John Smallwood: Time to dial down Eagles coach Andy Reid's duties

Eagles coach Andy Reid yells out to an official in the second half of NFC title game.
Eagles coach Andy Reid yells out to an official in the second half of NFC title game.
Posted: January 19, 2009

GLENDALE, Ariz. - You can look at the glass as half-full if you want.

After all, it did require a significant amount of intestinal fortitude for the Eagles to crawl out of the hole of a wasted season and make it to the NFC Championship Game.

There's something to be said for a team that can go from 5-5-1 to within a game of the Super Bowl.

Still, haven't we been down this road four times before?

While it would be ridiculous to dismiss the fact that the Eagles have played in five NFC Championship Games in eight seasons, it would be just as silly to ignore the fact that with yesterday's 32-25 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, they are now 1-4 in those games.

And even in the season they reached the Super Bowl, they lost to the New England Patriots.

My glass has tipped over.

I know how a seven-point loss at Arizona is going to be spun. The outcome was just close enough for the Eagles to make the argument to maintain the status quo.

They were one of the Final Four, they were a blown coverage here, a missed play there from the Super Bowl.

Next time, they will get the break and things will be different.

But we've been down this road before.

I already modified the argument I made in November that Andy Reid should be fired as coach, once the Eagles made the playoffs. You certainly don't punish a coach for advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

I will, however, repeat what I said after that tie in Cincinnati: Reid, as long as he is in complete control of football operations, will not bring a Super Bowl championship to Philadelphia.

After a 10th season, and a fourth loss in an NFC Championship Game, it is clear that this is as good as it's going to get.

"This year is different from others," Reid said when asked about his team sputtering a game short of the Super Bowl for the fourth time in his 10 seasons. "They're all different.

"We've been over the hump and into the Super Bowl. If this is what you consider the hump, we didn't do it this time."

It is not what I consider the hump.

The hump is hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, signifying that your team is champion of the NFL. And that's why there still needs to be a major change in the power structure of the Eagles.

We know how far Reid, as grand poobah of football operations, can take this - losses to St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Carolina and now, Arizona, in the NFC Championship Game; a loss to the Patriots in Super XXXIX.

That's nothing to look down on. It could be worse. The Eagles could be the Bengals or Arizona Cardinals . . . oops, scratch the Cardinals from the list of habitual losers.

But with Reid being the head coach and having control over player personnel, the table is set completely from his perspective.

That's not a good thing.

The problem with losing the Championship Game by seven is that it provides a pretty good window-dressing for 9-6-1 and getting into the playoffs by the skin of your teeth. But 9-6-1 and getting into the playoffs by the grace of fortune should not be overlooked.

The Eagles organization will look at this season as a testament to its perseverance, its willingness to fight when counted out. But it also highlighted some of the graphic problems that it has never adequately addressed.

This game against Arizona played out like the entire season.

The Eagles trail 24-6, but then rally to take a 25-24 lead before losing. It was sort of like being 5-5-1, then winning four of five to miraculously reach the playoffs, and then winning at Minnesota and at New York.

On the surface, it may not look that bad; the reality is that the hole the Eagles dug for themselves ultimately cost them.

Who thinks Arizona wins this game had it been played at Lincoln Financial Field?

Who thinks this ending might have been a little different if the Eagles didn't have to overcome an 18-point deficit just to get back into the game?

More importantly, who in the Eagles organization has the clout and/or guts to point that out to Reid?

More than anything, the Eagles need someone who can look at this organization from a fresh view, and say, "This, this and this must change," and, "This, this and this can stay the same."

If Eagles CEO Jeffrey Lurie and president Joe Banner want to keep Reid as head coach, you can't argue that because the guy has been very successful. But he needs some checks and balances.

He needs a strong general manager with the power to say, "No, we are not going to trade our first-round pick two seasons in a row," or, "Yes, it is a good idea to pay for a game-altering wide receiver."

After a decade of Reid, the Eagles have become stale; not bad, just stale.

In some sense, that's worse than being bad because the Birds are always just good enough to convince themselves that they aren't that far away.

The reality, however, is that this is not a championship-winning program. It will not become one until something changes. *

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