The Philadelphia Eagles were coming off of a disastrous 1998 campaign in which we all witnessed then head coach Ray Rhodes completely run the team into the ground. Rhodes had taken a playoff team and instead of making the push forward and steadily improving, his teams gradually got worse and hit rock bottom in that '98 season. A lot of it had to do with the Eagles not being able to retain premium free agents or being able to lure free agents from other franchises due to shoddy practice facilities and a continually deteriorating home playing field. Players just did not find Philadelphia appealing. The poor facilities coupled with Rhodes' weekly meltdowns spelled doom for the Eagles. After witnessing the team fall from being playoff teams in 1995 and 1996 to sub-par in 1997 and downright terrible in 1998, the Eagles brass decided it was time for a change. Owner Jeffrey Lurie fired Rhodes the day after the season ended in 1998 and the search was on. Who would be roaming the sidelines in 1999?
There were a few names being tossed around as soon as the ties with Rhodes were severed. Would it be Dick Vermeil? Could the Eagles bring back the guy who guided the franchise to its only Super Bowl appearance in the club's long history? Or would it be the hottest assistant on the market at the time, Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett? Those were the most prominent two names being discussed. The Birds were real close to naming Jim Haslett to be their 20th head coach in franchise history. But Jeff Lurie and club president Joe Banner were waiting to speak to a dark-horse candidate. That guy's current employer, the Green Bay Packers were currently still alive in the playoffs and they had to make a tough decision. Should they just go ahead and hire Haslett or could they afford to wait for the Packers playoff run to end? A decision had to be reached soon because the Eagles were the owners of the second overall draft pick that year and the scouting had to begin immediately due to a very deep talent pool.
The Packers were favorites that year to make a strong playoff run. They were playing the San Francisco 49ers and with 1:56 to go in the game it appeared as if the Packers were going to advance when Brett Favre hit Antonio Freeman with a 15-yard touchdown pass to give the Packers a 27-23 lead. But the 49ers subsequently drove 89 yards and Steve Young found Terrell Owens over the middle of the field with a beautiful pass. Owens paid for the catch by taking a big hit from LeRoy Butler, but the 49ers had won the game 30-27. You're probably wondering what affect this had on the Eagles head coaching vacancy. Well, had Owens not made the catch then Philadelphia most likely would've hired Jim Haslett to be their coach. But since the Packers were eliminated, it allowed Lurie and Banner to bring in Packers quarterbacks coach Andy Reid for an interview.
Reid strolled into town for his first interview and impressed Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner right off the bat. He blew the two head honcho's away when he displayed his now famous "notebook". Reid had compiled information ranging from strategies to plays to personnel information from his days of coaching at Brigham Young University in the early ‘80's. Reid had a coaching staff picked out before he ever met with the Eagles. He was so prepared and impressed the Eagles so much that they were ready to make him their head coach immediately after the interview was over. Despite not having coordinator experience or head coaching experience, Reid was their guy. Mike Holmgren gave Reid a strong endorsement and if Andy turned out to be anything like the other Holmgren disciples to leave Green Bay and become NFL head coaches, it would be a success. So on January 11th, just eight days after the San Francisco-Green Bay playoff tilt, the Birds named Andy Reid to be their head coach.
Check back tomorrow as well take an in depth look at Coach Reid's first NFL draft as a head coach