Where will Eagles' Reid go from here?

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Reid figures to coach again somewhere, and maybe next season.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Reid figures to coach again somewhere, and maybe next season.
Posted: November 23, 2012

ANDY REID will coach again. Will it be in 2013? That's probably going to be up to Reid. Given his deliberate, one-step-at-a-time approach to things, he probably doesn't know yet whether that is what he wants. I wouldn't be surprised if Reid took a year to reassess, once Jeffrey Lurie finally pulls the plug, presumably a day or 2 after the Dec. 30 season finale.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Reid willing to jump right back in, not for just any old job, but for one that really appealed to him. (The Cowboys! Wouldn't that be fun? But Andy and Jerry seem an unlikely pairing.)

There's a question, though, of just how attractive a coaching candidate Reid will be, what sort of choice he will have. It's a much bigger question than it would have been 2 years ago, or even last year.

Yes, he has coached in and won more games than anyone in the history of this franchise. Yes, going into this season, he was the NFL's longest-tenured coach, with notches for six division titles and five appearances in the NFC Championship Game carved in his sturdy belt. Guys with those numbers don't hit the market real often.

But I think the rest of the league pretty much expected the Eagles to contend this year, just as we did, and a couple of big injuries on the offensive line don't completely explain what happened here, any more than the lockout really explained what happened to the 2011 team.

By the time Joe Banner's departure was announced in June, it was clear Reid was being given every chance to show he deserved another contract. Every player in line for a long-term deal - and even some who might not have been in line - got one. The coaching staff and Vick enjoyed a full, uninterrupted offseason of preparation. And the team tanked, horrifically.

It's one thing for broadcasters to toss bouquets about Reid's winning percentage, which ranked 10th all-time going into 2012, during national telecasts. Potential employers tend to take a less gauzy look. Andy last won a playoff game following the 2008 season. Since then he has made a series of disastrous moves: Sean McDermott. Juan Castillo. Basing his future on the illusory 2010 Michael Vick turnaround. Installing the wide-nine and Jim Washburn before he had a defensive coordinator. Getting rid of all his offensive-line depth because the players weren't ideally suited to the quirky Howard Mudd system. Firing Castillo during the bye week and asking Todd Bowles to run Castillo's defense.

I think Andy's reputation as a quarterback whisperer took a hit when Vick went back to being Vick in 2011. It didn't help him any that Kevin Kolb, the QB Reid spent years grooming to replace Donovan McNabb, has not proved himself a solid NFL starter in Arizona. If Nick Foles plays the rest of this season and doesn't look like anything special, I wonder if Andy starts looking like a relic.

The NFL tends to be all about the next new thing, not what somebody once did someplace a while back. The West Coast offense is no longer this hot, new concept and Andy is no longer riding that crest.

Embattled Carolina coach Ron Rivera was a member of the star-spangled original Reid staff back in 1999, when Andy the Green Bay quarterback coach knew all the cool young dudes and wasn't trying to lure assistants out of retirement, the way he did 2 years ago with Mudd. Rivera spoke to Philadelphia reporters on a conference call Wednesday. Asked what he recalled from that staff, Rivera said: "A bunch of young guys . . . [Reid] did a great job putting together that first staff."

Rivera also said recently that if he were to stay anywhere longer than 8 years - which, frankly, doesn't look like it's going to be a problem in Carolina, with the team 2-8 in Rivera's second season - he would seek to "reinvent" himself, possibly move on, to freshen the message. Rivera hastened to clarify Wednesday that was just how he felt, that he would not presume to advise Reid.

I can see Andy being attractive to an owner who needs to bring order from chaos, whose team is stuck at the bottom with no structure and no hope. I can't see a team that thinks it is close to winning thinking Andy is going to put the organization over the top.

"Coach is a professional," said Rivera, who left the Eagles' linebacking coach position in 2004 to become defensive coordinator in Chicago. "He is, in every facet, the CEO of a major corporation. He understands that, and he runs it like one, in my opinion. He makes decisions on what's best for the organization . . . It's really interesting to watch how he handles things. The one thing he is is, he's been steady like a rock through everything, the tough times . . . When you talk to him, he always makes it about you: 'How are you doing? Are you hanging in there? If you need anything, let me know?' "

As his kingdom has crumbled around him, Reid has refused to do any public reflecting or speculating, to lift his gaze beyond the game right in front of him.

"I know other people go there [with speculation]. I understand that," Reid said this week. "I'm trying to get the team better. That's what I'm trying to do, that's where my energy is."

I wonder if he will be a different man in another city, if Reid might embrace an opportunity to reinvent himself. I wonder if we will learn, someday down the road, that Andy disagreed with this or wouldn't have done that, had he really had the final, final say in all matters. (I doubt we will. If there is a man in the NFL who doesn't whisper or gossip to anybody at any time, it is Andy Reid.)

I also wonder what Reid's legacy here will be. Right now there is vitriol, but will that always be the case? In 10 years, will people look back on the Andy era with nostalgia, the way they do now with Buddy Ryan? Will he keep ties to the area? The Reids buried their eldest son here in August. Fourteen years is a large chunk of anyone's life.

What happens next could affect all that. If Andy were to go somewhere else and win it all, that would surely sharpen the sting for Eagles fans. If the Eagles were to win the Super Bowl without him in a year or 2 or 5, that might soften attitudes, make people more forgiving, or it could harden them - "we wasted so many years listening to this guy drone." If we're welcoming Andy back to the Linc in 10 years and the Birds still don't have a Lombardi Trophy, that might make the big guy more beloved. Or the fans even more frustrated.

I know I have one very long, painful phone call or email ahead, when a beat writer in some other city asks, "What can you tell me about Andy Reid?"

" @LesBowen

Blog: eagletarian.com

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