WHEN EAGLES owner Jeff Lurie decided to make Andy Reid king 7 1/2 years ago, monarchies were all the rage in the NFL.
With his May 2001 elevation from head coach to head coach/executive vice president of football operations, Reid became the 13th coaching member of The Final Say Club.
Seven-and-half years later, you could hold the monthly meetings of The Final Say Club in a bathroom stall at McDonald's.
Belichick, Shanahan and Reid are the only three NFL head coaches who still have final say over all of their organization's personnel decisions. With the Eagles precariously close to missing the playoffs for the third time in the last 4 years, many people, including moi, think that number needs to be reduced to two.
Of course, my opinion and your opinion don't mean squat. The only opinions that matter belong to Lurie and club president Joe Banner. If you read body language and anonymous quotes, their faith in coach Andy doesn't appear to have wavered. As for whether their faith in GM Andy has, well, that's a little harder to ascertain at the moment.
This much is clear: Despite the Patriots' three Super Bowl titles under Belichick, the era of the monarch coach in the NFL appears to be over. Most of the league's teams have returned to a two-tiered setup in which the coach coaches and somebody else makes personnel decisions, although usually with considerable input from the coach.
"When you see guys like Mike Holmgren unable to do it, it's not because he's not smart or because he doesn't work hard or because he doesn't know football," said former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese, who now is an ESPN studio analyst. "They have all those credentials. It's just too much for one man."
The Seahawks hired Holmgren, who had coached the Packers to a Super Bowl title in 1996, to be coach and GM in '99. After they made the playoffs only once in his first 4 years there, Holmgren, at management's request, gave up his GM role. Seattle made the playoffs 5 straight years after that and went to the Super Bowl in '05.
"If you have a GM spending all of his time looking at personnel and you have a head coach spending all of his time working football, in my opinion, you're going to be better off than if you have one guy spending 50 percent of his time doing one and 50 percent of his time doing the other," Reese said.
Reid will argue that he doesn't spend 50 percent of his time on personnel, and that he relies heavily on general manager Tom Heckert and his scouts to evaluate talent in the draft and free agency. But ultimately, it's still Reid, relying heavily on others' opinions, making the final decision.
"You can't make decisions correctly, you can't be right most of the time, if you're always reliant on what somebody else is telling you," Reese said. "Because you're only going to be right part of the time.
"You hear it from one guy, you like what he says, you say, 'OK, fine, we'll go that way.' Well, he might be wrong. If it's your job and it's your reputation, and your success is based on you making those decisions, then if you're in personnel, guess what? You've got to see those guys. You've got to see them play in September and October. You've got to go to their pro days. You've got to visit them on campus. You've got to do all those things. And you just can't do that if you're coaching football.
"Being a coach is a 364-day-a-year job. So is being a personnel man. How can you split the two jobs and be as effective at either one as you would be if you were just focusing on one?"
Bill Parcells was fond of saying that if you're asked to cook the meal, you must be able to buy the groceries. Yet, the fact is, his greatest coaching success came when he wasn't buying the groceries. General manager George Young was the personnel architect of the two Giants teams that won Super Bowls under Parcells.
Parcells stormed out of the Giants' draft war room in 1989 when Young insisted on taking an undersized running back out of Towson State by the name of Dave Meggett in the fifth round. Meggett ended up being the leading receiver on the Giants' 1990 Super Bowl champions.
Then there's Dick Vermeil. He coached the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs. Had final say over personnel with the Eagles and Rams, didn't with the Chiefs. Went to a Super Bowl with the Eagles, won one with the Rams, didn't get there with the Chiefs.
"With me, final say in personnel just meant [working] in coordination with everybody else in the personnel department, who worked 100 percent of the time doing personnel," Vermeil said. "It wasn't an ego thing where I had to have [the power]. I preferred to have it, but hopefully not have to execute it, because you're always on the same page as your people.
"That's why the Patriots have been so successful. Bill gives [vice president of player personnel] Scott [Pioli] great definition of what they need and what kind of player he wants for each specific position. Nobody does that better than they do. They fill voids with guys who have been waived or have been told
they're too old to play. But the guy can do what they're asking him to do."
Jim Mora spent 15 seasons as an NFL head coach, 11 with the Saints, four with the Colts. He worked for two of the best general managers in history - Jim Finks in New Orleans and Bill Polian in Indianapolis. Mora never lost a minute of sleep fretting over the fact that they were buying the groceries.
"I liked the systems I was involved in in both of those places," Mora said. "I was involved thoroughly in who we drafted and signed. I didn't have final say, but, in both instances, they would confer with me. Never in those 15 years was there ever a situation where I wanted a guy and Jim or Bill said, 'Tough, we're not getting him.' "
His son, Jim Mora, took the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game 4 years ago. He didn't have final say over personnel. He will replace Holmgren as the Seahawks' head coach next season. Won't have final say there. either.
"There's so much to do as head coach," the elder Mora said. "To also be involved in scouting meetings and all of that, it's impossible. You can't do it early enough [in the scouting process] to make the right decisions. It's just too much."
The dwindling membership in The Final Say Club seems to indicate that most of the league's owners know that. We'll find out soon enough whether Jeff Lurie also does. *