Bob Ford: Andy Reid has a booster in Phillies' dugout

Andy Reid traded text messages often with Manuel during the Phillies' season.
Andy Reid traded text messages often with Manuel during the Phillies' season.
Posted: January 23, 2009

It took Charlie Manuel until the age of 64 to manage a team to the World Series championship, so if you look at it that way, Andy Reid has 13 more years to get the job done. Although perhaps you don't.

The comparison between Manuel, who became a lot smarter when the Phillies beat Tampa Bay in the World Series, and Reid, who became dumber when the Eagles lost in the conference championship game against Arizona, is an interesting one.

That Manuel, who has been parodied and pilloried for most of his term as manager, would be the one to bring a championship to the city, is amazing. That Reid, the careful planner and steady workaholic, would suffer the pain of merely coming close, might be even more amazing.

Which would you have bet on a couple of years ago? Which would you bet on getting the next championship?

If the answer is "Reid" to both questions, you aren't alone. Indeed, Manuel, who knows how elusive and capricious ultimate victory can be, might agree with you.

"Some given days, things don't go your way, and you lose. There's not a whole lot you can do about it," Manuel said this week. "Andy Reid's a good coach. I keep up with him. He did a big job this year, coming back like they did and putting together a solid season."

Reid and Manuel became text-messaging buddies during the baseball season when Reid would congratulate Manuel on the wins and tell him to hang in there during the bad stretches. It's a little hard to imagine these guys texting each other. They've got those big, beefy fingers and everything, but apparently it's true.

"He started texting me, win or lose," Manuel said. "When we played good, he got real excited about it. He invited me to come over during the week, especially on Friday, to eat lunch with them. It never worked out that I was in town, but I thought I might be over there this week to see them."

That obviously didn't work out. There isn't any practice, and the lunch room is a lot quieter. Manuel hasn't gotten in touch with Reid since the Eagles' loss. He's biding his time on that one.

"I haven't sent a message yet," Manuel said. "I thought I'd let things settle down a little bit."

Manuel knows his football. When he played for the Minnesota Twins, he became friends with Vikings coach Bud Grant, the man who enjoyed the thrill of taking four teams to the Super Bowl - including three in four seasons - and the agony of losing every time. None of the losses was by fewer than 10 points, which probably didn't make those afternoons any easier to take.

Grant would leave a pass, and Manuel would stand in the end zone at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington and watch the regular-season games. His favorite football coach was Woody Hayes, but he liked Bud Grant right well, too.

"I went to every game they played. I got to know Bud, and we'd talk some," Manuel said. "Watching Bud Grant is like watching Andy. He's definitely no-nonsense, a very strict disciplinarian. Bud wasn't loud, wouldn't make a scene, but he definitely took care of things."

Getting in position to win is a lot harder than actually winning a championship. The rest is a combination of skill and luck, the way Manuel sees it. Thirty major-league teams and 32 NFL teams try to reach the round in which they play for a spot in either the World Series or the Super Bowl. Both the Phillies and the Eagles got that far this past season. It just happened that the Phillies kept going.

"Luck does count in these things, in football and in baseball, but I'm also a big believer that if you play the best, you get the luckiest," Manuel said. "Andy thinks the way I do. He has one focus. He wants to go straight ahead and not look back. But I'm sure he takes it hard. I know when we got swept by Colorado (in 2007), I lived with that for quite a while. So I know how he feels, but he'll bounce back."

Manuel had to do a lot of bouncing back in his career. He was a marginal player in the major leagues, enjoyed a nice stint in Japan, and then worked his way up through the minor leagues as a scout, coach and manager before getting back to the bigs. It didn't work out for him as a manager in Cleveland and didn't look too promising in Philadelphia for a while, either. He made it, though, and he says he thinks Andy Reid will do the same with the Eagles.

"He'll be a winner as long as he's in the game. That's how good I think he is," Manuel said. "I think he'll get there. I think their time is coming."

Easy for him to say.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.

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