Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Time for NFL to give Reid break he needs

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Magazine 

The words were barely out of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie's mouth about firing Andy Reid and moving in a new direction, hanging suspended in the air as the temperatures dropped all over the Delaware Valley, before speculation arose that Reid could be next in line as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

That was less than 48 hours between severing ties to one organization and reporting the potential formation of ties with another. Just slightly shorter than the break Reid took away from his former team after the discovery of his oldest son, Garrett, dead in his dorm at Lehigh University back in August.

And though I hear the arguments that Garrett was an adult and his demons were his own, and that he paid the price for those decisions, the fact remains that the vagaries of football did contribute to the genesis and growth of those demons, and for those of his younger brother, Britt.

Add in the cockeyed belief that keeping Garrett close to him, with the team, could somehow prevent disaster from happening again, and you have a man whose judgment is clearly impaired. It's a perfectly acceptable as an adult to work hard, have a vision for success, and to be admired by peers as one who does such, but where are allowances to work smart? Reid is an inveterate, irrationally dedicated to a demanding job of NFL head coach, as many others among the coaching slots for the other 31 teams.

From a football standpoint, how can anyone argue that the downward spiral from 10-6 to 8-8 to 4-12, and the manner in which the team circled the drain regarding personnel decisions and on-field play, could be the harbinger of anything positive? Reid gained an awful lot of power within the organization, and over the last few seasons, did little to assure those watching that he repaid that trust with results.

That should be a red flag to any organization just staring at Reid's overall win-loss record.

The fact is, Andy Reid should not be an NFL head coach, anywhere, in the next year.

He needs to get his own house in order, return to the family which has sustained him as he embarked upon this journey through the NFL coaching ranks which just saw a successful 14-year tenure in Philadelphia end. It's long overdue that Reid return to the fold and spend more than just off-season quality time with Tammy and his remaining children.

Even if you don't believe that anything Reid did at NovaCare, at Lincoln Financial Field, in Lehigh or any other football stadium over the course of his career contributed to his sons' problems, don't you want to see the winningest head coach in Eagles history just rest on his laurels and bask in what he gave this city?

And if Andy is too blinded, too focused, too energetic to realize he needs to slow down, who will help him accomplish that end? The men and women who head the front offices of the other NFL teams who dumped their chiefs two days ago on "Black Monday."

Collusion is an ugly business. But sometimes it's warranted. For example, if all 30 NHL owners had colluded against the exponentially rising salaries and long-term contracts as baseball's owners did in the mid 1980's at Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's urging, perhaps the current issues of the lockout could have been averted.

Stepping aside the Rooney Rule and any other guidelines both codified or unspoken toward hiring a head football coach, how easy would it be for general managers and owners league wide to keep their hands out of the cookie jar? Never underestimate the power of groupthink, especially when dollars are on the line. Reid won't come cheap with his track record. He also comes with some serious and recent baggage.

So, I'd hope that the NFL actively prevents Reid from prowling the sidelines in 2013. Don't call it blackballing, but "whiteballing," a sort of temporary exclusion for one's own good.

Think I'm ridiculous for mentioning it? Think Reid or any other man who wants a highly-coveted job in his chosen business and is courted for such based on his track record simply has the right to work whenever he pleases? Think again.

There are NFL teams desperately trying to shake off the albatross of losing, and Reid seems like an easy answer.

But...should Reid accept a job in Arizona, or Chicago, or Buffalo, or San Diego, he's doing a double disappearing act: leaving Philadelphia behind with little to no acknowledgement of football issues that led to his downfall and also leaving behind the area where his personal tragedies played out in public. Nowhere in that equation is the healing, the reflection, the learning, patience and release of control that is required for continued success if some other franchise snatches him up right away.

Teams are playing with millions of dollars on the line and it's unwise to think that a hard-work ethic and distance from a bad ending will provide the proper regeneration required to lead a NFL team from the brink of irrelevancy to the brink of a Super Bowl. There's too much at stake to rush into anything so soon.

Want proof that work is not the remedy to cure all ills? Remember that Bill Barber lost his wife, Jenny, to cancer right before Christmas of 2001, in the midst of his first and only full season behind the bench for the Philadelphia Flyers. In typical blue-collar Canadian fashion, Barber briefly publicly acknowledged the loss after a 5-1 home win over Minnesota on December 8, and then moved on with the rest of the schedule.

The end to his coaching tenure came just over four months later as his team mustered only two goals in a five-game playoff loss to Ottawa, and Barber was fired amidst rumors of a veteran mutiny that had the ear of GM Bob Clarke, and rampant speculation of his inability to muster a decent game plan in an NHL that embraced systematic instruction.

How much that family tragedy played into his demise, we'll never know, but we're deluding ourselves if we think that giving in to the demands of being a leader in a top-flight sport didn't play a significant factor.

Reid has one year remaining on his current contract, and a break he richly deserves. I call upon the braintrust of those needy NFL clubs to help turn his frown upside down by keeping him on the sidelines next year.

It will be for the benefit of everyone involved, and for the best possible 2014 as far as the Reid clan is concerned and for that franchise which inevitably places trust and power in Andy Reid to reverse their fortunes the way he did here, in front of the toughest critics in America.

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