Andy Reid has been a polarizing figure, but there has never been any debate about his character. Love him or hate him, his work in the community and his humanity toward his players has long served as a shining example.
Which makes the latest story involving the coach’s increasingly bizarre behavior so very hard to understand. Reid singled out only one player after the playoff loss to Green Bay — David Akers — and he was fully aware the veteran kicker was dealing with a major personal crisis.
In fact, Reid excused Akers from practice two days before the Jan. 9 game so that the kicker could take his six-year-old daughter, Halley, to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Reid pays an annual visit to ease the fears of sick children, for an MRI that would reveal the need for immediate surgery to remove one of her ovaries.
Akers’ wife, Erika, told the Inquirer that she could see her husband was distracted by Halley’s condition during the 21-16 loss, so much so that he missed two field goals from 41 and 34 yards — distances from which he has rarely missed during his brilliant Eagles career. After the game, Reid said: “We can all count. Those points would have helped.”
The prognosis is good for Halley, despite the discovery of cancer. For Reid, the future is not so clear. How could he act so coldly toward the only kicker he has ever employed?
Words like those would not have seemed so lethal if they came out of the mouth of any other NFL coach, but Reid has been so loyal to his players, so protective, that they were totally out of character. Now that we know more about the drama Akers was facing, they were far worse than that. They were irresponsible and unconscionable.
If Quintin Mikell, who immediately jumped to Akers’ defense after the game and revealed the personal crisis to the media, could feel sympathy toward his teammate, how could Reid ignore the extenuating circumstances? Four years ago, Reid faced a family crisis with his two sons, and he received the support of an entire city for months. Has he forgotten how dire his own situation was back then?
Reid has shown a lack of respect to Eagles fans for a long time, refusing to answer the simplest questions, making himself inaccessible, bullying reporters without reprimand. For many, it has been easy to look the other way because he wins more than he loses.
It is much harder to ignore his behavior this time, however, because the questions are not just about football. Reid needs to speak to the fans about the way he treated David Akers — and he needs to do it now.
Sorry Charlie, earn it!
Charlie Manuel doesn’t deserve a contract extension. That’s right. The man who brought our city its first pro-sports title in 25 years needs to earn a new deal by winning it all in 2011.
The glow of that 2008 parade has faded after losing to the Yankees in 2009 and blowing the playoffs last year against an inferior Giants team.
And make no mistake about who was the cause of the 2010 failure. It was Manuel. Joe Blanton over Roy Halladay to start Game 4? No bunt by Jimmy Rollins in the eighth inning of that game?
Somehow, the love affair between Manuel and the city lives on, allowing managerial myths to flourish. Manuel gets the most out of his players? Then explain the career trajectory of Chase Utley, or the nosedives of Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard last season. He’s loyal? Tell that to Jimy Williams and Davey Lopes, his two best coaches who left when he failed to get them the salaries they deserved.
The truth is, if Manuel fails to win the World Series with one of the best starting rotations ever, he will have succeeded once in seven seasons with arguably the most talented team in Phillies history. That record may be good enough to preserve his legacy, but it’s not good enough for a new deal.
Beat the billionaires
Most media types are not taking sides in the NFL labor dispute. Well, I have no reluctance in declaring my allegiance. One month before the lockout, I’m rooting for the players.
The tipping point for me came last week, when the NFL invited 10 hand-picked reporters to its N.Y. headquarters to state its case. These empty suits had the audacity to argue that the “current model” doesn’t work for the owners. The billionaires aren’t making enough money.
Jeff Lurie, who bought the Eagles for $185 million in 1995 and now owns the 11th most valuable sports franchise in the world, is being victimized by a system that no longer works for him? Really? I wonder how many of those 68,000 working people who attend Eagles games wish they had such a system sabotaging their own success like that.
Meanwhile, HBO’s “Real Sports” ran two features last week on life after the NFL for the people we pay to see, the players. Many lose their money, their families and ultimately the quality of their lives. For the players, it’s pain-fully clear that the system doesn’t work.
So that’s my verdict for the nuclear winter awaiting football fans: Go millionaires. Beat the
–Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.
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