Marcus Hayes: Eagles show Reid that close counts

Jeff Fisher: No. 1 in tenure
Jeff Fisher: No. 1 in tenure
Posted: December 10, 2009

APPARENTLY, close enough is good enough.

Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner renewed their vows with Andy Reid because, they said, he's the best.

Better than Jon Gruden. Better than Tony Dungy. Better than Mike Shanahan and Mike Holmgren and Bill Cowher.

"We look at the landscape out there. If we could pick the coach we wanted, it would be Andy Reid," said Eagles puppet master Joe Banner. "You have to look at the circumstances . . . what they've achieved and what Andy's achieved over the course of their career.

"The judgment we've made was, of the people that are or could be available, the person we prefer to have as our head coach - with a singular focus, at this point . . . of winning a Super Bowl - who is that?"

Maybe that means the other guys aren't as hungry as Reid.

Maybe that means Reid has more to prove.

Regardless, this offseason's coaching corral is richer than the 1983 quarterback draft, but the Eagles are standing pat.

Well, that's not totally fair.

Like Reid, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly never won a Super Bowl, either.

Neither did Dungy, in his first stop . . . nor Gruden, nor Shanahan. It took Holmgren five seasons, but he had the best quarterback and best defensive end the league has ever seen, and Holmgren hasn't won again. It took Bill The Chin 13 seasons to deliver in Pittsburgh.

The Eagles don't think any other coach should snake away with what Reid has built.

Which is fine, and just. Reid makes them significant, and that's enough.

"You can't win a Super Bowl unless you're in line to get into the playoffs," said Lurie.

Not every owner follows that line of reasoning.

The Eagles actually referenced Dungy in their announcement of Reid's extension - Dungy, fired after the 2001 season, the fourth time in five seasons he had taken the previously moribund Buccaneers to the playoffs.

That firing lacked any sense of fairness. Cutting ties with Reid, too, after this season or next, when his previous deal expired, would be equally wrong.

Fans have a right to a competitive franchise. They have no right to be guaranteed a title every season.

Joe Torre and the moneybags Yankees couldn't do it. Bill the SuperGeniuus and his Brady Bunch can't do it. Once free agency took hold, the Cowboys and 49ers stopped doing it, too.

The Eagles referenced Jerry "Spider" Sloan, too, the non-champion Utah Jazz coach whose 22-season, Hall of Fame NBA tenure leads active pro coaches. They brought up Jeff Fisher, too, the Titans' coach the past 16 seasons who is 5-6 in playoff games, with just one, failed, Super Bowl appearance.

The Eagles like guys like that.

For anyone who rejoices over Reid's increasing fortune - at least $15 million more from 2011 to '13 - remember this: Despite Lurie's and Banner's revisionist history, and despite Lurie's and Banner's current, unfounded insistence that Reid generally is beloved by both player and fan alike, Reid could not have been less popular this time last year, when the team needed a miracle to reach the playoffs.

What if, this season, Reid doesn't make it back to the NFC Championship Game? Come late January, when those aforementioned, unemployed winners are wearing their Super Bowl rings at introductory press conferences, that rejoicing over Reid will return to the wails of a fan base suddenly shackled by "Almost Andy."

Lurie cited "stability" as a reason the Eagles chose Week 13 of this season to complete negotiations that began months ago. Considering the state of the team, stability should be a chief concern. Consider:

* Even as the brain trust insists that a team without franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb is hard to imagine, the reality is that McNabb - Reid's top project - could be gone after this season. So could franchise back Brian Westbrook, who could miss at least half of this season with injuries, mostly due to concussion issues. Reid, now stabilized, will not be gone.

Lurie wants Reid to supervise those transitions: "Those things will continue. It's part of the package, if you have Andy."

* Top assistant Jim Johnson, who died in July, bequeathed a typically rapacious defense to bright young assistant Sean McDermott, himself a Johnson/Reid creation. Where will that defense be in a year or 2, as Johnson's fingerprints fade?

* The departure of aged offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan (notably, neither acquired during Reid's ongoing tenure as general manager) has left the offensive line a continued work in progress. Line coach Juan Castillo has patched and sealed brilliantly, and McNabb has played spectacularly in spite of it, but the Stacy and Shawn Andrews Experiment is a bust. Winston Justice's development has been promising, but no real solutions are in sight.

* With safety Brian Dawkins (also not acquired by Reid) gone and with the linebacker corps undressed as thin and green, the defense has held on - barely - thanks to a Pro Bowl season from end Trent Cole, the return of (gasp) Jeremiah Trotter and the outstanding play of injured corners Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown . . . against garbage, really, the past 3 weeks.

But wins are wins, even if it took anonymous defensive tackle Antonio Dixon to preserve the first two (blocked field goal, goal-line stand).

Locking up Reid now takes away the coach-bashing banter if, for instance, the schizophrenic Elis batter the Birds on Sunday night at the Meadowlands and the Cowboys kick them around the Jerry Dome in the finale - both very real possibilities.

The Eagles know this. They also know that if the team was 6-6 instead of 8-4, that if McNabb hadn't led two uncharacteristic fourth-quarter comebacks, announcing an extension for a third-place coach this week would be PR suicide. Better to have a team in first place, possibly headed to the playoffs for the eighth time in Reid's 11 seasons.

And that's the point, really.

Under Reid's watch, the Eagles run well. They employ decent people on their field, and, mostly, off it.

He delegates to his defensive staff. While the in-game offensive coaching remains maddening, Reid and his staff plan well. Consistently, the running backs and the offensive line produce beyond their pedigree, and, lately, the young receivers have played well, too.

So celebrate this year's playoff berth, and a win, maybe two. They're in the mix.

"If you don't get very far," Lurie said, "you have no chance."

Rejoice now.

There's always late January for regret.

Send email to hayesm@phillynews.com

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