AGENT BOB LaMONTE said the talks to extend Andy Reid's contract were "more of a celebration than a negotiation." Eagles president Joe Banner agreed that "there was no negotiation" really required to arrive at the 3-year Reid extension, through 2013, that the team announced yesterday. A league source said Reid would be paid in the $5 million-to-$6 million-a-year range to run the Eagles, bringing him on par with the top three highest-paid coaches in the game.
Yet, there are Eagles fans - a vocal minority, the organization contends - who feel that celebrations should be reserved for championships. Reid, head coach since 1999 and director of football operations since 2001, hasn't won one, despite setting franchise records for wins (105 in the regular season, 10 more in the postseason) and winning percentage (.611).
Why do team president Banner and team chairman Jeffrey Lurie think Reid will win a Super Bowl in one of the next five Februarys, when he didn't win any in the first 10?
"He has all the ingredients - leadership, football knowledge, ability to gain the respect of everybody he works with, especially the players, assembling a staff - every ingredient you could possibly look for, including a phenomenal track record of getting very far," Lurie said yesterday. "And if you don't get very far, you have no chance. I'm extremely confident that we have a great opportunity going forward."
Basically, the organizational view has been and is that if you consistently put your team in position to win, someday you will win. Sometimes the fates smile on other teams, but over the long haul, your day will come. In this view, such details as the mishandling of timeouts or an inability to adjust quickly within a game are not fatal flaws as much as they are part of the normal ebb and flow, things that will even out over time.
Reid's tenure currently is the league's second-longest, trailing that of Tennessee's Jeff Fisher (16 seasons), another coach who has reached one Super Bowl and lost it. Fisher and Chicago's Lovie Smith are the league's highest-paid coaches this season, at about $5.5 million, according to Forbes magazine. New England's Bill Belichick is said to make slightly less than that.
"Our view is, first of all, there are some qualities we look for, and what we think have driven the people that have been successful in winning Super Bowls. Jeff mentioned things like leadership, relationships with the team, and hiring a quality staff and so forth," Banner said. "We looked at the body of his work. It just left us feeling that if we look forward, with the information we have, from what he and others have done in the past, who's the coach we'd like to kind of bet on, gives us the best chance to win . . . our judgment was that Andy gives us that best chance."
Reid, 51, was self-effacing.
"I am a piece of the puzzle here, and by my waist size, I'm a big piece, but in reality, I'm just a piece of the puzzle," he said.
And yet, it seems to very much be his puzzle - Reid drafts, signs and trades for the pieces and deploys them, probably until he decides he doesn't want to do that anymore. It's hard to recall a Philadelphia sports figure with more clout.
"When I look at Andy Reid, I think 'Philadelphia Eagles,' " LaMonte said.
The 3-year parameter was decided on before this season, so Reid would have 5 years total left, including this season. The feeling yesterday was that it could have been more years or fewer, had he felt strongly.
"This will just continue," Lurie said, when asked about the Reid Era. "There are no signs that it won't."
Reid didn't sound like a man who was looking for a different challenge, or different scenery.
"I realize it's unique" to be in one place 11 seasons, and signed for three more, he said. "Listen, I respect the game, I respect the organization, and I know I am very fortunate, very, very fortunate . . . I love coming to work every day. There is not a day that goes by that, man, I'm not fired up coming in here and getting busy, and there are not a lot of people in this world that can say that. Every day, man, it's a new experience. It's a great experience. I have great kids that I'm working here with. I have great coaches. I have full support of Jeffrey and Joe, and that just doesn't happen everywhere."
In the wake of Reid's extension, Banner indicated that decisions will be made on other organizational figures whose deals are set to expire after the 2010 season, such as general manager Tom Heckert, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was not extended past 2010 when money was added to his deal last June, said he did not expect Reid's signing to affect him. McNabb was Reid's first big acquisition, the second overall pick in the 1999 draft.
In answering a question about whether he ever approaches Reid critically, Lurie painted a picture of a man strikingly different from the one fans see sitting stolidly behind the microphone the day after the team loses, talking in broad generalities about putting players in better positions to make plays.
"When you operate a business, I think you evaluate every single aspect of every area of the business, and there is nobody that is perfect," Lurie said. "Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, including myself. You always try to bolster the weaknesses and maximize the strengths, and show trust and loyalty, and give the person an opportunity to succeed, and that's been the nature of this relationship. It's been very honest, direct communication, open, and Andy has such genuineness and comfortability with himself that he is able to address very openly and honestly, weaknesses. He's the biggest critic possible of himself and the team at times, so it's a very, very fluid and healthy environment."
Lurie said he never doubted Reid was the coach to get the job done. After reaching the Super Bowl following the 2004 season, the Eagles failed to make the playoffs in 2005 and 2007, and exited after one postseason victory in 2006, during a time of roster transition, marked by McNabb injuries and the well-publicized legal troubles of two of Reid's sons. Their unexpected postseason journey to the NFC title game last January, after barely qualifying as a wild-card team, was their longest since that Super Bowl year.
"No. There's never been one seed of doubt," Lurie said. "In the NFL, you are going to have some seasons that are not going to go as well as planned. It's a contact sport. It's a sport built on tremendous internal motivation . . . You see with other franchises time to time, and when you have somebody excellent at what they do . . . You have to look at the body of work. When I try to look back on where the franchise was 11 years ago, there has been some success, but the popularity of this franchise, the fans we have had on the road this year, up to 20,000 in San Diego, Atlanta loud and boisterous, 5,000 in Chicago, enormous TV ratings, every measure possible, it's hard to do in a large market the kind of market share of TV ratings that we get."
In 2007, when Reid took a leave of absence to deal with his sons' troubles, there were rumors he might step down. He spoke on his radio show Monday night, and again yesterday, about the challenges of that period, but he said he always wanted to continue coaching the Eagles.
"I mentioned on my radio show that I needed that time, when the boys had their problems, and I was very fortunate to have an owner that allowed me to have that time," Reid said. "But there wasn't a time when I haven't enjoyed coming to work, no."
Lurie was asked why it was necessary to take such a step now, instead of after the season.
"It sends a great message to the players right in the middle of the season," Lurie said. "Stability - I've always valued stability, when you have the right people. In professional sports there tends to be sort of a knee-jerk reaction to some ups and downs . . . this is a great message to both Andy Reid, everyone in the organization, and particularly the players, that this man's accomplishments and the team's accomplishments are being reinforced, rewarded, and we look for great things coming up."
Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who returned to the team this season after being out of football for a year-and-a-half, is the only Eagle who was here before Reid.
"I remember how it was before he got here. Things were pretty bad around here, man," said Trotter, who was a rookie on the 3-13 1998 Eagles. "I remember how bad it was before Donovan got here. I know he's taken a lot of heat. The guy wins games. Are we perfect? No, we're not perfect. But you can't deny what those two have done since they've been in town."