Keeping Reid right choice for Eagles -- because no replacement's better

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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Neither Andy Reid nor Michael Vick produced the type of season demanding Philly expected. (Getty Images)  
Neither Andy Reid nor Michael Vick produced the type of season demanding Philly expected. (Getty Images)  

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie had a lot of things to say Tuesday, the most important of which was that he was retaining head coach Andy Reid. For months, speculation centered on Reid's future with angry fans and various media outlets calling for his dismissal, but Lurie paid no attention and pledged allegiance to his head coach.

"I want to see our team coached by Andy next year," he said, "and I want to see them play."

Well, hear, hear.

I don't believe in making changes for change's sake, which means I certainly don't believe Lurie should have fired Reid. In backing his head coach he did the right thing.

Granted, Reid didn't have a stellar season. In fact, the Eagles' 8-8 finish was his second-worst over the past 12 years -- tying his 8-8 record in 2007 -- and that's only after Philadelphia finished with a rush, winning its last four games.

But that's part of why I'd argue for Reid's retention. His team didn't quit on him. After all the Eagles went through -- with "The Dream Team" fallout, Juan Castillo's learning curve, stunning fourth-quarter defeats, DeSean Jackson's tantrums and a zillion turnovers -- the Eagles would not collapse.

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Instead, they fought on, crippling the New York Jets' and Dallas Cowboys' playoff hopes down the stretch. Contrast that with, say, Tampa Bay's performance the past two months, with the Bucs tuning out their head coach and dropping 10 straight, and you'll understand what I mean about persevering.

Of course, that's what professional athletes are supposed to do. Moreover, the Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to have the talent to do something more than just hang tough. They were supposed to have the talent to hammer opponents -- which, as a matter of fact, is exactly what they did the last month, winning their last four starts by an average of 19.7 points.

But that's not why you keep Andy Reid. You keep him because he's your best choice. I mean, if you're going to fire your head coach you replace him with someone better, right? So tell me: Who's better?

Jeff Fisher? I don't think so. Like Reid, he went to a Super Bowl, but that was 12 years ago. Plus, five of his last seven seasons were .500 or worse. I respect and admire Fisher, too, but in 10 of his 15 complete seasons with Tennessee he didn't break .500.

Then what about Bill Cowher? He went to two Super Bowls and won one of them, right? Yes. But he also had back-to-back losing seasons and a three-year stretch where he was 22-26 and hasn't coached in five years.

How about Jon Gruden? Please. He won a Super Bowl with a team he inherited from Tony Dungy, then was 45-53 in the six seasons that followed -- including 0-2 in the playoffs. Not only hasn't he coached since 2008, but he also seems comfortable in his job as a Monday Night analyst.

The bottom line is that Lurie stayed with Reid because he's a proven winner. He's one of the most consistently successful head coaches in the business, and that should count for something.

In fact, it should count for a lot. You don't fire a guy just because he had a subpar season. If that were the case, Cowher never would have been allowed to make it to his second Super Bowl, and Fisher would have been dispatched a long time ago.

I like teams that don't panic, which is why I back this decision. Look, I know there are areas where Reid can and must improve, and look no farther than his clock management. But that's correctable. If you tear up a blueprint every time you're frustrated with a season's results, you wind up as the Cleveland Browns.

Basically, you don't blow up a franchise every three years and not suffer the consequences.

Lurie called this season "the most disappointing since I owned the team," yet he refused to give in to calls for Reid's dismissal, and good for him. Lurie has stood by Reid before when angry fans wanted Reid gone, and the Eagles are better for it -- with Reid winning 60 percent of his games and Philadelphia making nine playoff appearances.

If anything, Reid is the victim of his own success, with Philadelphia fans no longer satisfied to reach the playoffs. They want more, and this was the year they were supposed to have it.

Only they didn't.

So they're infuriated, and I understand. The Eagles were a major disappointment. I also understand that the biggest disappointment -- the first-half performance of Castillo and the Eagles' defense -- is on Reid. He took a leap of faith when he named his offensive line coach the new defensive coordinator, and he -- and the club -- suffered for it.

But the Eagles came out of it -- as they almost always do with Andy Reid. The reason is not because they have outstanding players. The reason is because they have an outstanding head coach.

Minnesota's Leslie Frazier once said that Philadelphia fans wouldn't appreciate Reid until he was gone. Fortunately, they're going to have to wait.

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