FOR MOST of his 13 seasons as the Eagles head coach, Andy Reid has viewed his fireside chats with reporters as a necessary evil. Part of the job. Right down there with roster cuts and phone calls from Mama McNabb.
In the beginning, he actually put some effort into it. While he never has been a great quote, he tried to be as honest as he could and at least point us in the general direction of the truth.
But somewhere along the line, that ended. Somewhere along the line, we stopped being a necessary evil to Reid and started becoming a nuisance. I'm sure that's been pretty obvious to anyone who has watched his news conferences the last couple of weeks.
He has sat up there in front of us during his team's early-season 1-3 free fall looking like a guy who would rather be doing wind sprints than answering our questions.
I've been covering pro football for nearly 30 years, and when Eagles fans would moan and groan about the lack of information that would come out of Reid's news conferences, I usually would tell them two things.
I would tell them that Reid really was no different than most of the league's other coaches. And I would tell them that, while Reid seldom gave you much, what he did give you was the truth. He wouldn't lie.
But sadly, that ended a while back as well. Over the last couple of years, Reid has regularly lied with the best of them, or shaped the truth to fit his own purposes.
He acknowledged his media operating strategy in a brief exchange at his Monday news conference with talk-show host Mike Missanelli when he said, "I'll give you what I want to give you. "
These days, that's very little. After 13 years as the Eagles' king, after 13 years of listening to his agent tell him how powerful and omniscient he is, Reid feels he can do pretty much whatever he wants, whether it's promoting an offensive-line coach to defensive coordinator or defying the NFL's media policy.
According to the league rules, clubs must provide regular access to all of their assistant coaches for media interviews. To my knowledge, 31 of the league's 32 teams abide by the policy. The Eagles are the lone exception.
Reid allows his coordinators to talk to the media, but has put all of his position coaches off-limits. When Reid wouldn't allow me to talk to offensive-line coach Howard Mudd or defensive-line coach Jim Washburn this summer, I reminded him that he had to make all of his assistants available or face a $25,000 fine. He just gave me an I-don't-really-give-a-damn shrug along with an explanation that he wanted just "one voice" on his coaching staff. That, of course, would be Andrew Walter Reid.
He more or less suggested that allowing his assistants to talk to me, or any other reporter, probably would mean the end of civilization as we know it. Seems to have conveniently forgotten that he was allowed to speak freely with reporters when he was an assistant on Mike Holmgren's staff in Green Bay and neither the Packers nor civilization skipped a beat.
What's going on here is the same thing that goes on in a bad marriage that has gone on too long.
"When you're in the same place for a long time, there's a tendency for both sides to get tired of each other," said Jim Mora, who spent 10 1/2 seasons as the Saint's head coach from 1986 to 1996 before walking away in the middle of the year.
"If you're continuing to win as a football team, then it's not bad. It makes things easier. There's less tension. There's less negatives being written about you and your team.
"But once you start not doing well, which was the case for me in New Orleans and for Jeff Fisher down in Tennessee, he was there a long time, too, and the last couple of years he was struggling. Then it becomes a tough situation."
Reid is the winningest coach in Eagles history. He's taken the team to the playoffs nine times in the last 12 years. His team's have won six division titles and advanced to the NFC title game five times.
But after 12 seasons, he still hasn't won a Super Bowl, and as far as Eagles fans are concerned, that's pretty much all that really matters. Now, despite an influx of high-priced talent, the Eagles are 1-3. Not the way Reid envisioned it, and not the way the media and fans envisioned it.
Mora understands what they're feeling. Understands what Reid is feeling. He took over a hapless Saints franchise that had never had a winning season and turned it into a 12-game winner his second year there. Was the toast of the town for several years. But at some point, you've got to take the next step. He won a lot of games, got the Saints to the playoffs several times, but never won a postseason game.
"Bill Walsh used to say 10 years was the longest a coach ought to stay anywhere," Mora said. "Back in those days, it was a little different because you didn't have free agency and you kept the same guys and they kind of got tired of listening to you.
"Nowadays, with the turnover on squads because of free agency, I'm not sure the 10-year plan is something you have to adhere to. But in dealing with the media, it all boils down to your relationship with them and the success you're having.
"If you're winning and having success, then it's workable. Once you start losing and not living up to what people think you ought to be doing, it gets tough. Especially in a town like Philly."
Mora's relationship with the media in New Orleans his last couple of years there became as frayed as Reid's is becoming with us. The Saints were losing and reporters kept asking him why and he got tired of trying to come up with excuses, since he really couldn't say, "Hey, our players just aren't very good."
"My patience level toward the end?" Mora said. "Yeah, it wasn't good. It never was great, but it got worse."
Mora still remembers his biggest agitator, former New York Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda, who worked for a TV station in New Orleans.
"A former major league ballplayer who won a World Series and he would come and ask the dumbest questions I've ever heard in my career, ever," Mora said. "And it got worse when we weren't winning.
"You look at [Terry] Francona with the Red Sox. He was probably there too long. You get to a point and you've had success, but maybe not quite the ultimate success, and people get frustrated with you and take it out on you.
"I know the people in Philly are tough to please and I know they want a Super Bowl championship, which Andy hasn't been able to give them. They expect so much that, when he wins playoff games but not the Super Bowl, they get on his case."