One of the stranger memories I have is from 2011. My brother was up from Philly and wanted to check out Occupy Wall Street. A march was going on and Jon, a bit of a bon vivant, jumped on a light pole and started chanting “Fire The Fat Man! Fire Andy Reid!” The crowd seems confused but I was amused and frankly shared his sentiment. Reid would get one more season as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles before we got our wish and he was shown the door.
In retrospect, as an Eagles fan I don’t regret the firing of Reid after fourteen mostly successful seasons, it was time, and a few years later we got our Super Bowl win. But I also look back quite fondly on a lot of his tenure and I can’t help but rooting for him to finally get a ring when his Kansas City Chiefs square off against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Reid might be the most successful NFL coach to have never won the Super Bowl, and his time in Philly is a big part of why. Over 14 seasons, the Eagles only had a losing record three times. Of those three, one was his first year and one was his last. From a fan perspective this is a huge deal, especially in football where games are so few and precious. Watching the Eagles play meaningful games with playoff implications in November and December was just something we got accustomed to, and frankly probably didn’t appreciate enough.
But at the end of the day, big games matter, especially in Philadelphia at the time. The city was in the midst of a champion drought that lasted from 1983 to 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series. Between 1999 and 2008 Reid would lead the Eagles to the NFC championship four times, including three in a row. But he only won it once, in 2004, going on to lose to the New England Patriots.
It was excruciating. Hope may be the thing with feathers but when it came to the Eagles, hope turned into a harbinger of doom. It just got worse and worse. It’s no accident that the greatest Philadelphia sports hero is a fictional boxer who loses the big fight. And as despair grew, year after the year the Birds continued to twist the midnight green knife into our hearts.
But even through those dark times Reid was a popular figure in Philly. He’s not wildly inspiring but he’s affable and pleasant. He has also been through a lot, losing a son who had long and troubled history of addiction to a heroin overdose in 2012. Fourteen years is a long time to be a head coach for a single team in the NFL and in that time, the fans grew to like him despite the copious disappointments.
By 2011, when my brother was demanding Reid’s firing at Occupy Wall Street it wasn’t because he disliked him, it was because he just couldn’t take it anymore. By that point none of us believed it would ever really happen under Reid. A decade before that looked so much like inevitable Super Bowls had turned into a cruel joke.
Six years later Doug Pedersen, a backup quarterback on Reid’s first Eagles team in 1999 would break the curse. In classic Philly fashion another back up quarterback, Nick Foles would raise the Lombardi Trophy after a game that featured more yards from scrimmage than any in NFL history. But for Reid the monkey is still on his back.
So come the Super Bowl this year, count me in for Kansas City. For Philly sports fans, if it feels like this has happened before well that’s because it has. In that same year of 1999, Dick Vermeil, the beloved Eagles coach of the 1980 Super Bowl losing team took the other NFL squad from Missouri, the St. Louis Rams to the Promised Land.
I’m hoping Andy Reid can do the same. In a strange sense, a Super Bowl win for Andy Reid should give eagles fans a feeling of closure. We got so close, so often with him that to see him finally succeed should make us smile, and fondly reflect on the fourteen years of pretty fabulous Philly football he was a part of.