Sometimes you wonder why Andy Reid is doing all of this. He knows it’s not enough to save his season or save his job. He’s not naïve enough to think that a strong finish and the development of a promising young quarterback will fool Jeffrey Lurie. Not again. Not this time.
There has been speculation recently that Lurie, the Eagles owner, will retain Reid, the Eagles coach, for another season. That just doesn’t seem possible, because Lurie has to know the peasants would storm the Bastille if that were to happen.
And let’s not forget that it was Lurie who called last year’s strong finish “fool’s gold’’ after the Eagles won their final four games to salvage a .500 season. He’s the one that said another 8-8 season isn’t acceptable and now the best for which the Eagles can hope is 7-9. And who thinks they’ll even manage that?
No, Reid is gone and he knows it. And that’s why he’s made the surprising moves he’s made in the last ten days, when he released a Pro Bowl pass rusher, fired his defensive line coach and benched his Pro Bowl quarterback.
It’s not just to win games, although that, of course, is a big part of it. Reid naturally wants to pad his won-loss record as much as possible in his final days. But he’s not playing Nick Foles over Michael Vick because he wants to groom him as the Eagles’ quarterback of the future, because Reid won’t be a part of that future. Why should he care if the next Eagles coach benefits from the experience Foles is getting as a rookie?
No, Andy Reid is a man who lives very much in the present. And, for the present, he’s still Big Red, the man who has dominated this franchise for the last 14 years. He also knows he’s only going to wield that power for a little while longer, so why not use it now? And Reid has wielded it to make life easier on himself for the last month of his reign.
That’s why Foles is the starter for the rest of the season, even though Reid told us all along that the job would be Vick’s again as soon as he recovered from his concussion. As recently as Friday, Reid told reporter this: “Listen, Michael is the quarterback of this team. That’s how I’ve approached it from the get-go. I’ve told you guys that. Until I tell you guys differently, that’s how I feel.’’
Well, three days later he told us differently. Certainly, Foles’ strong performance in Sunday night’s 38-31 loss to Dallas gave Reid confidence that Foles can handle the job and now it’s a lot easier to just hand that job to Foles and be done with it.
And that’s what it’s all about now – what makes life easier for Reid. If Vick was still the nominal starter, Reid would have to deal with the daily problem of not knowing if Vick could practice that day or if he could play in the game that Sunday. And even if he could, for how long before he gets hurt again? It would be a daily soap opera and Reid doesn’t need the aggravation.
That would also explain the surprising decision to release defensive end Jason Babin, who had 18 sacks last year and went to the Pro Bowl, and fire defensive line coach Jim Washburn, whom Reid lured to Philadelphia less than two years ago with the promise that he would rule the d-line and have a voice in other defensive matters.
Well, Babin proved to be a guy who was only interested in racking up the sacks. It’s hard to blame him for that, because racking up the sacks has made him a rich man. But younger players picked up on his selfish vibe and that’s not a good thing. Babin wasn’t even getting to the quarterback that much anymore and he wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine in the locker or meeting rooms, so Reid released him and was glad to see him go.
And he couldn’t wait to get rid of Washburn, whose crass, cantankerous and often profane style is the opposite of Reid’s. Washburn also clashed with other defensive coaches and a lot of that friction was because Washburn was hired before Reid made Juan Castillo his defensive coordinator last year, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
The Chicago Bears had that same bad chemistry when Mike Ditka was coach and Buddy Ryan was the defensive coordinator back in the 1980s. Ryan had been hired by the owner before Ditka was and Buddy never let Ditka forget it. The two co-existed for a while, but only because they had one of the best teams in NFL history, but the strain was obvious.
It wasn’t that bad here, but it’s clear Washburn’s braying rubbed Reid the wrong way. Plus Reid is a very loyal man and that loyalty is usually returned ten-fold. He’s always promoted from within (which is not always a good thing. See: Castillo, Juan) and several NFL head coaches past and present owe their start in the business to Reid, who gave them one of their first NFL jobs and moved them up the ladder. That includes Pat Shurmur of Cleveland, Ron Rivera of Carolina, Leslie Frazier of Minnesota, John Harbaugh of Baltimore, Steve Spagnuola of St. Louis and Brad Childress of Minnesota.
So, Reid had to cringe when he heard or heard about Washburn criticizing another coach or criticizing his decision to release Babin, who was Washburn’s protoge.
“It was just something that I had been pondering and working through,’’ Reid said of his decision to fire Washburn, “and I just thought it was the right time now.”
And why is it the right time now? It’s because it doesn’t matter anymore. The Eagles are still mathematically in the playoff race, but realistically they have no shot and Reid realizes that. So now was the time to take care of that headache that’s been bothering him for a while.
Reid’s motive became clear when he talked about the man who will replace Washburn for the final four games – Tommy Brasher, who was on Reid’s first staff with the Eagles and was with him from 1999-2005.
“Having Tommy Brasher back here again brings back a very loyal, loyal assistant,’’ Reid said. “He’s a coach that I’ve had here for a number of years who understands exactly what I’m about and what I’m trying to get done with a young defensive line.”
Note the first (and second) word that Reid used to describe. Not talented or knowledgeable or witty – he said “loyal.”
Reid is returning that loyalty now. Brasher can come in and not have to do too much for too long and then cash a nice paycheck to add to his retirement fund.
And that’s what Andy Reid wants for his final days – to be surrounded with loyal people in whom he can trust and to eliminate the aggravations as much as he can. Andy Reid is going to leave and he knows it, but he’ll do it on his terms.