Sam Donnellon: Eagles coach Andy Reid showing a more forthcoming side

Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins prepare to block as Michael Vick awaits snap against Cleveland.
Todd Herremans, Danny Watkins prepare to block as Michael Vick awaits snap against Cleveland. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 12, 2012

ONCE WHEN Jim Fregosi managed the Phillies, a colleague was sent to cover a weekend series in Montreal. Fregosi liked to give the business to any new face, and he did, but after he was done the unflustered reporter looked him in the eye and said, "Abuse me all you want, I'm only here for the weekend."

He knew, as any good reporter does, that he was more likely to get something he could use from that type of an exchange than the monotone, unenlightening ones characteristic of the Andy Reid era in this town, especially over the last few trying seasons.

Reid has tried to improve that since the end of last season, and those who are around this team daily say it has been noticeable. But what would happen at the first sign of trouble, which Sunday's 17-16 victory over the Browns clearly was? Would it be monotone man or the new, improved version?

It was both. Reid spoke Monday for 20 minutes, beginning with the standard rundown of injuries, but quickly rolling into a lengthy, frank assessment of what occurred, employing "ridiculous'' not once, but twice.

He still used all his familiar clich├ęs and he didn't name names - that will never be him - but at various times he criticized his offensive line, his receivers, the quarterback and the coaching.

He also made a better attempt to answer questions than he has in recent seasons. The most interesting example of that could be found in the discussion of Michael Vick's penchant to get hit.

And hit. And hit.

"Well, in the pocket, I wouldn't say he gets hit more than the other quarterbacks,'' Reid said. "Now, I'm not going around studying. I'm not sitting here with numbers for you on the other quarterbacks. Maybe you've got the numbers, but I know quarterbacks are taking hits within the pocket there."

They are. But not nearly as much as his guy. Vick gets hit plenty more times than the average in the NFL and, although Sunday's official NFL stats confirm this, you really don't need it quantified. It's there, week after harrowing week. You wonder, in the cocoon world of NFL coaching, if Reid and his men really don't look around the league and see what's happening each week, if they really do just focus on the team they are playing next.

It's not just that Vick holds it a little longer than most quarterbacks. Or that the Eagles' offensive line seems to be one of those construction sites that never gets completed. It's that Andy's playbook is filled with plays designed for five Mississippis as compared to three Mississippis.

And he will run them on most Sundays regardless of circumstance or score.

Reid often talks about such play-calling as being aggressive, but as any heavyweight sniffing smelling salts in the losing corner will tell you, foolish aggressiveness can get you knocked out.

To those who keep harping about Vick's poor 2011, I will keep harping on the number of times he was hit early in that season. Like a pitcher with a bad defense behind him, or a goalie with a bad defense in front of him, there is a tendency to play out of character after a while, to try to do too much.

So thank heavens it was the Cleveland Browns and thank heavens they started 28-year-old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the former single A pitcher who finished with a passer rating that was roughly the same as his minor league earned run average.

There's your silver lining, by the way. Given the ineptitude and errors of the offense in Cleveland, what Juan Castillo's defense was able to accomplish flips the concerns for this Sunday's game against the Ravens upside down. If Cleveland's defense created five turnovers and nearly a sixth (I'm with Pat Shurmur; I thought Vick regained that fourth-quarter fumble after both players were down), imagine what its old team might do at the Linc.

And if you watched Sunday's game in any bar in the Delaware Valley, imagine how happy everyone will be to see that.

That was sarcasm, by the way, which amid his more friendly and expansive tone, seeped into the new Andy's first regular-season Monday press conference a few times.

Like my friend in Montreal, I'm not complaining. Abuse me all you want if it means I get a better response than, "We've got to do a better job there.''

Still, it was clear that Reid was trying, and that's all anybody's really asking. In Season 14, after the recurring themes that have accompanied all the near-misses and disappointments - pass-happy offenses, elastic defenses, game management, time management - Reid is trying something new.

It's only Week 1, and there are sure to be more trying times ahead, starting with the Baltimore game.

But as new beginnings go, it was a hopeful one.


Contact Sam Donnellon at donnels@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @samdonnellon. For recent columns, go to philly.com/SamDonnellon.

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