Thursday, December 18, 2014

Andy Reid fired after 14 seasons as Eagles head coach

It's finally official: The Andy Reid era in Philadelphia is over.

Reid was fired Monday after 14 seasons at the helm of the Eagles. His dismissal comes one day after an embarrassing 42-7 loss at the New York Giants which put the finishing touches on a 4-12 season.

"Andy Reid won the most games of any head coach in Eagles history and he is someone I respect greatly and will remain friends with for many years to come,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeff Lurie said in a press release. "But, it is time for the Eagles to move in a new direction. Coach Reid leaves us with a winning tradition that we can build upon. And we are very excited about the future.” 

Reid had one year remaining on his contract.

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    He had been the longest-tenured head coach with one team in the NFL. From 1999-2012, the Eagles went 130 and 93 and, of course, had one infamous tie in 2008. Reid was 10-9 in the playoffs.

    Under Reid, the Eagles earned one conference title and six division titles. They made the playoffs eight times, and reached the NFC Championship game in five of those postseasons.

    Reid leaves the Eagles as the all-time winningest coach in franchise history. He ranks fifth among active coaches in victories behind Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan, Tom Coughlin and Jeff Fisher.

    For all the good Reid did during his time in Philadelphia, his tenure will also be remembered for a number of questionable coaching decisions.

    Fans will remember the number of division titles, but they will also remember the number of timeouts wasted at inopportune moments of games.

    They will remember the run/pass ratio, which would sometimes reach 80/20 in favor of the pass.

    They will remember the number of quality assistant coaches that served under Reid during his time, most notably the late Jim Johnson.

    But they will also remember the hiring of a defensive line coach in Jim Washburn who brought a seemingly gimmick-style scheme to Philadelphia in the so-called "Wide Nine." It proved to be a disaster.

    Washburn took the position at a time when the Eagles did not have a defensive coordinator. Eventually, the position was filled by Juan Castillo - who had previously been an offensive line coach.

    Fans will remember Reid's playoff successes, including a Super Bowl berth that was the team's first since 1980. but they will never forget his playoff failures, and the number of times he was seemingly out-coached in the biggest games.

    All of this amounts to the mixed bag of emotions and feelings that will be summoned when people will look back at the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.

    Reid was hired as a relative unknown after the 1998 season. He was the quarterbacks coach with the Green Bay Packers where he helped the maturation of future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

    At that point, the Packers were coming off six consecutive playoff appearances - including two trips to the Super Bowl and one championship. The Eagles, meanwhile, finished 3-13 and dead last in the NFC East in Ray Rhodes' final season here.

    Reid was given the task of turning around a team that had missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons.

    His tenure started in controversial fashion when the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb instead of fan favorite Ricky Williams with the second overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. While McNabb had been succesful at Syracuse, Williams was fresh off winning Heisman Trophy as a running back at Texas.

    The announcement of McNabb's name was greeted with a chorus of boos from the Eagles fans who had traveled to New York.

    Things did not get much better during the ensuing season. For the second season in a row, the Eagles finished last in the division. Bt they did improve their by two victories, to 5-11.

    The next five seasons would be the most successful of the Reid era in Philadelphia.

    The Eagles clinched a playoff berth in 2000 after finishing 11-5. They reached the second round before falling to the eventual NFC champion New York Giants.

    From 2001 through 2003, they claimed three straight NFC East titles. But each of their playoff runs ended with defeats in the NFC championship game. The last two conference title game losses came at home, including the final game at Veterans Stadium.

    In 2004, the Eagles finally broke through. After signing star wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Eagles made a dominant run through the NFC, winning a franchise-record 13 games and their fourth straight division title.

    Their playoff run took them to the conference title game for the fourth straight season, and this time the Eagles finally exorcised their demons. They reached the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history with a 27-10 victory the Atlanta Falcons - whose quarterback, coincindentally, was Michael Vick.

    But there was to be no triumph in the Super Bowl. Although thousands of Philadelphia fans flocked to Jacksonville for the occasion, the Eagles were beaten by Tom Brady's New England Patriots, 24-21.

    From 2000-04, Reid led the Eagles to a 59-21 regular-season record and a 7-5 playoff record.

    But after that, things began to get a little murky for Reid.

    The offseason before the 2005 campaign featured a rift between McNabb and Owens that splintered the locker room and all but destroyed any chances of the team making a return trip to the Super Bowl.

    Even worse, it also contributed to the Eagles missing the postseason for the first time in six seasons. The team finished 6-10.

    The next season saw the departure of Owens and a return to the playoffs. That happened with Jeff Garcia at quarterback, as McNabb was nursing injuries. Garcia led the Eagles to the divisional round, where they fell to the New Orleans Saints.

    That was followed by an average 2007 season in which the team finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. At that point, fans started to wonder if Reid's magic was running out.

    In 2008, Reid led the Eagles to a fifth NFC title game, the last such trip in his time here. The Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals, dropping Reid's record in the NFC championship game to 1-4 - and giving him the stigma of a coach that could not win the big one.

    Reid and the Eagles' front office spent the next two offseasons attempting to get younger. They cut ties with longtime locker room leader and fan favorite Brian Dawkins after the 2008 season, then traded McNabb to the division rival Washington Redskins after a lackluster finish to the 2009 campaign.

    The Eagles had a chance to win the division in 2009, but lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the final week of the season. Reid and company fell to the Cowboys again a week later, in the first round of the playoffs.

    The aforementioned youth movement was highlighted by players such as DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy.

    But overshadowing all of those moves was the signing of Vick. It came just months after he was released from a prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting ring in his native Virginia.

    When Vick first arrived here, Kevin Kolb - whom Reid drafted in 2007 - was the starting quarterback, as Vick transitioned back info football.

    But after Kolb was hurt in the season-opener, Vick was thrust into the starting role. He proved to be a star, and lifted the Eagles to what turned out to be their final playoff appearance under Reid.

    Then things got ugly.

    The 2011 Eagles were - in the immortal words of backup quarterback Vince Young - supposed to be the "Dream Team." The Eagles had made a number of free-agent acquisitions on defense in the offseason, and made Vick the only player in NFL history to receive multiple $100 million contracts.

    But that dream turned out to be a two-season nightmare. The Eagles finished a combined 12-20 in 2011 and 2012, and missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time under Reid.

    The losses were one thing, but the numerous questionable personnel decisions were another.

    In 2011, the Eagles finished with a disappointing 8-8 record. Fans were convinced the Reid's tenure should come to an end. But Eagles owner Jeff Lurie gave him one more chance, with the caveat that another such record would be "unacceptable."

    It was hoped that Lurie's edict would light a fire under the Eagles, and propel them back into the playoffs. Instead, things completely fell apart. The result was a 12-week swan song. A raft of assistant coaches and other front-office personnel were fired throughout the 2012 season, but Reid remained in his job until now.

    Since making the Super Bowl at the end of the 2004 season, the Eagles have only won two division titles and made four playoff appearances in eight seasons. That is a stark contrast to the team's run from 2000-04 where the Eagles made the playoffs five times and collected four division titles.

    Postseason success is the ultimate means by which Eagles fans judge their team. Reid did not deliver it.

    As a result, he has finally been shipped out.

    Vaughn Johnson Philly.com
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