Doing it his way, Reid rebuilt Eagles

Coach's project is now one step from completion

Super Bowl

February 05, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Andy Reid's first restoration project was a 1928 Ford Model A.

The car was bought by his father for $25 just after World War II and was driven by Walter Reid until his death 50 years later.

That's when this paint-spattered wreck of a car came into Andy Reid's life. That's when Reid learned about the commitment of rebuilding.

"It took me about a year to do it," Reid said. "I took it all the way down to the nuts and bolts and put it back together the right way."

The right way has become the only way for Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles' coach known primarily for his mustache and monotone. It's with the same touch that he transformed a declining franchise back to a Super Bowl one.

Reid's approach is based on detail, determination and devotion. He keeps notebooks on organization, but his relationships with players have been more pivotal in his franchise-record 71 victories.

Reid, 46, is the first to cut a player when there's a lack of effort and the first to reach out when there's an injury.

His first impression came with "Three Days of Hell," a Reid institution from his first year with the Eagles (1999) to 2001. It was a grueling opening of training camp in which the first three days consisted of two-a-day contact practices.

"The main thing is you work hard for me," Reid said. "If you work hard, good things are going to happen to you."

In that first season - his only losing one in six seasons in Philadelphia - Reid didn't waste time benching underachieving left tackle Tra Thomas, who is now a starter again. He then cut disruptive veterans Bill Johnson, William Thomas and Steve Everitt.

"It was like he was a gang leader," defensive end Hugh Douglas said. "In order to get respect, you've got to do things from the jump to earn respect."

The message was clear from a coach few actually knew.

When Philadelphia hired Reid, he was 40. He had never been a head coach at any level nor an NFL offensive coordinator.

Reid was the Green Bay Packers' quarterbacks coach, working with Brett Favre and earning a Super Bowl ring in January 1997.

In 1999, there were eight teams searching for a head coach, including the Packers, yet only the Eagles had Reid on their list.

"We weren't looking for someone who just happened to be a guru of X's and O's," said owner Jeffrey Lurie, whose club had won a total of nine games in 1997 and 1998 under Ray Rhodes. "We were looking for someone who could be a terrific leader and builder. Andy had many of those characteristics. But everyone else - nationally and locally - thought it was too soon for him."

The Eagles selected Reid over Jim Haslett, then the Pittsburgh Steelers' highly regarded defensive coordinator. It was a move even questioned by some players.

"I remember being, like, `Who's Andy Reid?'" Douglas said. "He had no pedigree. Jim Haslett had a pedigree."

Reid's popularity didn't grow when he used his first draft pick - and the second overall - on quarterback Donovan McNabb, despite heavy pressure on him to take running back Ricky Williams. Fans were so upset that they booed McNabb on draft day as he stood at the podium.

Now, Williams is out of football and McNabb is at the top of his game. Reid and McNabb have been the major reasons the Eagles have made five straight playoff appearances, gone to the NFC title game four straight times and advanced to the franchise's first Super Bowl in 24 years.

"The turning point for me was when he drafted Donovan," safety Brian Dawkins said. "Everyone was crying and saying he shouldn't have drafted Donovan. But here we are because of that."

His ties to players remain strong, whatever the circumstances.

Jeremiah Trotter realized the extent of Reid's character after he left in 2002 in a bitter contract dispute, which included a heated argument with Reid. That first season with the Washington Redskins, Trotter went down with a knee injury, only to get picked up by the coach he had ripped a few months before.

"I was very surprised [by Reid's phone call]," Trotter said. "Just that one call did a lot for me. It inspired me in a way that I don't think he'll ever know how much that one phone call helped me."

But that's been the forte of Reid.

Whatever is down - whether it's a player, a franchise or a car - he finds a way to build it back up.

"When things aren't going well, he's a motivator," McNabb said. "He's one of those guys that will give you that extra push to get you going."

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