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Andy Reid gets support from owner


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Ashley Fox | Eagles' owner stands by his coach

By Ashley Fox

Inquirer Sports Columnist

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is not going to fire head coach Andy Reid. Not now. Not when the season is over. Probably not any time this decade. It's just not going to happen. Lurie reluctantly addressed the issue of his embattled coach yesterday during a break from the National Football League's fall meeting, held at a Center City hotel. He first declined to address "team" issues, but when pressed, Lurie left no doubt how he felt about Reid, who is in his ninth year with the Eagles.

"I think we have a great coach, great coaching staff, excellent leadership," Lurie said. "We were 5-6 last year, we lost our starting quarterback, and almost made it to the championship game. He's one of the truly best coaches, and if you interviewed the 31 other owners and Andy was on the market, many would be lining up, so . . ."

So? So that means Reid should stay in Philadelphia, no matter what?

"Either you support your football people or you don't," Lurie said. "And I do."

In an industry that chews up and spits out just about everyone who doesn't have an ownership stake in a team, Lurie's approach is admirable. An owner with a herky-jerky management style - see Snyder, Daniel - can be maddeningly destructive.

How many Super Bowls have the Washington Redskins been to since Snyder bought the franchise in 1999? That would be none. The Redskins have a 2-2 playoff record during Snyder's ownership tenure, and the team has had five coaches - Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs - in that span, with two winning seasons.

That's not to exonerate Lurie for his stance on Reid. It's just to point out that change for change's sake isn't always the best path to the Super Bowl.

That being said, there comes a time when change is necessary, and it certainly seems that the Eagles are moving in that direction. Take your pick: Either the Eagles aren't playing well or they're just not that good, and nearing the midpoint of the season, neither view is appealing.

They've soundly beaten one team (Detroit) and sneaked past an inept one (the New York Jets). They are playing conservatively, predictably, and it seems as if everyone from the coaching staff down to the players is operating not to lose, rather than to win. That mentality filters down from the head coach. That is on Reid.

But Lurie doesn't really want to hear any of it. He doesn't listen to talk radio, doesn't hear the irate callers, doesn't participate in Web chats, and doesn't, in general, mix with the general Eagles populace. He doesn't hear season-ticket holders complain about how they should have sold their Dallas tickets a few weeks ago, when they could have gotten top dollar for them. He doesn't hear the despair of the prospect of another season without a Super Bowl.

Getting to the playoffs, even reaching the NFC championship game, isn't enough anymore. At least not for the fans.

In Reid's first five years, he climbed the ladder of success, then reached the Super Bowl in his sixth season. Now, not only has he leveled off - which was predictable - he has also tailed off. If the Eagles miss the playoffs this season, and there's no reason to think they won't, that will make the second time in three years they will have been excluded from the postseason.

When, then, is a change necessary?

Lurie hasn't bothered to think that far ahead.

"Oh, no, no, no," Lurie said. "I don't even want to go there. It's not on the table."

See? Reid's not going anywhere.

Lurie acknowledged that this season had been "disappointing so far," and that he was "surprised" the team hadn't been better. But panic? Not Lurie.

"I think you see it in every city in the country," Lurie said. "It's the nature of the world we live in today, it really is."

Referring to the manager of the Boston Red Sox, he added: "If Terry Francona hadn't made it past the first round of the playoffs, then they're saying, 'Ah, we've got to get a real manager, a much better manager.' He's only on the verge of winning a second world championship in four years. Next year you might hear it if they don't get past the first round. It's the nature of the world we live in. . . .

"When you know what you have and it's very, very good, you support the people through the ups and downs and don't react. You have to try to see it for what it is. Again, last year was a great example. Very few coaches and staffs could rally a team after losing a quarterback and [being] 5-6, and come within a whisker of getting to the NFC championship game for the fifth time in six years. That sort of says it all to me."

What that says to me - and I doubt this was Lurie's intent - is that the quarterback goes before the coach. Donovan McNabb ultimately will get the blame for this season, not Reid. McNabb will be the one who has to put his house on the market and move his family.

Reid is blindly loyal to McNabb, but we all know who signs the checks. The coach isn't going anywhere.

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