Andy Reid and Philadelphia will never be done with each other, ever.
I thought differently during Reid’s final season at the helm of the Eagles, a season so disastrous that fans were recording songs and carrying banners calling for the end of his tenure, a year so awful that sympathetic local sports columnists seemed to beg Jeff Lurie for a firing in the middle of the season in order to put Reid out of his misery. Reid’s departure would wipe the slate clean, it seemed.
Turns out, though, there’s two different models of failed relationship: The ex-wife, and the ex-employee. And Reid is the former, not the latter.
When you let a worker go, you might hear from or about them again—but often it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t: The relationship didn’t work out, for whatever reason, and there’s no point to making nice after everything’s gone south. Reid, with his arm’s-length relationship with Eagles’ fans and the media, seemed possibly to fit this mold.
But no: Reid is going to be Philadelphia’s ex-wife. (Apologies here to sportswriter Bill Simmons, who routinely compares rejuvenated athletes to ex-girlfriends who made themselves over.) In these cases, there’s a lifetime of shared memories and shared friends. Maybe there’s even a kid, in which case there’s a future lifetime of even more shared events: Custody issues, to be sure, but also weddings and other life events. You never really shed that relationship.
And Andy Reid will never be fully shed of Philadelphia.
The best sign of this came Monday in Kansas City, where Reid was introduced as the Chiefs’ head coach. So many Philadelphia media members went down for the press conference—including Vai Sikahema, Derrick Gunn, Jeff McLane, and Dick Jerardi, if datelines are any indication—that I briefly wondered if Philly reporters outnumbered KC media members in KC. (No, it turned out.)
Between the on-scene reporters and a conference call with Philly journalists later in the day, then, it turned out a huge chunk of Reid’s first day in Kansas City was devoted to the care and feeding of reporters from his old job. He told them he was keeping his house here in Philadelphia.
That was a weird way to get a fresh start.
Philadelphia’s media could be forgiven the spectacle, perhaps, seeing as how they’re waiting for Jeff Lurie to complete a head-coaching search that appears to have gone awry. But they’re probably holding on as long as they can to Reid for one simple reason: They know it’ll be a long time, if ever, before the Eagles are as good as they were for most of Reid’s tenure.
Really. Reid may forever be remembered as failing to win the Super Bowl, but it’s really tough to sustain the near-greatness that the Eagles did for a decade under his stewardship.
In Kansas City, for example, Marty Schottenheimer took a Chiefs team that had become a perennial loser and started going to the playoffs every year, averaging 10 wins a season over 10 seasons He, too, couldn’t get over the hump—there was one AFC championship game appearance—and fans there eventually got tired of the act. The problem? Nobody’s been as good since. Reid is the sixth head coach the Chiefs have had in the 15 seasons since Schottenheimer left town.
And don’t forget Marv Levy. Remember when the Buffalo Bills couldn’t win a Super Bowl? How have the Bills been since Levy left coaching?
What all this means is that the Eagles are likely to be mired in mediocrity for awhile, barring a stellar coaching hire that doesn’t seem to be in the offing. Over time, fans will grow more and more wistful for Reid, who at least delivered consistent playoff appearances. Maybe he’ll end up like Dick Vermeil in a few years, adorning billboards around town.
Because that’s the thing about ex-wives and Andy Reid. You can divorce them. But they’ll never entirely leave your life.