The next time Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and team president Joe Banner have to make a decision about extending Andy Reid's tenure as head coach, history should be their guide.
With Wednesday's three-year extension, the Eagles announced that their plan is to keep their coach in place for 15 consecutive seasons, through 2013.
Fifteen seasons is forever in the NFL, and there's good evidence that if somebody can't win a Super Bowl in that amount of time, he's never going to be able to finish the job.
Only 27 coaches have spent at least 15 seasons either in the NFL or the old AFL, and 20 of them won an NFL, AFL, or Super Bowl title. Sixteen of those 20 won multiple titles.
The list of 27 names is impressive. It includes men who have had stadiums (Paul Brown and Curly Lambeau) and streets (Mike Holmgren) named after them. It includes 14 Hall of Famers and one current coach - Bill Belichick - who is sure to end up in Canton.
It also includes three men - Bud Grant, Marv Levy, and Dan Reeves - who fell short in four Super Bowl trips, and three others - Jim Mora, Marty Schottenheimer, and Chuck Knox - who never made it to a Super Bowl.
Exactly where Reid fits in among the above coaches doesn't matter right now. This is only Reid's 11th season, and whether you are for him or against him is irrelevant because Lurie and Banner are convinced that their best chance to acquire some fine finger jewelry and a shiny sterling silver Lombardi for their trophy case rests on the same man they hired in 1999.
Reid's agent, Bob LaMonte, made a valid point about the organization after Reid signed his extension Wednesday. He said the Eagles were an irrelevant team before Reid's arrival, and they have been relevant for the last decade.
That's impossible to argue.
In the 49 years since the Eagles last won an NFL championship, they have had a winning record just 20 times and been to the postseason just 16 times. Reid's teams have had seven winning seasons and made seven trips to the playoffs in 10 years. With an 8-4 record going into tonight's game against the New York Giants, the Eagles are in a position to go back to the playoffs this season.
The roster, save for quarterback Donovan McNabb, kicker David Akers, and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, has been completely overhauled since Reid's first playoff team at the start of the decade. The coaching staff has also gone through some major changes, with the most recent at defensive coordinator, where Sean McDermott replaced the late Jim Johnson.
That Reid has the Eagles in playoff contention with such a young cast is a tribute to his ability to both coach and select players that fit his system. Yes, he has made mistakes, and he has made enemies among the fans and media because he'd rather have root canal than distribute a morsel of information about his football team.
"His bottom line is he's there to win for the organization, the players, the coaches, and the fans, and if it's going to sacrifice, at times, his ability to respond to questions, he'd rather take that on than make winning less of a priority, and that's rare in sports," Lurie said. "That's just incredibly unselfish and rare, and I don't get a chance to say that very often, but there is a method to the approach."
Perhaps that's true. Belichick and former Denver coach Mike Shanahan are even less forthcoming than Reid when it comes to dispensing information, but that doesn't change the fact that the NFL's self-importance overall is absolutely nauseating.
In the eyes of the fans, it doesn't matter.
It's all about winning. Proof can be found across the street at Citizens Bank Park, where Charlie Manuel went from less than popular to everybody's favorite uncle.
Win one Super Bowl, and Reid will undergo the same transformation.
It's that simple and that difficult.
Like a newly elected president, Reid has four more years after this one to finish a job he started in 1999.
Only two of the coaches who were around at least 15 years won their first Super Bowl after their 10th season. Tom Landry won his first of two Super Bowls with Dallas in his 12th season, and Bill Cowher won his only Super Bowl with Pittsburgh in his 14th season.
During the Super Bowl era, Landry is the only coach to win a Super Bowl after his 15th season in the league. The combined playoff record of NFL coaches who were still around after their 15th season is 30-40.
History tells us time should be running out on Reid. The window should be closing.
Reid should have this year and four more after that to bring the Eagles their first Super Bowl title. If he does it, then it should be up to him how long he wants to remain as this team's head coach.
If he can't do it, then he'll have to either go elsewhere or live with the fact that he is the Eagles' Marv Levy.
Read The Inquirer's Eagles blog, Birds' Eye View, by Bob Brookover and Jeff McLane,
Blog response of the week
Subject: Andy Reid's three-year contract extension through 2013.
Post by: phasor at 9:26 a.m. Wednesday.
"Unless he gets on Charlie Manuel's Nutri-System program, I don't think he'll make it till 2013."