When Andy Reid last walked off the field at the Linc, fans were chanting “Fire Andy!”
Reid may hear more of the same when the Philadelphia Eagles host the New York Jets on Sunday. It won’t help his cause that standing across the sideline will be the son of one of the most beloved sports figures in the city’s history.
Jets coach Rex Ryan might get a standing ovation simply because his father, Buddy Ryan, is revered in Philadelphia. For a few hours on game day, Rex Ryan will represent a constant reminder to those long-ago days when the feisty Eagles fans actually had a love affair with the coach of their team.
Now they can’t wait for him to go.
The Eagles are 5-8 in a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations. They’re clinging to slim playoff chances in a mediocre NFC East, but must win out and get lots of help.
The Jets (8-5) have won three straight and are in prime position to reach the playoffs as they seek their third consecutive trip to the AFC championship game.
Perhaps it’s fitting that Buddy’s son puts these Eagles out of their misery.
Buddy Ryan never won a playoff game in his five years coaching the Eagles from 1986-90, going 0-3. But he invigorated a generation of football fans by bringing the team back to prominence after several down years. His bombastic personality, blue-collar attitude and shoot-from-the hip style forever endeared him to the diehards.
“It was great the years my dad had in Philly,” Rex Ryan said. “The fans really did identify with him. He was himself and I think the fans really appreciated that. I think he wishes he would have had a couple more years to maybe get the Eagles over the top there, but really they put together one heck of a football team and I think the fans appreciated the way they played. They might not win every game but they were going to beat you up every game, that’s pretty much how the Eagles were.”
Reid’s success far exceeds Ryan’s accomplishments in Philadelphia. Reid has led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six NFC East titles, five conference championship games and one Super Bowl in his first 12 seasons.
Despite such an impressive resume, Reid has never been popular among fans. Many have been calling for his dismissal for years, saying the Eagles will never win their first Super Bowl with him calling the shots. Reid is the anti-Buddy. He’s stoic, boring and hardly reveals anything of consequence at his news conferences. His coaching philosophy — a pass-heavy offense — annoys old-schoolers who prefer a balanced attack. His refusal to call players out publicly angers those who want to see underachieving athletes made accountable.
“I think both of us are extremely handsome,” Rex Ryan said in typical fashion when asked to compare himself to Reid. “I think that’s the thing that really jumps out at you. They say it’s a big man’s game and there you have it. Two of the biggest coaches in the league going at it. But clearly, I respect the heck out of Andy. He’s a tremendous coach, probably a Hall of Fame-type coach. So I think what he’s done, his resume, is as impressive as anybody’s.”
Unlike fans and most reporters, Rex Ryan knows a different side to Reid.
“Anyone who has spent time off the field with Andy, he has a great sense of humor, doesn’t take himself too serious, has a great time,” Ryan said. “He’s smart. He’s really fun to be around.”
“Well, you guys can tell all those things are true from these press conferences,” Reid joked.
The two coaches share a mutual respect.
“I have a good relationship with him. He’s a good guy,” Reid said. “He has some ties to the Eagles and he’s always taken an interest in that, as his brother has, and his father.”
Earlier this season, the Eagles honored Buddy Ryan at a halftime ceremony during a Monday night game. The 80-year-old Ryan, who is battling cancer, got a loud ovation and fans chanted his name.
“He absolutely loved it,” Rex Ryan said of his father. “A classy thing to do by (Eagles Chairman and CEO) Jeffrey Lurie and I know one thing, he’ll never forget it. He certainly appreciated it and I appreciated it as well.”
A month ago, these two teams were almost in similar spots. The Jets were 5-5 after consecutive losses to New England and Denver. The Broncos rallied to beat New York on Tim Tebow’s 20-yard TD run in the final minute. New York’s offense was sputtering and the season seemed lost.
On the other hand, the Eagles had just improved to 4-6 by defeating the New York Giants on the road behind backup quarterback Vince Young. They were just two games behind and owned the best record in the division.
Since that loss to Denver, the Jets have outscored their opponents 99-53 during a three-game winning streak. Mark Sanchez has been outstanding, throwing for seven TDs and running for two more.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were blown out by New England and Seattle before beating Miami to stay mathematically alive in the playoff race.
“I’ve watched their talent,” Ryan said. “That doesn’t look like a 5-8 team. They’re fourth in the league in offense, 11th in defense, so the numbers don’t make sense right there. They’ve had some struggles, but I’m going to tell you this, they probably have as much talent as any team in this league.”
With one more loss, the Eagles could be the most talented team going home when the regular season ends.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.