First things first

Posted: September 11, 2013

MICHAEL VICK'S sort-of lateral that led to a Redskins touchdown was just the latest adventure in what generally are memorable debuts for Eagles coaches. Here's a look at the first games for the head men, dating back to 1976:

Dick Vermeil

About the coach: Vermeil was hired from UCLA, where he had stunned top-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Vermeil took the Birds to the Super Bowl that followed the 1980 season.

Debut: Sept. 12, 1976, at Dallas

Result: Lost, 27-7

Game recap: Roger Staubach threw a pair of touchdowns as the Cowboys jumped all over the Birds. "The only way [the Eagles] were coming back," Daily News sports writer Phil Jasner observed, "was by airplane."

Season recap: The silver lining to Dick Vermeil's playbook during that 4-10 season was finding Vince Papale during an open tryout. Good movie.

Marion Campbell

About the coach: Campbell was Vermeil's defensive coordinator and an excellent coach on that side of the ball. He had three losing seasons as the Birds' head coach, however.

Debut: Sept. 3, 1983, at San Francisco

Result: Won, 22-17

Game recap: Joe Pisarcik stepped in for injured quarterback Ron Jaworski and led the Eagles to an upset win over the 49ers. "Someone [Fred Dean] just picked me up and threw me to the ground," Jaworski said. "That's the last thing I remembered for a while."

Season recap: The Birds started a respectable 4-2, but closed 1-9.

Buddy Ryan

About the coach: The most brash head coach in Philadelphia history, Ryan was the coordinator for the dominating Bears defense that overwhelmed the NFL in route to the 1985 title.

Debut: Sept. 7, 1986, at Washington

Result: Lost, 41-14

Game recap: "Buddy Ryan already had opened his mouth wide enough that 41 points went down his hatch yesterday with relative ease," wrote Jay Greenberg. "The Redskins had an opening-day gimme in the Eagles."

Season recap: The Birds went 5-10-1 as Ryan transitioned the club from the Ron Jaworski era to Randall Cunningham.

Rich Kotite

About the coach: Kotite was promoted from offensive coordinator after Ryan lost three consecutive first-round playoff games.

Debut: Sept. 1, 1991, at Green Bay

Result: Won, 20-3

Game recap: Packers linebacker Bryce Paup knocked Randall Cunningham out for the season. Center David Alexander took full responsibility. "It was like someone stuck a knife in my chest," Alexander said. "I would rather it had been me."

Season recap: Kotite used five quarterbacks and still went 10-6 in his first season, although the Eagles did not make the playoffs. He won a playoff game the next year.

Ray Rhodes

About the coach: Was the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion 49ers. Rhodes was the first head coach hired by Jeffrey Lurie and just the fourth African-American head coach in NFL history.

Debut: Sept. 3, 1995, vs. Tampa Bay

Result: Lost, 21-6

Game recap: The lowlight was star running back Ricky Watters short-arming for a pass over the middle. "Hey, I'm not going to [stretch out] there and get knocked out," Watters said. "For who? For what?"

Season recap: The Birds went 10-6 and hammered Detroit (58-37) in a wild-card game that made Rhodes the only Eagles coach to win a postseason game in his first season.

Andy Reid

About the coach: Was hired off the Green Bay Packers staff where he was the positional coach for Brett Favre.

Debut: Sept. 12, 1999, vs. Arizona

Result: Lost, 25-24

Game recap: The Eagles blew a nine-point lead in the final 5 minutes. Impossible as it is to believe, the game was not televised locally since it did not sell out. That's the kind of shape the Eagles franchise was in before Reid took over.

Season recap: The Eagles went 5-11, but rookie quarterback Donovan McNabb started the final six games, which provided optimism heading into the 2000 season.


On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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