Andy Reid? Do your homework, Cardinals

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Reid's final year as Eagles coach was marked by personal tragedy and poor football decisions.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Andy Reid's final year as Eagles coach was marked by personal tragedy and poor football decisions.
Posted: January 03, 2013

THE SUPPOSITION is that a team quickly will hire Andy Reid as its head coach for next season.

Arizona appears eager to be that team. Arizona, the team that handed the Eagles three of their more painful losses since December of 2008; the team that visits Lincoln Financial Field this year.

Can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Let this serve as the Cardinals' caution, then:

Reid was fired Monday because he authored the most absurd season a head coach has produced in recent professional sports history.

The Eagles' 2012 devolved beyond debacle status; beyond surreal, and into impossibility.

Of course, for a Cardinals franchise to have hit double-digit wins just once once since 1977 and to have gone through a dozen coaches in that span - one of them Buddy Ryan - it develops a tolerance for debacle.

No franchise could endure two seasons like Reid's 2012. Every incident, every misstep, every misevaluation, lay at the feet of Andy Reid.

A cataclysmically awful signing; the drug-related death of a nepotistic hire; the insistence by his agent that he could coach in Philadelphia forever; the firing of a loyal, if miscast, lieutenant, and the subsequent, disastrous ascension of an overmatched assistant; the late-game injury to the most valuable player on the team in an unwinnable game; the dismissal of an insubordinate defensive lineman, then his insubordinate position coach.

And, throughout, Reid's pernicious refusal, in defiance of his owner's dictate, to put a congenial face on the franchise he represented.

These things actually happened.

We checked our notes.

Maybe teams like the Cards did not.

To begin with, Reid signed off on the disastrous acquisition of left tackle Demetress Bell, brought aboard to replace injured Jason Peters, the team's best player. As vice president of football operations, Reid ultimately is on the hook for the signing. A former lineman and offensive-line coach, misevaluation of linemen long has been a shortcoming of Reid's.

During his autocratic reign, which began during the ill-fated 2001 draft, Reid has found gems in just two linemen: 2005 fourth-rounder Todd Herremans and second-year center Jason Kelce, lost in the second game this season.

It was offensive-line coach Juan Castillo who developed centers Hank Fraley and Jamaal Jackson, neither of whom was drafted. Peters already had been to a Pro Bowl when he arrived. Weight the acquisition and quick flame-out of eccentric guard Shaun Andrews as you will.

Bell never earned a starting spot, though he filled in five times. He did not even take a snap in six games. Offensive line depth doomed 2012 before it started.

Deeper doom awaited.

What happened Aug. 5 might be the worst thing to happen in Philadelphia sports history.

Reid's oldest child, Garrett Reid, died of a heroin overdose in August at training camp. Garrett, 29, was in employ of the Eagles as a strength coach, despite no qualifications for the job besides bloodlines. He was on property the team leased, actively serving in his capacity as a coach. Steroids and syringes also were found in his room.

In 2007, Garrett went to jail on drug charges. Steroids were in the mix then, too. In 2009 he went back to jail for fighting at a halfway house.

No coach in the NFL has the sort of baggage Garrett Reid carried.

Still, he was hired; on the sideline and in the weight room wearing team gear every day.

The death of any sick, addicted young man is awful; the grief of burying a child, simply blinding.

But Reid put his team in the position to have to explain why a strength coach he had hired, whom many players called a close friend, brought heroin and steroids onto team property, and used, at least, one of the drugs (test results for the presence of testosterone in Garrett's body remain unreleased).

How do you explain this?

Maybe the Cardinals won't ask.

The rest of 2012 simply continued a descent past the bizarre, into the incredible.

Just 6 days after Garrett Reid's death, Andy Reid's agent, country singer look-alike Bob LaMonte, visited Eagles training camp.

There, LaMonte assured reporters that Lurie had told him "again and again" that Reid never would be fired as coach in Philadelphia. Lurie and Reid quickly decried LaMonte's assertion, which, at the time, reeked of opportunistic strong-arming, given the recentness of Garrett's death.

The season had not even started. Mercifully.

The Eagles' offense was terrible, especially at Arizona in Game 3, but the team still won three of its first four games - by a total of four points. The Birds blew leads in the two games preceding the bye week. Reid fired Castillo after that sixth game - Castillo, whom, in 2011, Reid moved heaven and earth to promote from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator.

To facilitate Castillo's hire, Reid coaxed Howard Mudd out of retirement to replace Castillo, a feat made easier since Reid already had Mudd's pal, defensive-line coach Jim Washburn, a hot commodity who preached a chancy "wide-nine" scheme.

The Eagles were 11-11 in Castillo's run as coordinator but had blown seven fourth-quarter leads. Usually, the offense played atrociously in those fourth quarters, too. Castillo's overall defense never was dynamic, but it had held opposing quarterbacks to a 69.4 passer rating, then second-best in the league.

Defensive-backs coach Todd Bowles succeeded Castillo. The Eagles lost nine of their remaining 10 games, allowed nearly 32 points per game and a passer rating of 123.6, by far the worst in the league in that span.

Oops.

In the midst of this, after the fifth post-Castillo loss Reid cut smart-mouth defensive end Jason Babin, a former first-round bust who flourished only in the wide-nine under Washburn, a bitter and righteous malcontent whom Reid fired the next week. Babin landed in Jacksonville, where he cemented his image as a selfish, surly, limited player.

Even when cast as scapegoat, Castillo - honorable to the end - offered no hint of outrage and never exulted in the team's failures. Perhaps the wrong three men were let go during the season.

In the light of the insanity that surrounded it, Reid's choice to let franchise running back LeSean McCoy remain in a game impossible to win seems a pedestrian oversight.

McCoy suffered a severe concussion. On a running play. From the Eagles' 36. Trailing by 25 points. With 2 minutes to play.

Asked twice afterward why McCoy - who broke the franchise's touchdown record in 2011 - was in the game, Reid twice replied, with the obstinate smugness that marred his 14-year tenure, that Reid was trying to win the game.

McCoy missed the next four games.

Quarterback Michael Vick had suffered a severe concussion the week before McCoy suffered his, which cost Vick the next six games. Standout tight end Brent Celek suffered a concussion in Game 13 and missed a week.

All three could play major roles in the Eagles' future. All three have large chunks of their careers ahead of them. There was no reason for any of them to play again in 2012, especially considering the NFL's purported concern for player safety and its heightened alarm at the effects of concussions.

Reid must have missed those memos.

McCoy and Celek returned for the last two games; Vick, for the finale.

Why? Because they gave Reid the best chance to win.

Reid.

Yes, Reid likely will be paid to make these decisions again in 2012, and beyond.

Certainly, in concert with former front-office savant Joe Banner, Reid deserves credit for his transformation of the Eagles into a respected, if corporatized, franchise. Exactly what Arizona never has been.

Buyers, beware.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

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