Andy Reid’s Softened Legacy
by Jerome's Friend
I was furious. The Eagles were definitively beaten and embarrassed by the Washington Redskins. With irrelevant time remaining, the time for Bryce Brown to get a few more reps, there on the field was franchise centerpiece LeSean McCoy receiving the football from rookie quarterback Nick Foles. McCoy ran forward with Redskins quickly converging. He lowered his head to power through and became the victim of a forceful blow from safety Madieu Williams. Sickeningly, McCoy remained on the ground for several minutes. It seemed in one fleeting moment Coach Andy Reid single-handedly destroyed a franchise he spent fourteen years building. Why the hell was McCoy in the game?
Jerome led me through the dark to a large expanse of land… a parking lot… and there appeared Veterans Stadium through the fog, standing where it should not stand. “There exists strong enough memories that the Vet lives on,” Jerome said. We walked toward it and I was captivated once again by its enormity, its simplicity. It’s just a large square-ish circle, after all. I remember my first Eagles game there… against the Bears. I was fifteen, swept by the fever introduced by the Phillies ’93 World Series run, and my dad introduced me to the 700 level. There are few things I remember about that game but the smell of beer, the incredible wind, the loudness and brazenness of the fans, and the disproportionate quiet as Bears’ wide receiver Wendell Davis ran a route down the seam, tried to jump for a ball when his knees transformed into spaghetti by an AstroTurf perhaps still in baseball mode. There was something unnatural about it, about the unforgiving violence. Jerome spoke again: “There are a lot of unknowns in football; a lot of risk. That risk is managed differently by different people.”
Andy Reid manages risk through organizational leadership, planning, and preparation. He facilitates it by shielding his players from public criticism and tirelessly placing much of that responsibility on himself. He takes pride in putting his players in positions to succeed, well executed or not. But player success is defined by many factors; not only by team wins or individual accolades, but also by salaries and financial incentives. McCoy signed a six-year $45 Million contract this off-season with a base salary this season of $615,000. Was Reid motivated to give McCoy more touches in garbage time in order to increase McCoy’s chances of reaching contract incentives by the end of the season? Was Reid putting McCoy in a position to achieve more financial success? It’s possible, I guess. I do know that by most accounts, Reid’s players appreciate playing for him. It’s one of the reasons why he will coach elsewhere with moderate success. He may even win a Super Bowl elsewhere. But it’s for this reason he will not win one in Philadelphia.
Playing on the Vet’s AstroTurf was a sufficient risk. Reid has been in Philadelphia long enough to remember it. He coached on it. He began his career in Philadelphia in 1999 and walked the AstroTurf for two years before it was replaced by NexTurf in 2001. The AstroTurf hardened the fans of Philadelphia for decades. Perhaps Reid wasn’t here long enough for it to harden him. My father and I watched intently amid the hushed crowd as Wendell Davis was placed gingerly on the cart. I realized then that it takes a certain amount of toughness to play in Philadelphia, and Philadelphians are proud of that. As the images faded, Jerome leaned in and whispered with conviction, “As each surface grew softer, so grew Reid.”
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