Monday, November 28, 2011

Anatomy of an Eagles Fan: Andy Reid and Us

After yesterday's predictable dismantling at the hands of the New England Patriots, the Eagles sit at a dismal 4-7 on the season, and the hot seat has never been hotter for Andy Reid.

While I'm completely on board with the "time for Andy to go" crowd — for myriad reasons — I've always been enamored with the mind-set of Eagles fans in regard to people like Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb in relation to people like Buddy Ryan and Randall Cunningham.

It's a fascinating dichotomy to me and always has been.

Think about it: Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb are inarguably the most successful head coach-quarterback duo for Philadelphia in the Super Bowl era. Together, they went to five NFC championship games, a Super Bowl and turned the Eagles into a perennial NFC power and class of the NFC East. And yet, McNabb and Reid are almost universally disliked by Eagles fans — not necessarily unappreciated, but disliked.

Conversely, Buddy Ryan and Randall Cunningham are the epitome of untapped potential at best, incredible underachievement at worst. Despite having some of the most talented defenses in the history of the NFL and a quarterback with otherworldly athletic ability, Ryan and Cunningham never won a single playoff game together in Philadelphia. Whether it was Randall's injury, offensive ineptitude or flat-out disappointing showings, Ryan and Randall never even sniffed an ounce of the success McNabb and Reid had for the Eagles. And yet, Ryan and Randall are mostly revered and loved here in Philadelphia.

The reasons most often cited are that Buddy and Cunningham were "more Philadelphia" than Reid and McNabb. Ryan was an aggressive, brash head coach who had snarl and bite. He was a defense-first guy, one who would tell you how he was feeling and never pull punches. Oh, and he made it a point to beat up on Dallas. That never hurts.

And Randall was another brash, talented star who wowed and excited the crowd with his insane running ability, huge arm and penchant for big plays. Nevermind that he never really developed into a full-fledged quarterback who could decipher a defense or his often questionable decision-making — Randall was fun to watch.

On the flip side, Reid is a stubborn, tight-lipped, offense-first guy who prefers the finesse passing game over hard-nosed, "Philadelphia" football. He never tells anyone anything of any consequence, won't create any bulletin board material and never lets anyone in to his rationale behind his (sometimes puzzling) decisions. Beyond that, he often seems to be out to prove a point with his play-calling or personnel decisions, putting off an air of superiority to anyone who dares to question him.

And McNabb was a thin-skinned "yes man" to the front office, a guy who was always quick to point out his critics before addressing any of his own flaws. He wasn't mentally tough enough for Philadelphia.

Those are the perceptions anyway, all with validity. But what I've always found interesting is that while these characterizations very well may be true, at the end of the day, people like Reid and McNabb have had infinitely more success than guys like Ryan and Cunningham — albeit never getting us to the ultimate goal.

So what it all boils down to is that it seems it's better to have a "Philadelphia attitude" than it is to necessarily have success. I'll concede that these two aren't mutually exclusive. It's not as if the Buddy Ryan era was without its high points, and it's not as if the Reid era has been without its lows. But taken at face value, it's always been kind of funny to me how popular Ryan and Randall seem to be and how unpopular Reid and McNabb seem to be here in the City of Brotherly Love.

I'll admit that I'm guilty of it myself at times. While I was a McNabb guy, I've never really fully embraced Reid. I respect what he's done and am not so foolish to think he's a terrible coach. The man has simply had too much success to say otherwise, and I'm most definitely grateful for what he's helped transform this franchise into the past decade-plus.

But I feel it's time to go. He's been here 13 years and hasn't delivered on his quest to get this city its long-awaited Lombardi Trophy. His team looks to be finally tuning him out honestly for the first time. It just simply feels like he has run his course, kind of like Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay or Jim Mora in Indianapolis. Andy Reid rebuilt the franchise into a remarkably successful one, but now it's time to find someone who can get this team over the hump.

I just hope that if Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner do decide it's time for a change, the next guy has a "Philadelphia attitude" for his sake. Because like him or not, Andy Reid's shoes won't be easy to fill … partly because of us.

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