Don't be fooled - Reid and Eagles have a plan

Andy Reid's staff changes are a major departure from the norm.
Andy Reid's staff changes are a major departure from the norm.
Posted: January 28, 2011

If the Eagles don't know exactly who their new defensive coordinator will be, they have a very good idea.

There. Feel better?

It is fun and easy - especially easy - to portray the Eagles' hiring process as a series of slapstick blunders. Nature and the media abhor a vacuum, and the team has left an informational vacuum since firing Sean McDermott earlier this month. But there is no logical basis for this widespread fallacy that Andy Reid is not working from a plan.

This is Andy Reid we're talking about. If anything, he has been guilty of sticking too close to his plans. The idea that he suddenly would become careless and slapdash with his most important hire in 12 years is patently absurd.

Reid was on vacation when the Eagles hired Jim Washburn, who is widely considered an elite defensive line coach. That alone should tell you that Reid was working during his break and that he would have hired a coordinator if the guy he really wanted was available.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Eagles have targeted Green Bay defensive line coach Mike Trgovac. They can neither interview Trgovac nor identify him publicly without violating league protocol and risking a fine for tampering. What they can do - and what is done all the time in the NFL - is make sure he knows, through an agent or other intermediary, that the job is his once the Super Bowl is over. The agent or intermediary then gives the Eagles the thumbs-up that all is well.

It is not that complicated. It goes on all the time. And Trgovac, or Winston Moss, or whomever wouldn't dream of jeopardizing his players' focus on the Super Bowl by discussing this stuff until the game is over.

And then there is Dave McGinnis, suddenly available now that Jeff Fisher is out as head coach of the Tennessee Titans.

Rest assured, this is a very desirable job. Six of Reid's assistants have become head coaches in the NFL. Do you honestly think a qualified assistant coach with ambition wouldn't want to be part of that?

Besides, there are more interesting things going on here.

This purge of the defensive staff represents a major change in the way Reid has conducted business since he was hired as the Eagles' head coach in 1999. Back then, he was seen as a bit of a risk for assistant coaches. He was able to land Jim Johnson and Rod Dowhower as his coordinators because both were older and already had contemplated retirement. If Reid was a failure, they'd at least get three or four more years in the league. Dowhower retired in 2002. Johnson had the most successful years of his distinguished career.

Reid retained John Harbaugh, Juan Castillo, McDermott, and Ted Williams from Ray Rhodes' staff. The rest of his hires - Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Brad Childress, Steve Spagnuolo, and David Culley - look pretty good from this perspective.

As that staff grew and moved upward and onward, Reid tended to promote from within when possible and step outside the organization only when necessary (Marty Mornhinweg is a bit of an anomaly, a good friend of Reid's who needed a place to land after being fired as head coach of the Lions).

In a way, the most telling transaction of the month was the dismissal of linebackers coach Bill Shuey. Most fans know as little about Shuey as they did about McDermott before he became the coordinator. Shuey started with the team as Reid's personal assistant and served as a low-level assistant on both offense and defense before being promoted to linebackers coach.

He was on a classic career track for a Reid assistant. So the decision not to renew his contract marks a signal change in Reid's approach.

It has been suggested here before that the Eagles need to let the occasional outside voice be heard inside the echo chamber that is the NovaCare Complex. This new defensive coordinator, along with Washburn and any other new hires, will be the highest-level outsider brought into Reid's sphere since 1999.

That means fresh eyes assessing the talent level of the defensive players, fresh opinions on which should stay or go, and fresh ideas on how to deploy them. It is the most important hire Reid has had to make since he landed Johnson. Considering the stakes - the clock is ticking on Reid's tenure, he has a championship-caliber offense and a burning need for a comparable defense - he needs to make a hire just as good as that one.

If you really think Reid hasn't given careful thought and planning to a decision as vital as this one, you haven't been paying close attention. For sure, it will make sense once the Super Bowl is over and the new coordinator is announced. But really, it all makes sense right now.


Follow columnist Phil Sheridan on Twitter: @SheridanScribe. Read his blog at http:// go.philly.com/philabuster or his recent columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

 

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