“Philadelphia is a place to park and change your socks” - Jim Murray
Andy Reid loves to write and loves the written word - although not necessarily those distributed on a daily basis in this particular city. At one time, before deciding that being a football coach was his career path, Reid thought he might pursue becoming a sportswriter.
Encouraged by a high school typing teacher as a means of learning the keyboard, Reid began keeping a detailed personal journal in 11th grade and it is a habit he still maintains. He was a great fan of Jim Murray, the brilliant, acerbic Los Angeles Times sports columnist and, for a short while, Reid had a semi-regular column in the Provo Daily Herald when he was a student at BYU. Like the rest of us, Reid experimented with writing in Murray’s style, and, also like the rest of us, he found it’s a lot easier to walk the wire if your name happens to be Wallenda. “The editors took it easy on me,” Reid once said. All these years and we still know the man’s biography a lot better than we know the man himself. It wasn’t that way with Rich Kotite or Ray Rhodes - we might have known them a little too well - and it wasn’t that way, heaven knows, with Dick Vermeil, who put his heart on his sleeve and his spleen on his collar. It wasn’t pretty, but at least you knew the guy.
Reid has been a different puzzle to decipher, willing to open up only to the point that seems prudent and capable of being deliberately misleading in the service of the organization. When he has spoken through the media to the fans of the Philadelphia Eagles for the last 14 seasons, the message has always been crafted with the best interests of the team in mind. If anything about the process frustrated Reid, it would be that people failed to understand that overriding principle. A lot of this backstory drifted around the auditorium at the NovaCare Complex on Monday when Reid held his usual day-after news conference, a familiar ritual with a tone and tenor that became set in granite long ago. People always complain that the reporters in attendance don’t “ask the tough questions” of Reid, as if that would change the man’s core philosophy. You’d have better luck bringing down a rhinoceros with a spitball. Monday’s session was notable in only one way. It was probably the last one of its kind. If Jeffrey Lurie has decided to change coaches after the season, it would be unseemly to have Reid chewing over the final game against the Giants as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Regardless of how Lurie announces the deed - and the current betting favorite is that Reid and the owner will share the stage and have a civil parting next week - Lurie will certainly change the Monday script. So, once more with feeling, albeit carefully modulated feeling, Reid stood at the front of the room and answered the questions. In past seasons, he sat on the stage behind a table for these news conferences. This year, he has stood at a small podium on the ground level. It was part of an organizational effort - along with moving some briefings to a more casual-seeming atmosphere on the practice field - to soften his image. Maybe it would have worked if the team weren’t 4-11, but we’ll never know, and the organization has apparently abandoned its hope for Reid and refocused the image machine on general manager Howie Roseman. Good luck with that one. Reid has said he always tries to bring some interesting news item to the briefings, because he knows from experience that writing every day isn’t easy. Often over the years, he has hidden these nuggets well and made finding them a fun game, but Monday wasn’t one of those occasions. He announced that rookie quarterback Nick Foles has a hairline fracture in his throwing hand, is finished for the season, and that Michael Vick will be the starter in the finale against the Giants. If that alone doesn’t get the reporters through the week, it isn’t Reid’s fault. The coach fielded the usual questions, couched his answers in the usual qualifiers, and didn’t even have to address his job security for the first time in a month. He wished people a happy holiday and then went home to a place there is one fewer stocking hanging this year. There are things that matter more than witty answers at news conferences, and Reid has never been really bothered by that hole in his game.
Fourteen years is a long time for a football coach to be parked in one place. Reid did more than just change his socks here. He changed the football team. He changed the organization. He might even have changed the city. And he managed all that without even appearing to change very much himself. If we only knew him a little better, we could probably say for sure.