Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell writes a weekly sports column for the Daily News from a fan's perspective.
LET ME BEGIN by admitting that I love Andy Reid. I think he is a terrific guy and he has given us 12 years of football that has been exciting and very successful. What Andy has accomplished would be the envy of almost every NFL city with the possible exception of Boston.
Sure, he makes some decisions that leave all of us perplexed and he appears stubborn and unwilling to change. But he has done an excellent job, has given us winning football, and I for one would sorely miss hearing, "Time's yours."
Reid sat down with me recently at the NovaCare Complex. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Ed: You are the longest-tenured coach in the NFL right now and you have been a part of our football life as far back as most of us can remember. Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Have you thought about it?
Andy: No, I really haven't. I love getting up every morning and coming into work. I get in early and I honestly enjoy the job. New challenges every day, great personalities, and as I get older these kids get younger, so there is a great energy level there. We have a great coaching staff and great leadership in our front office.
E: So, you have never really contemplated life after coaching?
A: Well, I went through that phase with the boys, where I kind of contemplated, "Where am I sitting right now and what direction do I want to go?" But other than that I have never. I have never been there.
E: It is interesting, I never contemplated life after elected office, because I'd been doing it more or less for 33 years, and I didn't start thinking about it. Of course, politicians are term-limited, coaches are not. I think most of us hope that this doesn't happen, but if you were to leave the Eagles would you contemplate coaching somewhere else in the NFL?
A: Well, I still have energy to coach. Do I want to leave the Eagles? No. I'd love to stay here.
E: Would you ever contemplate coaching in college?
A: Well, one team, and that's it.
A: Yeah, that'd be the one.
E: You and I have talked about this before, that there is a real similarity between what political people in high office and coaches in sports go through. First of all, the media scrutiny. Have you gotten used to living under that incredible looking glass?
A: Yeah, I have, but I try to look at it this way and I have talked to a lot of coaches: Football is very important to the city of Philadelphia, so I understand that. It's very important for a lot people in this city and whether it is the media or whether it's the fans, it is a very important thing. So, with that you have to understand the expectations and understand that you're going to be in the limelight and that there is going to be that kind of umbrella over you. So you just expect it. That's what the expectations are. I know there are a lot of cities where they don't get a capacity crowd at every game, or where the fans care, but really the media cares. They care. They want to be associated with a winner and when they go to their meetings they can kind of stick their chest out and I know how that goes. So, I understand kind of the whole, I understand talk radio and the schtick that these guys have and so on.
E: Was Green Bay much different than Philadelphia?
A: I would say it was a little bit. Listen, they expect you to win football games. Their reaction to losing is a little different than it is here. And the media, where I'm talking to 50 guys at a news conference, they're talking to maybe 10. So, it's a little different level there.
E: When we were making our run to the Super Bowl after the NFC Championship, I said that I could raise taxes that week and no one would notice.
E: You've taken some hits from the media because they say you're pretty closed-mouthed, you don't give up much and you certainly don't comment about your players and you take the responsibility. In fact, you know people sometimes joke and they say we know exactly what he is going to say, "I screwed up, etc., etc." I mean, you do that consciously. You almost never throw a player under the bus, but you know you're going to take a hit for it, right?
A: Yeah, I do, but that's OK. I'm trying to keep this family together and I know expectations are high and I know that I am in this building more than the players are. So, they're out in the public . . . They're getting chipped away enough when they leave this building. They don't need it to happen here. This needs to be a place where there is honesty and integrity and I have got to establish that. So if I have a problem with a player, I don't go to the media, I bring the player in here. I deal with him as a man.
E: When you look back over it, and I know it was frustrating to lose to Green Bay in the playoffs, would you rethink what you said about David Akers? Or do you think that was really a fair assessment?
A: Listen, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I was probably asked the obvious, and so, you know, if I agree with it, I can only tell you that David Akers goes down as the greatest kicker in the history of our team, so David knows how I feel about that.
E: Do you care about your relationship with the media? It's obviously secondary, right?
A: Well, here is what I know. I know that's a tough job. That is a competitive, competitive job. And I wrote all the way through college [at BYU] and did all of that, had my own little sports column. It was in Provo, Utah, so it wasn't the magnitude of Philadelphia. But I understand how competitive it is and how hard it is to get a story out, especially in this day and age where stories get out like that [snaps fingers]. So, I try to come to them as honest as I can be, with what they ask . . . I always want to make sure that our guys are taken care of first and then give them what they need from there.
E: It is funny, though, people say, "Gosh, Andy is a different guy in his postgame news conference when they win or lose." Well, shoot, when a politician loses an election as opposed to wins an election, it's a lot different in the postelection interviews, too. But, in terms of the fans, obviously you care about the fans, but do you care what the fans think about you?
A: It's not about Andy. It's about the football team and the product that I can present. So I think we're going to present you tough, explosive, exciting football that wins games. And like I said before, we're all striving to win that championship. This city and our fans deserve it more than anybody. So, that's our goal and I don't need to be a comedian, I don't need to be the grinch, but I need to be as steady as I can possibly be. I'm juggling a lot of different guys there and dealing with a lot of different personalities and egos.
E: And not to name names, but there are some coaches that play to the media and play to the fans. And clearly that is not you.
A: That's not how I roll, as they would say.
E: When you're not working, and I know you work almost the same hours as I used to work, what's your favorite sport to watch when you have some free time?
A: I love basketball and I played in high school at John Marshall, right below Dodger Stadium. And I like watching basketball. I love baseball, too. I've gotten into this hockey thing since I've been here, and I didn't know much about hockey.
E: What about college football? Saturdays are tough days to watch, right?
A: Travel days are, but when I'm here in the NovaCare Complex I sit here and I've got it hooked up where I can have my film playing on one TV and a college game on the other. Friday and Saturday are big days for me because everyone is kind of gone. For coaches, that is their catchup day with their families. So, I am able to get in here where it's quiet, put a game on, watch my tape and finalize the game plan.
E: What was your most pleasant surprise during the draft in terms of someone being there or somebody you were able to get you didn't think you'd get?
A: Well, you're always focused on getting that first player. You've seen us go up and get guys and move back. Danny [Watkins] was one of those kids that was all over the board. People had him up higher than where we took him, and some had him as the first pick of the second round. So, you had that area there you had to cover and figure out. Once we got that locked up, we felt pretty good.
E: So, he was pretty much always your guy, but if the Nebraska cornerback [Prince Amukamara] had been there, would it have been a harder choice?
A: No. We wanted Danny.
E: Any of our late-round picks, and I know you like all of our late-round picks, but is there any one guy who you think can be the next Trent Cole or Jamar Chaney?
A: I think they all can. I'll tell you, though, I was a little shocked with one of our last picks when [Connecticut linebacker] Greg Lloyd was still on the board [in the seventh round]. I didn't think that he would be on the board when we picked, so I'll be curious to see how he does. He's a pretty physical player.
E: I've heard a lot of players rave about the upside of Mike Kafka. If we were to trade Kevin Kolb, and I know this is still open and you have feelings both ways about it, but hypothetically, if that were to happen, is Kafka good enough or ready to be a No. 2 or would you try to bring in a veteran just to give him some more time?
A: I think he's good enough to be a No. 2.
E: Do you think his potential is as good as the players have been telling us?
A: Yeah. The players, they speak honest words when they're telling you about a player. If they don't mention him, then he's probably no good. If they do mention him to you and say good things about him, then he's probably a pretty good player. Kafka is the kind of kid that I'll come out of my office at 10 p.m. and he is here watching film.
E: So, you'd feel comfortable starting the season with him as your No. 2?
A: I would, if it came down to that.
E: So, you still might look to see who is out there?
A: We have to see about Kevin first, whether he's here or not.
E: I've always made it a point, as long as I've been doing the [postgame] show, never to sit in the press box or watch from the studio because I like to hear what the fans are saying and bring that back onto the show. You must know that the fans think we ought to run the ball more. For years and years, that has been the refrain. I think that when we had Brian [Westbrook] there was more unanimity that we used him pretty well considering what his skill set was. With "Shady" [LeSean McCoy], do you look back sometimes after the game is over and say we should have run the ball a little more? Because Shady clearly wants the ball all the time, and you want running backs that want the ball.
A: I want to win and that's all I care about. I don't care how we do it. I obviously study the different offenses in the NFL and when you look at a team like New Orleans, they're throwing the ball 64 percent of the time, which is well above what we do. Indianapolis and Green Bay are also good examples. The teams that are winning football games are throwing the ball at percentage points either with us or above us. That's how you win in the NFL.
There are a couple funny things here, because you look at Brian Westbrook, he's the second-leading rusher in Eagles history. How did he get there? It didn't happen by magic. So, there are some things that you overlook. I'm just happy that they can pick one thing and fire at it. If it's just one thing and you're still hanging and you're winning games, that's OK.
But we probably run the ball better and more than people think we do, if they really study the game. I don't get caught up too much in that. I'm not going to let anything take away from the W's.
E: I assume if Leonard Weaver did not get injured last year you may have run the ball more.
A: Again (laughs), I thought we ran the ball enough last year.
E: How good can Michael Vick be?
A: He can get better.
E: That's an incredible thought.
A: He knows it. I mean, he's working at that. He knows that he's not tapped out, he's only 30 years old.
E: What specifically would you like to see him do better?
A: Well, the thing I think you'll see is his handling of this offense, which means the blitz game, will continue to get better and better. And that's just being familiar with the different protections.
E: And I assume he'll emerge as even more of a leader, but he emerged as a leader pretty quickly last year.
A: He's a great leader. He's a great leader and he doesn't really care who he's talking to. Doesn't matter - offense, defense, special teams - he doesn't care. He does it in is own way and he is not afraid to crank on himself and he's not afraid to crank on other guys.
E: And of course he also leads by example, good Lord. He takes such a beating that if you are one of his teammates you have to want to lay it all on the line for him.
A: You learn real quickly that he's a pretty tough kid.
E: Last question. Focus ahead to Sept. 11, 2011, the first week of the 2011-2012 NFL season. Do you think there's any way the NFL doesn't play football on that day?
A: The one thing I do know is that both sides really want to play football that day, so we'll see how it plays out.