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Mixed message

Eagles better off saying nothing about Reid's situation

Posted: Wednesday February 14, 2007 12:02PM; Updated: Monday February 19, 2007 11:39PM
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That Andy Reid needs time to help his sons is understandable; that the Eagles announced it has the smell of spin to it.
That Andy Reid needs time to help his sons is understandable; that the Eagles announced it has the smell of spin to it.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Let us be clear on one thing: in no way would we presume to tell Andy Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles' coach, the right or wrong way to handle the family crisis that has struck his household. What exactly is the proper method of dealing with a pair of sons who simultaneously face serious legal issues, not to mention an alleged drug problem? That's wisdom you won't find here. The only thing we're prepared to judge is what the Eagles have told us about Reid's work status while he takes care of his personal business, information that smacks more of public relations concerns than familial ones.

To recap, two of Reid's sons, Garrett, 23, and Britt, 21, were involved in separate incidents with police outside of Philadelphia on Jan. 30. Britt faces a list of charges, including threatening a motorist with a handgun, stemming from what police describe as a road rage incident. Garrett was involved in a traffic accident the same day, and according to police, admitted having used heroin. In short, Reid obviously has far more on his mind these days than whether Donovan McNabb or Jeff Garcia should be next season's starting quarterback, which is why the Eagles announced recently that he will take a month-long leave of absence from his duties as head coach and executive vice-president of football operations. But what does that leave of absence mean, exactly? The way the Eagles describe it, it doesn't mean much.

During his so-called leave of absence Reid will be available for consultation on any decision he or the Eagles deem necessary, as well as to meet with potential free-agent signees, in all likelihood. Essentially, it sounds as if the only way things will change for the organization during Reid's hiatus is that they'll have to call him on the phone rather than walk down the hall to his office. That's fine. There's no law that says a parent has to stop working in order to attend to serious family problems. But then why the effort to make it appear that Reid is doing exactly that?

Reid's temporary departure doesn't feel as much like a leave as it does a strategic maneuver meant to: a) keep him away from the media; and b) send the message to the public that he is making his family a priority. The desire to dodge reporters is understandable. It's hard to blame Reid for not wanting a personal matter to become any more public than it already is. The desire to make it clear that Reid is attending to his family's needs feels like spin.

Be honest. One of the first thoughts that came to mind upon learning of the Reid sons' troubles was that might be partly the result of an absentee dad, that Reid might have spent so much time over the years with his surrogate sons in pads and helmets that he didn't have enough left over for the ones who needed him more, at home. We have no way of knowing whether this is true, of course. We're just working off our stereotype of NFL coaches as obsessive, driven types who spend too many nights on the office couch instead of at home with their families.

How do the Eagles make sure Reid isn't saddled with the blame for his sons' troubles, that he isn't painted as a neglectful dad to whom work is more important than family? By creating the illusion he has dropped everything to deal with his home life. It is a transparent move and an unnecessary one. Most of us are more than willing to assume Reid is far more concerned with his sons and the rest of his family than what the Eagles should do with their first-round draft choice. No announcement regarding his work status was necessary for that.

Of course, Reid himself didn't make the leave of absence announcement. He hasn't spoken to the media since word of his sons' legal scrapes hit the news. We're going to assume Reid is too busy doing important work at home to worry about his public image. The Eagles' organization should follow his lead.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Phil Taylor writes about a Hot Button topic every Monday on SI.com.