There were some raised eyebrows when Andy Reid announced he was starting quarterback Donovan McNabb in Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons even though McNabb had been out eight weeks because of a broken ankle.
Never doubt Reid. Not this season. The Philadelphia coach again made the right move as McNabb led the Eagles to a 20-6 victory.
It seems as if every time there has been a button to push, a mood to strike, a game plan to devise this season, Reid has come up with the proper response. He was rewarded for his leadership Saturday by being selected Associated Press coach of the year.
The voting is based on the regular season, when Reid did a masterful job of keeping his team steady and on course after some believed it might capsize in mid November.
On Nov. 17, on the third play of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Veterans Stadium, McNabb, considered to be the indispensable component of the Eagle offense, suffered his injury. With the Eagles unaware of the severity of the injury and McNabb willing to play with the pain, the quarterback stayed in the game and threw four touchdowns passes, each one further emphasizing how much McNabb would be missed.
But Reid wouldn't buy into such conjecture. He started Koy Detmer at quarterback the following week, got a victory, but yet another injury to go along with it, Detmer suffering a dislocated elbow.
Reid went to his third-string quarterback, A.J. Feeley, and won four of the remaining five games, enabling Philadelphia to finish 12-4, win the NFC East title and secure home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
Such optimism in the face of unlikely prospects for success was nothing new for Reid. A little-known quarterback coach when he was plucked off the Green Bay Packers' staff for the 1999 season, Reid took over a team that had spiraled out of control, finishing 3-13 in 1998.
Under Reid, Philadelphia improved to 5-11, then 11-5, 11-5 and 12-4, including two division championships.
"When Andy came in here, he wasn't like most new coaches who want to know who to get rid of," running back Duce Staley told AP. "He wanted to know about the leadership. He wanted to know who had the character he wanted from his team."
But the 44-year-old Reid, who received 35 votes from a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters in the AP voting, deflected the praise.
"I'm a bit of a realist," he said before the game. "Without good players and good coaches, you can't sit in this chair and be successful. It's not one guy, that's for sure."
Following Reid in the balloting were the Tennessee Titans' Jeff Fisher (six votes), the New York Jets' Herman Edwards (three), the Baltimore Ravens' Brian Billick (two) and the Oakland Raiders' Bill Callahan and the New York Giants' Jim Fassel (one each).