While most teams have been cautious about making cash commitments during the season, the Eagles have been somewhat active. They extended the contract of tackle Winston Justice, an afterthought of a player at the start of the season who proved valuable through better play and strong work ethic. A week later, they extended Brent Celek, an ascending tight end with high character and discipline.
Although both players would be property of the Eagles next year because of the uncapped year ahead, the team found the environment of uncertainty in the labor negotiations to be helpful in using its ample cap room to lock up some building blocks for the future.
Having addressed a couple of players, the Eagles turned to their coach/general manager, announcing this week that Andy Reid has agreed to an extension through the 2013 season.
Many have questioned some of Reid’s individual game decisions, as we’ve done here at the Diner. However, Andy has achieved long-term and sustained success – albeit without a Super Bowl trophy. In the ultra competitive world of the NFL, his success is compelling. What’s most impressive to me, though, is his ability to maintain an even keel through the rollercoaster life of an NFL season, and to do it year after year for 11 years and counting.
The poker face
Andy frustrates scores of people with his stoic and unemotional demeanor. He refuses to call out players or coaches in public and usually has a stock answer to a problem area of the team such as, “We’ve got to get that fixed.” He just won’t engage in anything more than dull platitudes in his public comments (although he will slip in some humor from time to time, sometimes strategically placed).
In my view, that’s not only an approach that works for Andy but also one that’s a hallmark for success in this business. Reacting – and overreacting – to wins and losses is for the fans and media; it’s not for coaches and players. People often asked me about coming into work after a big loss or a big win. As boring as it sounds, the workplace is usually about the same. Working in the volatile business of football requires a singular focus that doesn’t sway with the highs and lows of the games, and there will be those every month of every year. “Steady as she goes” is certainly uninteresting but vital for someone in Andy’s position.
Screamers lose effect
The level approach is even more important in addressing players as a leader. Think about a group of 60 or so football players listening to a head coach every day from July until January, season after season. There are only so many messages that are going to seep in without becoming stale. Emotional outbursts must be used strategically or they will certainly lose effect. There are only so many profanity-laced tirades or spit-spewing rants a team can hear from a coach before they lose their impact.
Think how many times Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and others have heard Andy’s pre-practice, post-practice, pregame and postgame remarks. Hundreds? Thousands? There’s no need for a swing of emotions with the Eagles coach; they know what they’re getting.
In my view, the “flat liners,” as I call them, have the best chance for success in the NFL. They may frustrate fans, media and others clamoring for more sound bites, but they tend to succeed. In looking at successful people, I usually look for what I call an “emotional intelligence” that influences those around them. Andy is one of the best I’ve seen in this, along with Tony Dungy.
Meeting about Matthew
I admit to a bias about Andy. I worked with him this past offseason at the Eagles and have known him since 1998, although we never worked together at the Packers (Andy was leaving Green Bay to take over the Eagles as I was starting there). Prior to the 1998 NFL Draft, I was representing Matt Hasselbeck. Despite my best efforts, which were obviously not good enough, I was unable to get Matt invited to the NFL Combine. So we had to improvise.
I organized a workout for Matt at Boston College and notified every NFL team of the date and time. I received only one response to attend: Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Andy Reid. Since he was our only attendee, I picked him up at Logan Airport — watching as he stuffed himself into my sports car — and drove him over to B.C. to watch Matt. When he left, he told me how impressed he was with Matthew, but I had long since learned not to believe pre-draft talk from teams. In this case, however, Andy’s words were true, and the Packers drafted Hasselbeck in the sixth round.
Four more years
Andy is a solid man with the best interests of the team always at heart. I do worry about his weight but was comforted seeing him rule a racquetball game last offseason (his reputation on the court was legendary in Green Bay).
Despite the frustrating sound bites and platitudes from their most public face, the Eagles are in good hands for four more years. Of course, they have not reached the ultimate prize, but, as usual, find themselves in the hunt once again.
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To read about which teams may have an interest in Eagles QB Michael Vick in 2010, check out this article from Bleacher Report.