“That’s hard to tell when you’re walking in your own shoes. I’m older. I have less hair — I have no red hair at all. And my mustache has turned white. And I probably lost some weight,” Reid said ahead of Sunday’s game between two franchises close to his heart, the Eagles and Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, CBS). “Other than that, I don’t know how much different I am.”
Reid, 63, is in his 23rd year as a head coach. He’s racked up 222 wins, good for sixth all time, along with 17 postseason victories and a Super Bowl title. He has just about seen it all at this point.
Still, it’s not all that hard to put himself in first-year Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s shoes, given how familiar his story rings.
Both Reid and Sirianni were hired by Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie as relative unknowns. Neither had previous playcalling experience; heck, Reid didn’t even rise to the level of offensive coordinator in the NFL before becoming the front man in Philadelphia in 1999.
Both were paired with young quarterbacks. The Eagles drafted Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb No. 2 overall in Reid’s first year. Jalen Hurts was a second-round pick in 2020 and started his time with Sirianni with four NFL starts under his belt.
To further the connection: Reid actually played a role in Philadelphia’s pre-draft work on Hurts. Eagles leadership consulted Reid to get his evaluation of Hurts, sources said, as well as to discuss the dynamics associated with drafting a player of Hurts’ caliber to back up then-incumbent starter Carson Wentz. Reid has experience in this area: He drafted Kevin Kolb in the second round in 2007 when McNabb was entrenched as Philly’s starter; added Michael Vick to the QB room in ’09; and paired veteran Alex Smith with then-rookie Patrick Mahomes in 2017 with the Chiefs.
The Eagles have long valued Reid’s opinion and sought it out before making what proved to be a franchise-impacting decision.
“I did, yeah,” Reid said when asked if he took a look at Hurts pre-draft, even with the Chiefs well-off at quarterback with Mahomes in the fold. “He’s a good player, for sure. Talented.”
Sirianni and Reid even met briefly in 2013 when Sirianni was the WR coach in Kansas City under the outgoing Romeo Crennel regime and Reid was taking over as head coach.
“Coach Reid was charged with the task of telling me I wasn’t working there anymore,” Sirianni said Friday. “So, you know, but he was awesome. It was actually an awesome conversation I had with him. And I really respected the fact that he took time to meet with me, tell me what he had heard about me.”
Both Reid and Sirianni hit turbulence early in their first head-coaching jobs. Reid’s Eagles finished 5-11 his first year in Philadelphia. He tested the city’s patience by starting Doug Pederson at quarterback for nine games while easing in McNabb. Sirianni is already feeling the heat after suspect playcalling in back-to-back losses dropped the Eagles to 1-2.
“Either I didn’t call a good enough play, whether there was a pre-snap penalty or a penalty, whether there was some pressure, it was coaching, it was execution, we all had a hand in this,” Sirianni said after Monday night’s 41-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The key, Reid said, is having the full backing of management while taking your lumps.
“The organization was great with that. They supported me in what I did. They believed in it and they gave me that support which really is what a head coach needs,” Reid said. “I’m sure that’s happening the same way with Nick. He’s getting the support from everybody in the building and that’s important, and he’s doing a good job. There’s a real small margin between winning and losing in this league so he’ll get going right.”
Sirianni on Wednesday called the Eagles “an awesome organization in the sense that Mr. Lurie is at practice all the time, so I get to talk to him every day.” The coach has credited the organization for having his back and said the message he has received from Lurie is to “do what you need to do to win games and I will support.” It’s also true that internal dynamics have shifted since the Reid years, with Lurie becoming more involved in the football side of the operation, coinciding with the rise of an analytics-based approach. A common thought in the building was Pederson, who was head coach in Philly from 2016-2020, didn’t get the level of freedom or authority deserving of a Super Bowl-winning coach, negatively impacting his relationship with the organization.
The counterargument is the Eagles won a Super Bowl with that setup, and Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman took the necessary steps to fill a power vacuum during the Pederson years. Lurie’s level of involvement was different from Reid to Chip Kelly to Pederson. If he feels Sirianni’s operation is buttoned up, there’s enough history to suggest Lurie could tailor his approach some.
Trust and patience is required. The learning curve can be pretty steep for a first-time head coach, especially in a rabid market like Philadelphia.
“It’s a lot different because you’ve got to deal with you guys in the media when you didn’t have to necessarily do that as a coordinator,” Reid said, “then you’ve got to juggle the whole team, not just the offensive side.
“Those are the challenges you’re presented as a new coach. The playcalling and all that I think probably comes pretty natural to him. Setting up a game plan and doing that. He’s done that for a while. I don’t think that’s the toughest part. It’s just doing those other responsibilities on there.”
Reid is a unicorn. Rare are the coaches who last 14 years in one place like he did in Philadelphia, let alone taste his level of success. The chances of Sirianni reflecting on a similar path when he is white-haired in 23 years is unlikely. But Reid’s humble beginnings at least serve as a reminder that it’s too early to make any sound judgments on Sirianni’s tenure.
“I think the Eagles are in good hands,” Reid said.