Phil Sheridan: Assessing Andy Reid in context of his peers

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Andy Reid now has the second longest tenure of head coaches in the NFL. Jeff Fisher is No. 1. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

Here's a head coaching resume for you: In 11 years, coaching three franchises, this guy reached one Super Bowl and lost. After that, he had a 1-3 record in the years his teams made the playoffs.

The coach was Bill Parcells, a sure Hall of Famer for the two Super Bowls he won with the New York Giants - the most recent of which was almost two decades ago.

Then there's a guy who won a Super Bowl in his fifth season - his first with Tampa Bay - then failed to win another playoff game in his next six seasons before getting fired this month.

That would be Jon Gruden, who joined Mike Shanahan and Rod Marinelli at the NFL coaches' unemployment office, which keeps its ceremonial offices in Mobile, Ala., site of the annual job fair otherwise known as the Senior Bowl.

As the sting fades from the Eagles' fifth tumble from near the top of the mountain, it's worth looking around the NFL to see what we can learn about Andy Reid and his prospects for defying the odds and eventually winning that elusive Super Bowl.

With the retirement of his mentor, Mike Holmgren, in Seattle, Reid stands alone as the second-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL. Tennessee's Jeff Fisher - zero championships, one Super Bowl appearance, 0-2 in the playoffs over the last five years - is No. 1. Fisher has coached the Houston/Tennessee franchise since 1994, through three cities and two team names.

Reid has a better winning percentage - regular season, postseason and overall - than Fisher. Except for the lack of that Lombardi Trophy (and that is a very big lack, to be sure), Reid has the best all-around resume of any active head coach except for New England's Bill Belichick.

Really.

A week from tomorrow, a coach with a lesser overall body of work than Reid will add a Super Bowl title to his resume. Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin may go on to long-term greatness, but they're just as likely to go the one-hit-wonder way of Gruden and Brian Billick.

Some Eagles fans appreciate the year-in, year-out competitiveness of Reid's teams. Others would trade seven years of getting close for one championship surrounded by years of losing. It's a matter of personal preference, but really it's not something you can choose in advance.

The Detroit Lions might win a Super Bowl before the Eagles do. In that case, their 0-16 season and decades of futility might seem worthwhile to fans. Or the Lions just might continue to stink.

You can't plan for a pop-up season. If you're an NFL owner, your goal has to be finding a coach who can build and sustain a contending program.

When you see the Lions firing Marinelli and counting on Jim Schwartz or Cleveland hiring Eric Mangini to replace fellow Belichick acolyte Romeo Crennel - well, there's something comforting about having a known quantity like Reid at the helm.

The counter-argument, of course, is that familiarity without a parade breeds a kind of coach fatigue. A decade of Reid has meant years of very good football and plenty of big games for fans to enjoy. It also has meant years of very bad news conferences and plenty of big-game disappointments for fans to agonize over.

This isn't about whether Reid should be back or whether Jeffrey Lurie should consider a change. That question became academic when the Eagles reached the NFC championship game for the fifth time in eight seasons. The big man will be back.

This is about all the change around the league and what it says about Reid's accomplishments and shortcomings.

Steve Spagnuolo (Rams) and Josh McDaniels (Broncos) go into tough situations as heralded coordinators from recent Super Bowl winners. Schwartz, Jim Caldwell (Colts), and Raheem Morris (Bucs) are not likely to stir the passions of their teams' loyal fans. But history says they are more likely to reach a Super Bowl than some big-name retread.

Reid was barely known when Lurie hired him. Whisenhunt and Tomlin aren't exactly household names.

But if Shanahan and Gruden can get fired, then Reid certainly doesn't get a free pass forever. The Bill Cowher argument - he was in his 14th season as Steelers head coach before finally winning the Super Bowl - goes only so far. It shows there is rare precedent for Reid delivering a championship.

It doesn't guarantee anything.

There is greater precedent (Gruden, Billick, others) for Whisenhunt or Tomlin to win a title in his second season. There is even more precedence for a new coaching hire to be fired after two or three or four years of futility.

Reid can't be a Gruden. He could still be a Cowher. But at least he isn't Rod Marinelli or Scott Linehan or any of the coaches who washed out without achieving anything.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.