No matter how you slice it, Andy Reid is a good football coach. He wins a lot more than he loses, his teams almost always make the playoffs, he wins playoff games—and he’s gotten to a Super Bowl and was within one game four other times.
As good as Reid is though, there is a big divide when it comes to just how good. Nationally, to people who really only view the broader picture—he is assumed to be one of the few elite coaches.
That’s where the famous line, “Where will you find a coach better than Andy Reid?” comes from.
But locally, to the media and most fans, Reid is viewed as good—not great. Greatness is dominating. Greatness is being a champion. As much as fans in Philadelphia have enjoyed and appreciated this recent run of success, it has all started to feel very hollow. It feels as empty as the trophy case at the NovaCare Complex.
Rational observers will not declare that Reid is awful or the worst coach ever, but they do honestly believe his overall performance will not lead to anything more than it already has. It has been a really good run, but Reid has never crossed the finish line with his arms raised.
Advanced statisticians love the concept of point differential. Basically, whoever ends a season with the widest margin of points scored over points allowed was the team that was truly best. If you crush inferior opponents, well that is the sign of a really good team—and then the rest all shakes out.
It definitely helps to weed out which teams are good, or maybe help separate teams with similar records. But what truly makes a great team is being able to beat the best teams. Games between the best teams are usually decided by a closer margin.
In games decided by just one possession, coaching decisions are magnified. When you’re winning by three scores in the fourth quarter, timeouts aren’t as important. Playcalling is easier. General decision-making isn’t really under the microscope when you’re blowing someone out.
There is also something to be said for losing close games. It means you’re competitive more often, and maybe just one break here and there would swing a few games your way. Where Andy Reid is concerned, there seems to be a lot of that thinking by his supporters. It always seems to be a line of excuses of “what-ifs”.
So out of frustration, by watching the Giants win another Super Bowl over the Patriots in a game decided by less than a touchdown—I decided to see how Reid fares in games decided by less than seven points.
In his career, including the playoffs, Reid has a 136-91-1 overall record for a winning percentage of .601. In all honesty it is an impressive resume. He’s won 10-playoff games in 19 attempts for a winning percentage of .526. The playoff record becomes less impressive with each passing year, as the team hasn’t won a game in the “tournament” since the 2008 season.
So with all those gaudy numbers, how do Reid’s teams fare in games decided by less than seven points?
In Reid’s 228-career games, the Eagles have played in 82 games decided by that close of a margin. They were 36-45-1 in those games, with a winning percentage of just .445. That is a serious drop in performance.
Annoyed by those numbers, I dug a little deeper into games decided by a field goal or less—and was not shocked with the findings.
In 49 games decided within three points, the Eagles are 22-26-1. Their winning percentage of .459 is slightly better, but still far from successful. A statistic of Reid’s performance against .500 teams had floated quite a bit in the aftermath of the season. It has been met with significant resistance—many saying every coach has a worse record against better teams.
So in the spirit of fairness, I chose to compare his performance to a number of contemporaries. This list is not a random choosing of coaches that would support the theory of Reid’s poor performance. I had no clue how each coach would check out, and they were chosen for specific reasons.
First, every coach that has won a Super Bowl since 2000 was immediately included. Second, coaches that eliminated Reid’s teams from the playoffs were added. The final addition was a single coach that seemed to fit Reid’s profile as a long-tenured coach to never win the Super Bowl.
The list is Brian Billick, Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, John Fox, Ken Whisenhunt and Jeff Fisher. Including Reid, it is a list of 13 coaches, and here is how they fared in games decided by less than seven points:
|1. Bill Belichick||.600||54-37|
|2. Bill Cowher||.584||48-34-1|
|3. Mike Tomlin||.579||22-16|
|4. Ken Whisenhunt||.576||19-14|
|5. Tom Coughlin||.574||58-43|
|6. John Fox||.574||35-26|
|7. Sean Payton||.568||21-16|
|8. Tony Dungy||.562||50-39|
|9. Jeff Fisher||.520||53-49|
|10. Brian Billick||.500||26-26|
|11. Jon Gruden||.474||36-40|
|12. Mike McCarthy||.455||15-18|
|13. Andy Reid||.445||36-45-1|
So there it is in writing. Andy Reid ranks last among the group in winning percentage in games decided by less than seven points. Again, there was no preconceived idea of who would finish where. It was surprising to see just how poorly Reid sits among these other coaches.
Since his record has improved in games decided by a field goal or less, it was only fair to judge the same group of coaches by that metric as well. Here is how they stacked up in even closer games:
|1. Tony Dungy||.667||34-17|
|2. John Fox||.581||25-18|
|3. Sean Payton||.571||12-9|
|4. Bill Cowher||.570||32-24-1|
|5. Bill Belichick||.563||36-28|
|6. Mike Tomlin||.534||11-10|
|7. Jeff Fisher||.500||37-37|
|7. Tom Coughlin||.500||31-31|
|7. Ken Whisenhunt||.500||9-9|
|10. Jon Gruden||.482||27-29|
|11. Brian Billick||.472||17-19|
|12. Andy Reid||.459||22-26-1|
|13. Mike McCarthy||.294||5-12|
Only a herculean effort by Mike McCarthy kept Reid out of the bottom slot on this list. It was surprising that McCarthy was that bad. Outside of McCarthy, Reid is on the list with both Gruden and Billick—both of whom have been out of the league for more than three years.
Statistics are never all-telling, but they can tell you a lot. Basically what this tells you is that when a game is in the balance, Reid generally can’t find a way to win. It would be one thing if he was just starting out with a young team, but that is hardly the case.
Reid has been in the league for a long time and he is in no way growing or improving as a head coach. His flaws and shortcomings in 2011 are exactly the same as they were in 1999. In close and big games, his faults hold the team back. There is no reason to believe that will change.
In one final effort to show fairness and not just come across as a Reid-basher, I decided to see how he fared head-to-head with these coaches throughout his career. He went up against these 12 coaches 57 times in his career, going 25-32 for a .439 winning percentage.
In the playoffs, he dropped 5-of-9 games to these coaches—including his 0-4 against them in NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl.
Going deeper still, it was time to look at his performance in close games against these coaches. To avoid too much more work, it was just determined by games decided by one possession. In 25 games, Reid went 8-17 for a .320 winning percentage. In the playoffs, he was 1-4 for a .200 winning percentage.
With Mike McCarthy’s less-than-stellar numbers, that may be the one thing to give Eagles’ fans some hope—but not much. In McCarthy’s run to the title, he beat the Eagles by five, the Bears by seven and the Steelers by six.
Seven of the last 12 Super Bowls were decided by less than seven points. Over the last dozen postseasons, the champions have won 18 games by one possession—equating to 1.5 per playoff season. The last nine postseasons, no team has won a Super Bowl without winning at least one game decided by a single possession.
During the 12 years judged here, only two teams (2000 Ravens, 2002 Buccaneers) managed to smash everyone on the way to a Lombardi Trophy.
If Eagles’ fans hope to see a championship in Philadelphia, they will have to hope Andy Reid can become the third.