For better or worse, Eagles' Reid is stuck in his ways

Posted: January 08, 2012

Eventually, Andy Reid is going to figure out how to move aside defensive coordinator Juan Castillo without admitting he made a mistake promoting Castillo in the first place, and then Reid will invite us all to the NovaCare Complex auditorium for another of those freewheeling, give-and-take sessions he likes so much.

It could happen this week, and if the accompanying announcement includes the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo or some equally qualified candidate as coordinator, Reid will recover some of the capital he lost during a steep 2011 downturn. That might have even been a condition of his continued employment, but good luck nailing that down.

Reid is unlikely to repeat his mistake of a year ago, when he insisted Sean McDermott would return as coordinator at the very time he was finessing McDermott's transfer to the Carolina Panthers (where head coach Ron Rivera is the one who actually runs the defense).

As it turned out, keeping McDermott would have been a better idea than inventing Castillo, and Reid could have avoided the blowback from being caught in another big, fat lie. Not that it bothered him very much, if at all.

Whenever Reid does finally convene the party, and whatever message he brings, it is smart to remember that his version of the truth is always based on the convenience of the moment. "Sometimes, I have to buy some time," he said last year when he was called on the McDermott charade. No kidding.

One of the more interesting, and less contradictory, aspects of last week's public séance conducted by Jeffrey Lurie was the owner's sighing wish that Reid was just a little better at the news conference thing. He said he has talked with Reid about the problem and holds out hope that the coach can work in a little warmth between the fibs.

"I think there is an opportunity and maybe you all can be helpful," Lurie told the assembled media, "and I know I am with Andy, [who] would love it if he could create that balance of being very protective of his players . . . and at the same time maybe find ways to communicate in small groups or interviews or something like that."

Yeah, we've all got a picture of that happening, and, honestly, after 13 years it has ceased to matter. Wishing that Reid were someone else in a news conference is like wishing that your dog was better at algebra. It is a waste of time and totally beside the point. If Reid had won a Super Bowl or two during his tenure, it wouldn't matter if he threw tear gas at news conferences. And, conversely, without a championship in those 13 long years, it wouldn't matter if he were Chris Rock on stage.

Still, you can understand Lurie's frustration that the most consistent public face of the franchise is usually scrunched up into a frown and, according to the owner, is misperceived as arrogant.

"I sometimes do feel bad as an organization . . . because I don't think you're ever going to meet a head coach who's any less arrogant than Andy Reid," Lurie said.

Well, maybe so, but we'll have to take his word on that one. The real Andy Reid, whomever that might be, never shows himself because his public mission is to quickly sift each question in search of its hidden danger and then process as innocuous an answer as possible. Rinse and repeat.

Lurie is right that Reid's first priority is to protect his players and coaches and never utter anything that could be even wildly construed as a criticism. Where he is wrong, however, is accepting that trait as something admirable in a head coach.

What exactly has Reid gotten out of this bargain in which he covers up for his players and his staff? Lurie says he has gotten their loyalty and a reputation around the league as a player's coach, which can, by extension, help build a better roster. (He didn't mention this might be offset by the flint-hearted reputation of the front office, something that carries lots more weight with the average professional mercenary and his agent.)

Just as likely as helping the final product, Reid has gotten the opposite out of his natural tendency to draw tight the curtains. He has gotten a team that knows it won't be held publicly accountable for its shortcomings, and plays that way.

Maybe Reid is a drill sergeant behind closed doors, and there is some evidence to support that. But the players know they will never be openly embarrassed by the organization because of something that happened on the field.

Quantifying what that means is impossible, but when you see cornerbacks running downfield alongside ballcarriers, not tackling them exactly, but kind of being in the vicinity in case the guy, you know, drops the ball or something, then you wonder. If the coach said, "Our cornerbacks aren't tackling worth a crap, and if they don't start, we'll get some who will," would that improve the situation? It might. With this coach, however, we'll never know.

What we do know is that Reid takes care of his players, and they have taken care of him by never winning the big game. Someday, believe it or not, that might change. The news conferences won't, however, and the only thing more painful than sitting through those would be watching Reid try to do them differently.

After all, do you want a coach or a politician? Lurie wouldn't mind having both, but he went with the coach once again. Time will tell the truth about that decision, even if no one at the podium will.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns. Read his past columns at www.philly.com/bobford

 

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