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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Andy Reid . . . By the Numbers

While Andy Reid vacations after his defensive coordinator was fired and candidates for the job of running the Eagles defense are scooped up by other organizations, I thought it might be a good time to put some numbers to all of the complaints about the head coach.

Since the Super Bowl appearance in 2004, the Eagles record is 54-41-1 in the regular season and just 4-4 in the playoffs. That’s not exactly the “gold standard” of the National Football League. But if the numbers are examined just a little closer, Reid’s apparent job security with an organization that claims to want to win Super Bowls – that’s plural – yet hasn’t won even one, is baffling.

At the risk of bringing back nightmares for fans, let’s start with the raw numbers of the record for each season:

2005 6-10
2006 10-6
2007 8-8
2008 9-6-1; 2-1 in the playoffs
2009 11-5; 0-1 in the playoffs
2010 10-6; 0-1 in the playoffs

There’s a very interesting fact within these numbers for a guy who was hired based largely on his organization skills. I’m sure others recall Jeff Lurie talking about the binder of notes on everything from how he would run training camp on a day-by-day basis to notes on potential assistant coaches that Reid showed off in the interview.

Yet, two of the Eagles 10-6 seasons came with the “backup” quarterbacks at the beginning of the season stepping into the starting role and unexpectedly playing well. In 2006, the Eagles were 4-5 with starter Donovan McNabb and were in the midst of a 1-4 stretch when he got injured. Jeff Garcia rescued the season, leading the team to its final 10-6 record and a playoff win. The Eagles ended the regular season with 5 consecutive wins (the last with Garcia resting). In fact, the playoff loss that season was essentially taken out of Garcia’s hands when Reid inexplicably punted in New Orleans with little time left in the game and the Eagles within a touchdown.

This year, which Reid finally admitted was supposed to be a “retooling” (aka, rebuilding) year, featuring the re-emergence of Mike Vick after Kevin Kolb went down in the first game of the season with a concussion. No one knows what Kolb would have done, and Reid deserves some credit for what Vick did.

Yet, can we really credit Reid with a typical 10-6 record when an All-Pro quarterback dropped in his lap? (For the record, the Eagles were 1-2 in games Kolb started.) Isn’t it fair to look askance at two seasons where Reid’s plans went out the window and then the team improved?

Admittedly, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss those two seasons entirely, but just for the record the Eagles would be 34-35-1, and 2-2 in the playoffs, since the Super Bowl without them.

I also looked at another statistic on espn.com that we hear a lot about from Reid detractors – rushing attempts. I was a bit surprised to learn that compared to the teams still vying for the Super Bowl, the Eagles had more rushing attempts than two of the four:

Rushing 2010
Team Rushes Yards Average
Steelers 471 1924 4.1
Jets 534 2374 4.4
Eagles 428 2324 5.4
Packers 421 1606 3.8
Bears 414 1616 3.9

However, Vick had 100 of those attempts for 676 yards. The quarterback with the second most rushing attempts in that grouping was Aaron Rodgers with 64 attempts for 356 yards – and they lost their starting running back, Ryan Grant, in the season opener. That undoubtedly pushed Rodgers’ totals up and the Packers’ totals down.

I also looked at the overall league statistics. In NFL Team Rushing Offense Statistics, the Eagles ranked a surprising fifth in yards. But do some sorting, and the Birds tied for 16th in attempts. Yet, I found another site showing Vick (listed with 99 carries) as having 31 more carries than any other quarterback. Even without analyzing each team’s rushing attempts by their quarterback, if you take out those extra rushes, the Eagles had 4 more rushing attempts during the regular season than the Indianapolis Colts, who ranked 29th in rushes.

Finally, LeSean McCoy had 207 attempts for 1,080 yards with a 5.2 yards per carry. He ranked 14th in rushing yards. But he averaged 88 fewer carries than every player who gained more yards than him.

My point is that the clamber from fans to run the ball is not only legitimate, but the Eagles appear fully capable of doing it. Yet, the coach simply refuses to do it.

I was once advised by a writing mentor that I was breaking a typical rule of good storytelling in a particular story. I essentially asked if I always had the follow the rule. I was told no, but that my attempt to do it differently wasn’t working. Therefore, I needed to follow the rule.

Reid’s philosophy with his offense breaks with tradition in that he wants to pass to get the lead, then run to preserve it. That type of play calling can lead to a very exciting offense at times.

But the bottom line for Reid is that it does not work. He’s proven it throughout his tenure in Philadelphia.

Yet, he’s comfortable enough in his job to go on vacation right after firing his defensive coordinator – on a trip that couldn’t possibly have been planned ahead time, as Mike Missanelli on 97.5 pointed out today, since the Eagles were hoping to still be playing as of nine days ago.

If Reid, in fact, has that much job security, Eagles fans can forget about winning Super Bowls or even a Super Bowl any time soon.

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