The scene played out in all of its nationally televised glory, about 20 seconds of fire. The Patriots had just taken an 11-0 lead over the Eagles. On the extra point, an Eagles penalty for an illegal substitution gave the Pats an opportunity to take the ball on the 1-yard line and go for a two-point conversion. The Eagles hurriedly changed their personnel, and the Pats ran their play and converted.
After the play, Reid came over and angrily shouted in the direction of a group of defensive linemen who were sitting on the bench, listening to defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Quickly, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins stood up and got in Reid's face.
Reid continued on, even more angrily, that massive mustache of his bouncing wildly in the night. Jenkins shouted right back at him.
After a few seconds, Washburn wedged himself between the player and the head coach, and then teammate Derek Landri put an arm around Jenkins and waltzed him away from the scene. After that, Reid continued to yell at Washburn for a few more seconds before stalking away.
Later on in the first half, Reid and Jenkins were seen having a more civil discussion on the sideline. Any notion that this could be a long-lasting issue would appear to be false. The truth is that arguments happen on NFL sidelines all the time and are forgotten as quickly as the shouted words evaporate into the ether.
The fascinating part is not the substance but the style. In his 14th season on the Eagles' sideline, this might have been Reid's most angrily emphatic outburst (even if he says there have been others).
"It's an emotional game - he was fired up, I was fired up," Reid said. "Those things happen. Cullen is my primary leader on that defensive line. I count on him for a lot of things. He was upset and I was upset. We talked about it afterwards . . .
"Look: I put a lot of responsibility on our defensive line. I put a lot of responsibility on our offensive line. I didn't think, necessarily, that this was either one of their best performances. They picked it up after that point. I thought they took charge, the way that they're very capable of doing."
For his part, Jenkins said Reid was right, that he was just trying to get people to work toward perfection. There was no evidence of hard feelings.
"It's football," Jenkins said. "Football causes that. If you're out there playing, you've got to be emotional. It was nothing . . .
"He comes at you. He wants to get the best out of you. He wants to make sure you're focused and the right stuff is going on, that's all. You have to respect that and you can't fault that as players. Obviously, that's the not the way I should have handled it, but you just get emotional. You want to play hard and the team to do well."
There was a time - really, for about his first eight or nine seasons as head coach - when you pretty much never saw Reid yell at anybody. It seemed a part of the cool-under-fire demeanor he favored most. He always told his players that he wanted them to show their personalities on the field, and this is how the coach showed his: by burying his nose in his play chart and trying to dial up something smart. He always said that he had a temper - he joked in the past, and Monday night again, that it went with the red hair - but he never showed it in public.
But the last time Reid fired himself as the offensive play-caller, handing over the responsibilities to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for good, did result in a change. Not being saddled with the play-calling allowed Reid to be more of a big-picture game coach. Mostly, the result was more back-patting and whispered instructions and emphatic exhortations.
You will see him yell these days, occasionally. Ninety percent of the time, though, it is at an official. The rest of the time, it is more anger at a situation than an individual - and whoever happens to be standing next to him gets to listen, and it is usually a coach. Very occasionally, Reid will yell at somebody as they are coming off of the field, but it is a quick burst and passes just that quickly. This was different.
The amateur psychologists in the audience will prepare their diagnoses and present their findings. I am not going there. The likely truth is that the team looked terrible at that point, and that whole two-point conversion thing looked ragged, and the coach came over to blow off some steam, and nobody would have noticed if Jenkins had just sat there and taken it like pretty much every football player in the history of the sports has been taught to do.
Only when Jenkins stood up and fired back did the situation escalate. When confronted by one of his players, Reid responded with angry fury. He has spent the last decade and a half being his players' public protector, sometimes infuriatingly so. This, caught by the ESPN cameras, was so much different.
Two final observations:
1) It seemed real.
2) Philadelphia likes real.
Contact Rich Hofmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.