Andy Reid survives the heat in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA – A day after the Philadelphia Eagles dominated Dallas, Andy Reid wore a Jason mask throughout a 10-minute interview on the team's website.
Reid is in a more jovial mood these days, so the usually stoic coach celebrated Halloween on Monday by donning the creepy face gear made popular in the "Friday the 13th" movies.
Early in the season, it was the Eagles who were flat-out frightening. But through it all, in a Super Bowl-or-bust year where the criticism kept piling on, Reid took the blame for the dismal 1-4 start.
Of course, that didn't stop disappointed fans and fickle media from calling for Reid to be fired. Nevermind that he's the winningest coach in franchise history and his resume includes nine playoff appearances, six division titles and one conference championship in his first 12 seasons.
The Eagles, after all, were built to win it all now. They uncharacteristically spent wildly in the lockout-shortened offseason and added six players who've been to Pro Bowls. Everyone in the organization from top to bottom made it clear nothing less than winning the Super Bowl would be a success this year.
So, someone had to be held responsible for a four-game losing streak that seemingly dashed the Dream Team's grandiose expectations. And Reid, as always, is a popular target.
But all that talk seems like nonsense now.
It took just two wins, including a convincing 34-7 victory over the Cowboys in front of a national audience Sunday night, to change the outlook in Philadelphia.
Now the Eagles (3-4) are right back in the chase in the NFC East. They trail the New York Giants (5-2) and are tied with the two teams they beat in consecutive games: Washington and Dallas.
The Giants hardly look like a first-place team, and they have a difficult schedule upcoming. The Redskins are really struggling and the Cowboys were awful in Philadelphia.
That leaves the Eagles. They are again being widely considered the favorite to finish on top in the division.
"We still have a lot of work to do," quarterback Michael Vick said.
Vick owes his career rejuvenation to Reid, so it's no surprise that he jumped to his defense when the coach was under heavy criticism.
"Coach is very confident, very smart, and I think he puts us in position to win the game," Vick said before the Eagles notched their second win. "We'll stand behind him until the end. That's our coach, and you know his mindset right now is go out and be the best team that we can be and keep playing hard, and that's what we're going to do for him."
Reid had plenty of support in the locker room from veteran players to rookies. He's always been popular among his guys and shows them a far different side than he portrays in front of cameras and tape recorders.
The oversized coach will sometimes leap an inch off the ground to chest bump a player on the sideline. He laughed off a playful punch to his ample gut from running back LeSean McCoy during the win at Washington.
"He knocked the wind out of me," Reid said. "But I don't really care. The way he played, he can do whatever he wants."
When a fan hung a large sign outside the team's practice facility saying Reid should go, players took action.
Center Jason Kelce, a sixth-round pick, and guard Evan Mathis, who is in his first year with the Eagles, confronted the fan and asked for the sign to be removed. The linemen's actions became a hot topic on talk radio. Many people criticized the players, saying fans have the right to express their opinion any way they choose.
"I respect the fans. We have very passionate, very loyal fans," Kelce said. "I'm fully in favor of them voicing their opinion. If you want to do it in a blog or call in a radio show, that's fine. You're entitled to your own opinion. Just don't bring it to our front door. We're trying to improve as a team. Calling for the coach's head right in front of us isn't going to help us get better."
Mathis had a simple explanation.
"We did not want to have a negative environment," he said.
It's probably just a coincidence that the Eagles are now playing better after rallying around their coach. This is a talented team that was expected to be a contender all along.
The Eagles were not outplayed in their losses. They beat themselves by making too many costly mistakes. It also didn't help that Vick couldn't finish two straight games because of injury.
Fumbles, dropped passes, tipped interceptions and missed field goals contributed significantly to the four losses. Eliminating the sloppy play helped Philadelphia get back on track.
"Some of those turnovers were crazy; they were just things that normally don't happen," Reid said. "You work through it. You try not to dwell on it too much. You've got to have a short memory. In the case of being a player, you learn from it and then you move on. You can't play hesitant football, so that's what our guys did."
Reid doesn't let criticism bother him. He's been in Philadelphia too long and knows how to survive intense scrutiny. The speculation about his job being in jeopardy was mostly talk-show fodder. Reid is under contract through the 2013 season, and he has an excellent relationship with owner Jeffrey Lurie and president Joe Banner.
Still, the Eagles, who meet the Bears (4-3) at home on Monday, haven't won an NFL title since 1960. Unless they win a Super Bowl under Reid, people won't be satisfied.