Andy Reid is the coach of a team that made it to four consecutive NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. His team has been extraordinarily good coming off bye weeks (12-0 before a loss to the Falcons this year), and he himself has been extraordinarily bad at managing the clock. He is, mostly, a terrible coach, and he’s almost certainly going to be fired at the end of this season.
Eagles fans, who are not noted for being undemanding or coldly rational, have agreed on the “terrible coach” point for some time. Eagles ownership, which has not been noted for being overly responsive to those fans, has disagreed, or at least agreed that Reid was good enough.
It’s hard to argue that at the moment,though, as Reid’s team fumbles, bumbles and stumbles toward the offseason. But it has been hard to argue it for some time, and more to the point: what a terrible point to be arguing, and what a sad debate good-enough gives fans. If a coach can’t win a game because of a fatal flaw -- in this case, time management -- insisting on trotting him out there year after year to shatter the dreams of an entire fanbase on the assumption that, despite a lack of changes, things will somehow change, seems more like a passive torture than a football strategy, sound or otherwise.
There are reasons that the Eagles stayed with him despite the lack of playoff success. For one, just making it into the playoffs is a success, and it’s something Reid did in 9 out of 14 years he was in charge. Another is Reid’s ability to -- as Bill Barnwell wrote today in his well-written, well argued and totally-missing-the-point defense of Andy -- “anticipate the coming shift to pass-happy offenses and shotgun-reliant attacks that showed up toward the end of the last decade,” leading the charge with teams that threw on 57.0% of their plays during his tenure. Reid seems to be an gifted talent evaluator in the draft and a brilliant game planner when given time. That isn’t what brings home championships, and it hasn’t.
The disconnect that exists between those who have long been comfortable with the word “terrible” and those who oppose the assertion that Reid is a “bad” or not-actively-good coach arises from this fact. Reid’s inabilty -- or possible outright refusal -- to learn even the most basic time-management skills is certainly his Achilles’ heel. People have these, even great players and coaches. But considering that everyone knows about this problem, it seems very odd that he’d be repeatedly given the ability to protect Troy (or in this case, Lincoln Financial Field).
Championships matter, which is not to say that a player or coach can’t be great without one. But if the goal isn’t to win a championship, what is it?
On some level, this disconnect exists because of how nebulous a phrase like “what it takes to win” inherently is. We have a tendency to see winning as a strange alchemy of the tangible elements of player quality and strategic superiority with the ethereal quality of luck.
Which it is, although it does seem as if winning teams and winning cultures produce luck more readily than less-successful ones. There are a thousand other cliches, quips and proverbs that relay this message to us. The person in charge -- which in Reid’s case is Reid -- must be able to juggle a variety of different tasks, manage all kinds of people with all kinds of jobs, maximize efficiency and avoid confusion and conflict. Being the conductor of a large orchestra seems a more apt metaphor, here, than CEO. Andy Reid doesn’t have much time for golf.
It appears that Reid, for the most part, has the first part -- all that dizzying personnel and ego management -- down. It’s the actual conducting, the application of preparation to a live situation, where Reid seems to lose his way. And, because of this, the organization’s margin of error during performances doesn’t just shrink, it evaporates completely.
Much like Mike D’Antoni’s famous aversion to practicing defensive rotations, the inability of Andy Reid to routinely preserve timeouts past the third quarter inevitably give way to much narrower endgame scenarios -- which are far and away the most important to the outcome of the game by nearly any measure. It greatly hinders the ability of the team to regain a strategic advantage late in games. It completely washes away the team’s margin for error in execution. It’s infuriating to watch, too.
In other words, Reid’s deficiencies are so great relative to other coaches, and exist in such a high priority area, that they render him even more useless than a coach who could be considered less talented in every other aspect of the role of the head coach. These types of coaches are filed under Whisenhunt, Ken and Martz, Mike. They’ve led teams to Super Bowls, too.
Because he is by all accounts a fundamentally good man, he will enjoy a life and career much longer and more rewarding than many of his peers. This, along with the fact that he's more talented than most coaches at nearly every other aspect of the sport, means Reid will likely be hired by some other team, and probably a good one. If it takes another 14 years of torture for his new team to realize the terrible shortcoming that undermines all of Reid’s other abilities, he won’t be the only one guilty of bad time management. And if he can’t fix it... well, he’s been called a terrible coach before.