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News » Phil Sheridan: Eagles' Reid gets another shot at genius

Phil Sheridan: Eagles' Reid gets another shot at genius

Phil Sheridan: Eagles' Reid gets another shot at genius
NFL coaches earn the genius label in a manner that brings to mind the Scarecrow getting his diploma from the Wizard of Oz.

Tom Coughlin was a too-tightly-wound martinet whose players were in nearly open revolt and whose job security was an open question. Then Brett Favre threw an interception in overtime in Green Bay and David Tyree made a one-headed catch in the Super Bowl, and Coughlin got his diploma.


Bill Belichick was a humorless prig who had ridden Bill Parcells' coattails to a couple of NFL head coaching jobs. Belichick was muddling through a typical season in 2001 when his starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, got hurt. Bledsoe's replacement, a complete unknown named Tom Brady, started winning games, and Belichick got his diploma.


Brian Billick won a Super Bowl with Marvin Lewis' defense and got a diploma. Mike Shanahan inherited end-of-career John Elway, added a sixth-round running back named Terrell Davis, and won two consecutive championships. His diploma - genius! - earned him a free pass that expired just last week, a decade later.

Andy Reid makes another trip down the Yellow Brick Road, and there's no way to know whether the Wizard will give him the diploma he has been cruelly denied after previous pilgrimages. If so, then Reid will have done more to earn the genius distinction than some (Billick, Jon Gruden) and less than some others (Shanahan, Belichick).

Either way, whether he gets to hold the diploma and explain the square roots of the sides of isosceles triangles or leaves the Emerald City empty-handed, Andy Reid is an excellent Football coach. He proved that in the short term, building a perennial contender out of the 3-13 mess he inherited in 1999. He has continued to prove that, sustaining a sound program and managing through all kinds of crises and catastrophes.

All of that is commendable and not as easy as it looks and, for the most part, ultimately irrelevant in the scheme of things. If you're a coach in the NFL, your career is defined by whether you get that diploma from the Wizard. You have to win a Super Bowl, no matter how random or arbitrary the means.

Reid's Eagles put together the best five-year stretch in franchise history from 2000 through 2004. They won at least 11 regular-season games each year. Their overall record, including playoffs, was 66-26. They earned first-round byes and hosted playoff games and reached the conference championship game four times and finally went to the Super Bowl.

Reid's Eagles had five shots in five years. They got some breaks - fourth and 26, anyone? - but that one or two or three random occurrences never quite went their way.

What if N.D. Kalu had blocked that punt in the first conference championship appearance in St. Louis after the 2001 season? What if Michael Lewis had been on the field and tackled Joe Jurevicius the next year? What if Todd Pinkston had been able to outmuscle Ricky Manning Jr. for one of those passes Manning intercepted? What if just one of Donovan McNabb's picks in the Super Bowl had been a touchdown pass instead?

Would Andy Reid be a better coach if just one of those what-ifs had delivered a championship? Would he really be any smarter if the Wizard handed him a scroll with a ribbon around it?

Of course not. But in the absence of that final affirmation, Reid's career grade can never be an A. The idiosyncracies that mark every coach's tenure begin to look more like fatal flaws than mere elements of style. Throw the ball 70 percent of the time and win a Super Bowl, you're persistent. Run 30 percent of the time and come up short, you're stubborn.

As he writes his Philadelphia legacy in indelible ink, Reid could do worse than follow the yellow-brick trail blazed by Pat Burrell.

During the Phillies outfielder's decade-plus here, he had great moments of success and years of puzzling disappointment and everything in between. Burrell had fans who respected his work ethic and his final numbers as well as detractors who cringed every time he struck out and longed for the Phillies to trade him in a salary dump.

On Oct. 29, Burrell hit a double that contributed to the Phillies' World Series-clinching win. A couple days later, he led the city's first championship parade in a quarter-century.

Everything else melted away. Burrell was the same player with the same mixed-bag history, but winning a championship made him an unquestioned, unqualified hero.

If you told Reid in August that his team would win nine games this year, he wouldn't have accepted that as a successful season.

But if you told him those same nine wins would be enough to get him into the playoffs, he'd have been thrilled. Any trip to see the Wizard can be the one.

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

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 3, 2009

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Age: 22
Experience: 2 years
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