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Tall Task: Building Chemistry

Posted Jun 25, 2011

In a very short period of time the NFL will get back to business and head coaches will have to squeeze a year of preparation into a month of results. It is a massive order for Andy Reid and his coaching fraternity ...

And while the X's and O's are so very important, along with the essential task of evaluating talent and determining the best players for the roster, perhaps even more important than all of that is the culture creating in the locker room.

How, in such a short period of time and with an anticipated significant overhaul from a personnel perspective, does Reid develop the critical aspect of chemistry and camaraderie and trust?

This is one of Reid's great strengths, and it has been since the day he arrived in Philadelphia. He knows how to build a team that believes in each other, one that has each other's back, one that bridges the gap of NFL seniority and then goes out and wins football games. Reid isn't into having rookies, he is as fair as he can be to each player individually and yet he is sensitive enough to know that every player is not the same. There are different personalities and challenging egos that require Reid to cater to the differences.

The "30-and-older" club, for example, was born of a suggestion from a veteran committee Reid formed in his early years as the head coach here. He meets with the team's elders on a regular basis, with no holds barred. These are meetings about which Reid reveals almost nothing, and the intention is to digest constructive suggestions from his players and to build trust that what they say to him stays in the room unless all agree otherwise.

Reid isn't a wishy-washy kind of coach and we all know that. He doesn't sidle up to his players and smooth talk them with long, back-in-the-day stories. He is to the point, corny with his humor and extremely demanding. He loves his players. Most of them love him. All of them respect him.

Without this offseason, of course, Reid hasn't had time to get to know his players. The reserve is true as well. Because Reid says so little and reveals even less, he keeps his players on edge and focused and intense. It is a brilliant method to bring out the most in each and every player from the day they arrive in Philadelphia.

The Eagles, along with the rest of the league, will cram in their practices and meetings and get-to-know time when the league and the players come to an agreement and then sign on the dotted line for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. How many players will Reid have the chance to know in only a few weeks? How does he know, for example, how to push the right buttons to take first-round pick Danny Watkins to his highest level of performance?

It is a new kind of test for Reid, who is coming off his sixth NFC East title and ninth playoff appearance as a head coach. The X's and O's are going to take care of themselves. No way will the Eagles have the chance to get too expansive in the playbook -- particularly on defense -- between now and September. The first couple of weeks of practice will require hammering in the details, the basics. This is why Juan Castillo repeatedly talks about "the fundamentals" and "keeping it simple" when he talks about overseeing the defense. Wrinkles will be added as we go on here, but the defense has to master the first page of the manual before it goes too deep into the changes in coverage.

Reid's a master at finding the right way to reach his players, and to have everyone fall in line to put the team ahead of the individual. This year's test, because of the short window of time to prepare for 2011, is going to be a massive bump in the landscape from the norm.

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