Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles Are Winners


Within this same week we saw perfect examples in the tales of two Philadelphia pro sports organizations, one a winner and one a loser. First, the big 'L' gets hung on the forehead of the Philadelphia 76ers organization for signing one of its all-time loser players in Allen Iverson. I covered that topic already earlier in the week.

It's time now to highlight Philly's winning winter sports organization, the Philadelphia Eagles. This past week the Birds signed head coach Andy Reid, the winningest coach in franchise history, to a contract extension that will keep 'Big Red' as the football boss through 2013. By the conclusion of the contract, Reid will have been the head coach for 15 seasons, nearly unheard of in today's pro sports world.

After a decade in Philadelphia, Andy Reid is now the 2nd longest tenured head coach in the entire NFL, trailing only Tennessee head man Jeff Fisher. He has already passed Greasy Neale (1941-50) as the longest tenured coach in Eagles history. He has led the club to a regular season record of 105-66-1 and another 10 wins in the playoffs, which his teams have participated in 7 times. He has 5 NFC East titles and 1 NFC Championship and Super Bowl appearance to his credit.

Andy Reid's teams have fashioned a regular season .614 winning percentage which is the 16th highest in NFL history. The names ahead of him are all legends of the game with names like Lombardi, Madden, Halas, Lambeau, Shula, and Walsh. But the list of the 15 coaches ahead of him also highlights what his detractors see as his one weakness: he has never won a Super Bowl.

On that list of coaches ahead of Reid, 10 of them have won multiple NFL Championships. Only George Allen, the longtime head coach of the Washington Redskins who owns the 3rd-highest winning percentage of all-time, joins Reid in the frustration of never having won a title.

But that inability to win the ultimate prize is not a fatal flaw, it is simply a remaining goal. Only 3 of the men ahead of him on that all-time winning coaches list had fewer games than Reid has coached. He is in the prime of his head coaching career, his team is relatively young and talented, and he should have a number of shots at getting that ring in the coming years.

I grew up in an era of Eagles football during the 1970's in which you expected to lose, one in which the division rival Cowboys and Redskins were always expected to finish ahead of the Birds. That didn't change until a young Dick Vermiel came along and led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance in January 1981. Vermiel burned out quickly and the Birds took a decade to recover until the boisterous Buddy Ryan-led teams. But Ryan could never win in the playoffs.

Andy Reid is quite simply the best coach in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, and it isn't really even close. He has created a sustained winning atmosphere and record for more than a decade that has now led to head coaching jobs for three of his former assistants: Brad Childress (Minnesota), John Harbaugh (Baltimore), and Steve Spagnuolo (Saint Louis) all served under Reid. This has always been considered a hallmark of great head coaches, the ability of their assistants to move on to head jobs.

Owner Jeff Lurie took over the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994, and promised the rabid football fans of the city that the franchise goal was not only to win a title, but to win multiple Super Bowls. While that has not yet materialized, the organization of Lurie, Reid, and team president Joe Banner has kept the team as a legitimate contender throughout their time at the helm.

The Philadelphia Eagles are winners in any way that you want to measure that fact. While they have not yet won the ultimate prize in their profession, they have always contended for that title and remain a strong contender for the crown. With the signing of Reid and the continuity that provides the organization, the Birds should remain a winner well into the future.

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