ANDY REID is about to enter his 11th season as the Eagles' coach. The last coach or manager to get 11 years in this town was Connie Mack; no, seriously. Mack got 50 years as the Athletics' manager, from 1901 to 1950. Then again, he owned the team.
Last year was as rough a year as there has been for Reid, if you measure by anecdotal public opinion. I remember writing something last year about how I had never seen newspaper columnists fire Reid before last season, and that I had never remembered such a negative tone in e-mails and comments appended to stories and personal interactions with people while standing in line at Best Buy. The next day, Eagles president Joe Banner called.
It wasn't a contentious call (we've had those, too). It came across as more of an attempt to understand this vibe I was getting. He said that the Eagles do internal polling that showed the opposite. He mentioned that internal polling again after the season in an on-the-record setting. I made fun of the notion then that they were doing popularity polling on their players and coaches, as if it mattered in the end. Banner said they were just trying to get a handle on all of this stuff.
All of this came up again the other day, when three Daily News reporters - Les Bowen, Paul Domowitch and I - sat down for an hour with Reid and Banner. I threw the Connie Mack stat at him and everybody laughed. I asked about last year, and my perception of the rough ride he got from the fans, and that maybe it was as simple as a decade of time and familiarity working against him, and this whole business of perceptions came up again.
Then, buried in the midst of a media packet the Eagles have prepared, were the polling numbers. And they are stunning.
Reid could run for president and win with these numbers. So could Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. So could quarterback Donovan McNabb. If these numbers are to believed, the holy trinity of Philadelphia football punching bags might not be able to beat Brady, Belichick and Kraft, but they could beat Obama - every one of them.
Even though there was a decline in Reid's numbers between 2007 and 2008 (see accompanying chart), 89 percent of "avid" fans and 74 percent of season-ticketholders have a positive impression of Reid. Only three percent of "avid" fans and nine percent of season ticketholders have a negative impression of Reid.
It is why, as Banner and Reid said, that the Eagles have such a problem with the anecdotal evidence.
"I don't know," Reid said. "The way people treat me is great. Outside of here, in here, I don't have the same sense as the handful of writers or radio personalities that might call for your head. I don't get that same feeling out among the multitudes."
"This is a very hard thing to explain to you guys - I know it is," Banner said. "Maybe it's the president's version of living inside that fence and not knowing what's going on in the rest of America, I don't know. But our experience of this is so much different than the way it's portrayed . . .
"It's so different. I'm not sure which is right or wrong. As I've said before, and gotten in trouble for, we do some research to try to at least have an educated opinion on this. But it's just a very, very different experience living this than the way it may seem to you guys."
It is a truism that the more anonymous commenters get, the more negative they get. It is why radio callers and the people who comment at the end of stories on philly.com are the most negative, much more than signed e-mails. But those e-mails - the ones sent to me, anyway - were more negative than in previous years, as were personal interactions with people on the street.
No, it isn't scientific - but the feeling was clear. It was more negative. It might not be statistically significant but it was not imaginary, either.
"I think everybody wants to win a championship - that's kind of what you're getting to," Reid said. "I think everybody wants to win a championship, no more so than Joe and I and Jeffrey and the players. The fans follow the same thing - they want to win a championship. And they want it right now, just like we do. That's what we're all striving for."
And they haven't won. It is what this always comes back to in the end. *
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