IF THERE was anybody in the entire wild and woolly NFL who might be willing to preach caution about the 3-0 Eagles and their wheels-on-fire Wentz Wagon, you'd think it would be Mr. Caution himself, the ever-understated Andy Reid.
Through 14 seasons here, the franchise's winningest coach (140-102-1) could be counted upon to opine after pretty much any spectacular performance that the player in question had done "a nice job." Week in and week out, he preached the virtues of not getting too high or too low.
So it was a bit of an eye-opener Sunday morning to get a call back from Reid, as he awaited his Kansas City Chiefs' Sunday Night Football encounter with the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and hear him advocate for fans getting just as excited as they want to be about the Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who are scheduled to come back from their bye week with a Monday practice.
"I think they have a right to be," Reid said, when told that fans here were getting pretty fired up, in their own unique, fervent way. "This is a young kid. He's fundamentally sound. Is there going to be a bad day somewhere? Yeah, but that's with every player, that's how it works. But I can't tell you the future isn't bright when you have a good young quarterback. He'll do nothing but get better. He's got a great (QB) room he's in, between (backup Chase Daniel, formerly of the Chiefs) and the coaching staff. That's a place to learn, and he's a guy that wants to do that. I think that's a healthy situation for him. It looks like he spends the time to learn."
Reid, the guy who put former Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson on the Eagles' head-coaching search radar, has paid fairly close attention to his former team and his protégé this season; this past week he spent a lot of time with the film of the Birds' 34-3 victory over the Steelers, since his team was headed for Pittsburgh.
"I thought he had a great plan" against the Steelers, Reid said of Pederson. "I thought both sides of the ball had a great plan. I thought the offensive line played really well, and the quarterback, who I think is a heckuva player, had an opportunity to do his thing."
Reid said Pederson's success in scripting plays that have worked for three successive opening drives for points wasn't stunning, even though Pederson only called plays in Kansas City for part of last season, in a Reid attempt to boost the visibility of an assistant who'd only worked for Andy, and had never been a head coach above the high school level.
"I've been with him so long - you knew he'd be able to put stuff together like that. He did it here and he's doing it there," Reid said. "He's a sharp guy."
Reid said he never understood preseason predictions of gloom and doom for the Eagles, who finished 7-9 last season, changed coaches, and spent draft resources to move up to second overall for Wentz. He related a preseason conversation with some KC staffers, including co-offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who worked for Reid here.
"I'm going, 'I can't believe it. I don't believe that. I've seen the roster. I know some of the personalities there. I know how Doug does his business. I'm just not feelin' that. I'm not seeing what people are putting out there.' Not that I'm prophesizing here or anything, but that part just didn't make sense to me," Reid said. "Do they go undefeated? Who knows? But that part didn't make sense to me."
Like Reid, Pederson is spending his first season breaking in the rookie he hopes will be the bulwark of his tenure, the guy Donovan McNabb was for Reid after arriving, also with the second overall pick, in 1999. Unlike McNabb, of course, Wentz has started right away, and is exceeding expectations. He has yet to turn the ball over, and he was just named NFL offensive rookie of the month.
Reid was asked if, back in '99, he ever worried about unfair expectations and hype for McNabb. He said the way he eased McNabb into the job, that wasn't as much of a problem. (The QB Reid had brought in from Green Bay as a placeholder, a guy named Doug Pederson, went 2-7 before McNabb got the reins.)
"We kind of put a plan together and we stuck to it. By the time Donovan got in, were people going, 'OK, it's about time!'? Yeah, that took place," Reid said, chuckling. "But inside the building, everybody understood."
Reid said Pederson's ability to sense how to handle the locker room is a big asset.
"He knows when to crank it, and he knows when to pull off of 'em," Reid said.
Reid said the mix of Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is "a perfect match . . .
"The chemistry on a coaching staff is so important. The players see it. They're going to see through anything that's not real, and then you've got a mess on your hands."
It was hard not to read that as an oblique commentary on last season and the way Chip Kelly seemed to exist on a different plane than another Reid protégé, then-Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. There also might have been echoes of Reid's 2012 Eagles demise, when first defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, then defensive line coach Jim Washburn were fired during a 4-12 season.
A few key Eagles remain from those days, including two Reid favorites, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham.
Reid noted that he was reunited with Cox when Reid coached in last season's Pro Bowl: "Not only is he a good player, he's a good guy. He's what you want."
When Reid went from Philly to Kansas City, he went from Cox, the 12th player taken in the 2012 draft, to Dontari Poe, the defensive tackle taken just before Cox, with the 11th overall pick. Poe is a two-time Pro Bowl selection. "Both of 'em are just great players and good people. That's a nice combination to be able to coach," Reid said.
"I'm a big Brandon Graham fan, because I think he can do a lot of things. He's another guy that comes to work with a smile on his face, just wants to play," Reid said. "He loves playing the game."
There was another echo of the Eagles' failed Kelly experiment when Reid was asked what he thinks Eagles fans will learn about Pederson this season.
"When it's all said and done, they'll know that he's well-prepared, he's going to give you the opportunity to have a good offense, defense and special teams," Reid said. "He's not going to do bizarre things, off the wall. It's going to be sound football. And he's going to win games. That's the most important one, the last one. People, they want you to represent yourself right and the city right, but they also want to make sure that you win the football games."