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PHOENIX — Normally when someone holding power fires someone without it, the moment is no less jarring in the NFL than it is in business. There’s often a wall of hard feelings and even bitterness that instantly goes up and is cemented by the breakup.
And now one side is hoping the other fails.
That’s how it might have been in 2012 when Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie moved on from coach Andy Reid after both worked together so successfully for 14 seasons. This one had the potential to send everyone to opposing corners.
Except, Lurie and Reid are indeed on opposite sides of this Sunday’s Super Bowl — one as the NFC club’s owner and the other as the AFC Champion’s coach — and the feel of the relationship is nothing close to adversarial.
It barely sounds competitive.
“You get very close to some of your coaches,” Lurie said this week. “These are not just like in society that you’re no longer working with someone. No, it doesn’t work that way. These are lifelong connections. And Andy is going to win more and I sure hope we do, too.”
A Friendship That Survives A Tough Call
Lurie and Reid remain friends despite that firing a decade ago.
They had a productive union from 1999-2012. But after the Eagles missed the playoffs for two consecutive years, Lurie decided he wasn’t renewing Reid’s contract and instead going in another direction.
But that decision didn’t erase 14 years of good times. So the owner had something of a going-away celebration for Reid after announcing he was leaving.
And Reid left with no apparent hard feelings.
“Everything doesn’t last forever,” Reid said, showing no ill will over his firing. “So, we all had our time there, and Jeffrey was very honest with us. l think we saw what Jeffrey saw, and sometimes change can be good, and it can be good for both.”
It obviously worked out for Reid. This is his third Super Bowl in four years with the Chiefs and his team has played in five consecutive AFC Championship Games.
It’s worked out for Lurie whose team is playing in its second Super Bowl since the 2017-18 season.
And so success has continued to bond these men even as it has come after they parted. The interesting thing is both are invested in the other doing well.
A Super Bowl Reunion From Years Ago
When Reid’s Chiefs went to the Super Bowl in Miami in early 2020, Lurie made sure he went to see his former coach and cheer him on.
“I feel like, as the person that gave him his first chance, I wanted to be there for this,” Lurie said. “If we couldn’t be there, there’s nobody I wanted more to have it.”
The two men met up the week before that game. They talked. They reminisced.
“We had this look like, ‘I know, we’ve tried to do this together for so long,’ ” Lurie said. “We were so close. We’re in all those Championship Games. And now, ‘Andy, go get it. Go get it!’ And that was part of it.”
Reid and Lurie had a lot of success together in Philadelphia. The Eagles went to five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl under Reid.
But there was never the big payoff. There was never that Super Bowl win.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t enduring memories.
Reid Wouldn’t Trade Pick For Entire Draft
Call them defining moments of sorts that haven’t been spoken of until this week — like the time in 1999 when the Eagles were tempted to trade one pick for another team’s entire draft.
“We had lots of trade offers, especially from New Orleans. They had to have Ricky Williams,” Lurie said. “And I always remember Andy saying, ‘The only quarterback I want in this draft is Donovan McNabb.’ And there was nothing anyone could offer us that would warrant us not having Donovan.”
There was also the time McNabb was injured in the mid-2000s and the Eagles thought of turning to a Dallas Cowboys rival. The Eagles considered bringing Troy Aikman out of retirement.
“I don’t have a detailed memory of that, I just know we had the conversation about whether we could bring in Troy. Troy had a huge amount of respect for Andy. But that wasn’t the right time for it.”
Those sound like heady times in Philly but ultimately they didn’t stop Lurie from making a decision that changed the direction of two NFL franchises. And the good times didn’t prompt Reid to try and fight for his job.
“I think he realized that for his family a change of venue was probably the best,” Lurie said. “He certainly was very confident in his ability to be a successful coach again. And I had that confidence in him, too. That’s what made it so hard.”
The decision looks smart now because the Eagles ultimately hired Doug Pederson and won a Super Bowl and now are at another Super Bowl under Nick Sirianni. But there was the Chip Kelly debacle, too. And some hard times with the others.
Moments Of Regret For Lurie
So, in his heart of hearts, did Lurie ever wish he could have had Reid — a friend — back on his sideline?
“You know, sure, because he’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Lurie admitted. “But we’ve been lucky to have some wonderful, young coaches. And I think you have to embrace what you believe in at the moment and I believed it was the best for Andy. Maybe not the best for our franchise at the time, but the best for Andy.”
Reid and Lurie continue to wish each other the best. Sincerely.
But not on Sunday.
“He’s going to win more Super Bowls,” Lurie said of Reid. “I don’t want it to be on Sunday against us, but he’s going to win more.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero