John Smallwood: Eagles coach Andy Reid keeps it real on radio

Posted: May 13, 2008

IT'S NOT THE job of Eagles coach Andy Reid to make the job of the media easier.

Conversely, it's not our job to make his job the information-controlled Shangri-La most coaches are seeking.

The media is not here to serve as the Eagles' mouthpiece, to put a positive spin on everything that comes out of the NovaCare Complex.

That's what Dave Spadaro and the other members of the official Web site of the Philadelphia Eagles are for.

The relationships between the media and the subjects it covers must remain adversarial.

Newsmakers generally want the story to get out in a manner that most suits them, while the media will follow the story wherever it goes regardless.

That's bound to create certain levels of tension and discourse.

Of course, those levels are largely a function of the individuals involved.

The level of respect, trust and understanding all play a role in the tenor of interaction in inherently adversarial relationships.

Reid and the media are never going to have a perfectly harmonious relationship. That is a given.

The media are trying to get as much information as possible while Reid is trying to reveal as little as necessary.

Under those rules of play, heads are frequently going to butt.

Still, the relationship doesn't have to be as acrimonious as it has been.

Frankly, if Reid would interact with the beat writers and columnists who regularly cover his team the way he did yesterday morning on WIP, he wouldn't have nearly as many issues with the Philadelphia media as he does.

During a question-and-answer session with Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Crew, Reid was as responsive and open as I've heard him in his 10 years in Philadelphia.

The coach didn't reveal any great secrets, break any stunning news or betray any trusts.

He just answered questions, many of which could be considered combative, in an informative and direct manner.

It was one of those rare occasions when Reid actually explained the decisions he made and why he believes they are the right ones for this organization.

For a change, he actually made you feel as if he deemed you worthy of knowing his thoughts.

That's light years away from how Reid normally interacts with the media.

Most of the time, getting Reid to say anything useful is like trying to extract his wisdom teeth.

"I give [the media] what they need to do their job," Reid said.

He doesn't - at least a large majority of the time.

Most of the people who sit in Reid's media sessions will tell you that not only does the coach specialize in saying nothing, he uses as few words as possible while telling you nothing.

Reid generally answers questions as if he's on a pitch count for words uttered. He often appears pious and degrading of those asking questions.

Some people couldn't care less how Reid deals with the media, except we are still the conduit of uncensored information between the team and fans.

It is certainly Reid's prerogative to interact with the media in the manner he does, but when you do, you really don't have much room later on to complain about the way things are being presented.

At the end of the Eagles' recent minicamp, Reid got on the media for looking for negative stories instead of positive ones.

There were two major stories coming into the minicamp - the potential trade of cornerback Lito Sheppard and how quarterback Donovan McNabb would respond to the offseason acquisitions after ending last season by asking for playmakers.

Reid's minicamp response to a question about Sheppard: "I'm not going to get into all that."

And to a question about McNabb's thoughts to him about the acquisitions: "I didn't get into all that with him."

Did Reid actually believe that if he told the media, "That's for me to know and you to find out," we wouldn't try to find out?

In reality, Reid extended the shelf life of both stories by giving vague answers that challenged reporters to look for more information.

That has been the coach's modus operandi since he took the job - often with even the most innocuous questions.

What Reid's interview on WIP showed was that he could certainly be more engaging with the media, if he chose to be. He makes a conscious decision not to be.

Because of the nature of the differing agendas, Reid and the media are never going to be on the same page about everything.

We are trying to get more information while he is trying to give as little as possible.

Still, in this situation, the relationship between the coach and the media is a bit more tense and acrimonious than it needs to be. That's a choice Andy Reid has made. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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