Bob Ford: Reid's blow-up on sideline signals his unhappiness with Eagles' play

In a calmer moment: Andy Reid talks to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha during the Eagles' preseason victory against the Patriots on Monday.
In a calmer moment: Andy Reid talks to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha during the Eagles' preseason victory against the Patriots on Monday. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 23, 2012

It is the unavoidable nature of the situation, both for football reasons and otherwise, that Andy Reid will be under more scrutiny this season than at any time in his coaching career with the Eagles.

We can pretend otherwise and emulate his narrow focus on the day at hand, but the past is prelude for all of us, and for none more so than Reid.

The threads are interwoven between the professional and the private man, as they are in some ways for everyone who chooses a job in the public eye. Losing football games is not worth mentioning in the same breath as greater losses in one's life, but the fact is that Reid has suffered losses on the field and off.

He is a long way from the bristle-cut redhead who came to town two months shy of his 41st birthday and began directing a narrow course that was as tightly drawn as that of Ray Rhodes had been haphazardly scrawled.

After more than a dozen years of dedication to that detail and discipline, if Reid left Philadelphia today, the first line of his football resumé would note that the Eagles failed to achieve the only goal that mattered to the coach.

How the cumulative disappointments in all facets of his life have changed him is hard to know. The question mark went from soft outline to a figure carved in sharp relief during training camp, and now every gesture, every move, will be catalogued and analyzed. Reid is not on trial, but he is under intense surveillance. That much cannot escape even him.

"On the football part, I've got that focused. I'm there. I can do that," Reid said when he returned to work at training camp after the death of his son, Garrett. "I've done it once or twice, so I've got that part down."

He unquestionably has the structure of it memorized: the meeting times, the practice schedule, the neat, color-coded glyphs of the play chart that are supposed to map a careful route forward. The football part, he has that. As for the rest, everyone watches.

It was much more than a momentary snap of frustration that got played out on national television Monday night when Reid stalked to the bench area and sought out defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins during the first half against the Patriots. Watch the film and Reid did not come over to give the linemen a little hell in general as coach Jim Washburn was leaning in to talk to them. He came over to give Jenkins, specifically, a lot of hell. Reid walked in and jabbed toward Jenkins with the rolled-up play chart in his left hand, barking loudly as he did. Jenkins stood up and gave it back, it continued a few more beats, and then the two were separated.

It isn't that Reid has never shown emotion on the sideline before. He jumped DeSean Jackson hard when the receiver was in the habit of doing stupid things as he approached or entered the end zone. On occasion over the years, he has grabbed players coming off the field and given them encouragement with a pat on the rear end that would crack concrete.

"I've been fired up a few times," Reid said after Monday's game. "There have been some that equaled that or bettered that."

Maybe, and maybe it was Jenkins' reaction - the approximation of a grizzly bear having a pork chop removed from its paws - that made this flare-up seem more out of proportion than it was.

But Reid has been around long enough to know what he doesn't like, and the growing feeling is that he doesn't like what he sees from his football team. The Eagles are 2-0 in the exhibition season, and they are a disorganized mess. It is a very sloppy football team, and those do not stay undefeated once the regular season begins.

Long before the painful events of the summer, it was assumed that this season would be a demarcation for Reid's career in Philadelphia. The Eagles started last season 4-8 and showed all the same signs they are showing now. The defense in 2011 was particularly ragged in scheme and execution. (The offense was fine when it wasn't turning the ball over, which, regrettably, was never.) If this looks like more of the same to you in some ways, Reid might be in agreement.

When the team got off to that horrible start last season, Reid survived to the end, and he survived beyond, even as the owner moved past the two other major relationships - co-owner/wife and team president/best friend - in his football life. As the Eagles dragged themselves out of Seattle on Dec. 1 with that 4-8 record, you could have gotten long odds that Reid would be the only one of those relationships that remained intact nine months later.

He can continue to beat the odds, but only if the Eagles regain the ability to block and tackle without being called for personal fouls, and only if 4-8 is more like 8-4 this time around. Nothing else enters the conversation, not even the ham-handed power play attempted by Reid's agent to gain a contract extension for his client. As if.

This is not the time to concentrate on the future, after all. There is only the present to worry about, the dedicated focus to the careful work of each new day. The Eagles organization has plenty to study right in front of it, and so does everyone else. For the moment, the main object of that study will be the coach himself.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.

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