franchise known mostly for failure. 14 seasons, nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five NFC Championship Games, one NFC Championship and one Super Bowl appearance. The most franchise wins, most playoff wins, best winning percentage — he was also twice named NFL Coach of the Year.
Although hired by Lurie and Banner, Reid captained the ship for the Eagles’ rebirth. Putting time management, play-calling and press conferences aside, Reid deserves a hero’s welcome from Eagles fans for being their greatest head coach ever. He did it his way, the Philly way, and it’s hard to believe anyone could have done “a better job.”