ATLANTA - Yes, he can drive you crazy at times. Yes, he can be mystifying and stubborn. Yes, he can get lost in the fog during games sometimes.

All of that is true about Andy Reid. So is this: He's going to be the Eagles' head coach as long as he wants to be. Whether Reid's contract is extended today, this week, or in January isn't important. It's going to happen - not just because it's the right thing for owner Jeffrey Lurie to do, but because it's the only thing.

Yesterday, Reid's team won its 100th regular-season game in the 2000s. According to the Eagles, only Tom Landry (1970s), Don Shula ('70s), and Bill Belichick (2000s) have won 100 games in a single decade.

The win itself was remarkable only for its ease. The game was so one-sided, Reid was able to amuse himself by taking requests from the fans.

Don't write this one off as a gift from the schedule. The Falcons were missing five starters from their offense, including quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner, because of injuries. That helps explain the Eagles' domination.

But then you look at the Eagles' inactive players: Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, and Kevin Curtis were all missing from the Eagles' offense. Linebacker Akeem Jordan didn't play. Left tackle Jason Peters went out during the game. And then there's the injured-reserve listers: Shawn Andrews, Stewart Bradley, Omar Gaither, and Ellis Hobbs.

So there's no grading this one on a curve because of injuries. Playing without their two most explosive offensive players, the Eagles scored 34 points and amassed 380 yards - including plays that went 59, 56, and 43 yards. That has everything to do with coaching.

Someway, somehow, this team is 8-4 and starting its customary late-season march to the playoffs. Most of the players have changed over the years, but the results are remarkably consistent.

Yes, the Eagles lost a couple of games this year they should have won. Yes, that is on the head coach. But now they've won three in a row and are in perfect position to make a run at the division title. Again.

"It's something that has been happening to us for years now," said quarterback Donovan McNabb, the other constant in this equation. "You go through the first part of the year trying to get things like your timing down. This is the time that people remember. You never remember September and October. You remember November, December, and January. You want to hit the playoffs rolling if you have that opportunity."

The flip side of the Eagles' consistency under Reid is that Groundhog Day feeling when they fall short at the threshold of a championship. But it must be said that this team really does have a different feel than in years past.

The defense is not quite the dominating force it was during the four-year stretch that ended with the Super Bowl loss to New England. But it is surprisingly effective, given the unplanned change at coordinator and the youth.

But it is the offense that really looks and feels different. Even if you're not a big fan of the Wildcat formations or the Vick project - and I'm not - it is certainly new. Reid's offense has evolved and grown from the Mike Holmgren playbook he brought to Philadelphia.

More important, this is the best array of weapons McNabb has had to work with in his career. As Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy develop, the quarterback's play elevates. This is not a coincidence. After being asked to do more with less than most top QBs, McNabb really looks like he's enjoying himself.

"The more you can do, the better the team," McNabb said. "Our passing game is taking off a little bit. The sky's the limit for this team."

It may be asking a lot for such a young group to make a Super Bowl run in a transitional season. But at 8-4, with only a couple of really good teams in the NFC, it is possible. And that's the whole point of Andy Reid. With him on the sideline, the Eagles almost always have a shot.

And so, of course they have to extend Reid's contract, which is set to expire after the 2010 season.

"The guy has done nothing but win," McNabb said. "Obviously, everyone wants to win the Super Bowl. I do, too. I think we strive for it every year. Sometimes it doesn't happen. You just have to continue to keep punching. Having a coach like this that continues to prepare his team well and have winning seasons, he deserves it."

Reid wouldn't answer questions about his contract. The Eagles released a statement saying little more than that they've always intended to re-sign the coach.

It's an easy decision. It's the only decision.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.