Phil Sheridan: Young Reid would have passed

Andy Reid , seen here on Friday, came to Philadelphia 10 years ago assured and armed with answers.
Andy Reid , seen here on Friday, came to Philadelphia 10 years ago assured and armed with answers.
Posted: August 16, 2009

If Andy Reid was anything when he got to Philadelphia, he was certain. The Eagles' coach was certain about how to build a team, develop a quarterback, run an offense, and discipline players who ran into trouble off the field. He was certain he could win a Super Bowl doing things his way.

Funny how much easier it is to be certain when you're young and life hasn't quite started working you over yet.

That Reid, the one whose three-ring binder was stuffed with answers to every conceivable question, would never have signed a convicted felon like Michael Vick. That Reid would never have introduced the swirl of controversy and potential for distraction into his own locker room.

That Reid selected a running back named Thomas Hamner in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. A year later, when Hamner was cited for beating his pit bull in public and failed to show up for a court appearance, Reid released him.

No second chances, no shot at redemption. Hamner's football career was over without intervention from Tony Dungy or meetings with the NFL commissioner.

That same season, 2001, Reid released defensive back Terrence Carroll after Carroll was arrested for possession of marijuana. The other players in the car with Carroll, running back Correll Buckhalter and defensive back Darrel Crutchfield, were suspended for a game. Buckhalter, the only one who went on to have a significant NFL career, also saw his playing time reduced after the incident.

How did That Reid become the Reid who introduced Vick as the newest member of the Eagles on Friday morning? Based on 10-plus years of covering the man and his teams, there seem to be three compelling factors.

The first became apparent Thursday night when Reid voluntarily brought up the travails of his sons Britt and Garrett - a topic he has gotten up and walked out of news conferences in order to avoid. Nothing will erode a man's sense of certainty about himself or about life as quickly and profoundly as serious problems with his children.

"I've seen people close to me who have had second chances and taken advantage of those," Reid said, stepping way out of his brusque news conference character. "It's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change, so we're doing that with Michael."

The second factor is that space in the Eagles' trophy case. Reid was right, for the most part, that his plan was a successful one. It is almost hard to believe that the Eagles have been as close as they've been over the last decade without actually winning a Super Bowl. But they haven't, and that cold fact has caused Reid to rethink his beliefs once or twice before.

Anyone remember Terrell Owens? Bringing in the lightning-rod wide receiver was almost as big a break from Reid's way as signing Vick.

Those two things, the struggle of his sons and the inability to deliver that Super Bowl title, delivered enormous blows to Reid's younger certainty. You wonder if he ever contemplated how Thomas Hamner's family felt or whether Terrence Carroll would have developed into a player if given that second chance. And once the issue of character becomes fuzzy, it isn't so simple to be sure which players will help you win and which will hurt your team.

The third factor might seem like a contradiction, but it really isn't. Reid may not be as certain as he once was, but he's still very confident in his abilities. There would be enormous satisfaction in being the coach who harnessed Vick's mercurial talents while simultaneously aiding him in his personal redemption.

"I think it's a combination of both," Reid said yesterday before Vick's first practice. "I've always told you, these are people first. I think the part of the rehabilitation of the person is a work in progress . . . the confidence that he's going to do the right thing. And then the other side of it is the football side."

The risk, of course, is that chasing this lofty goal winds up alienating fans and ruining a team that could contend for a championship without Vick. That outcome would have to put Reid on the firing line.

"I think the nature of this decision, all of us have put ourselves on the line and will be subject to legitimate skepticism, questions and doubt if we end up being wrong," Eagles president Joe Banner said. "Which is why we researched this so thoroughly and felt like we made a very educated decision and took a risk. We're not in denial that we took a risk in doing that."

There will be some reward if Vick really does become the passionate advocate for animal rights that he says he'll be. But the only way this move really looks good for Reid is if Vick is a changed man and a contributor to that long-awaited championship. Hoist a Lombardi Trophy and most, if not all, will be forgiven.

Of that, at least, you can be certain.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan

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