The National Football League regular season concluded on Sunday, December 30th. On Monday, December 31st, in a day that has come to be known as ‘Black Monday’, several teams fired their head coaches, including the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished the 2012 season with a disappointing record of 4-12. Despite a tough year in 2012, Eagles coach Andy Reid had been the team’s most successful coach in its history, and had become in many ways the face of the franchise.
But now the Eagles’ long time (14 years, which is an eternity for a head coach in professional sports), head coach Reid found himself, for the first time in almost a decade and a half, in need of a new job. Additionally, the Eagles found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being in the market for a new coach to replace Reid.
Not an altogether unusual situation for a sports team, and the Eagles and Reid, who still wanted to continue his coaching career, immediately set about the processes of finding a new job, (Reid), and finding a new coach, (the Eagles).
Reid landed a new gig pretty quickly as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, as generally successful, experienced coaches don’t stay unemployed for very long. For the Eagles, their process moved a bit more slowly and deliberately, with the team interviewing a total of 11 candidates before honing in on their desired choice – University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
But like Reid, Oregon’s Kelly was a pretty hot candidate as well, as his recent run of success at Oregon, driven by an innovative and exciting offensive system had made him the primary target of not only the Eagles, but several other teams. After Kelly’s initial set of interviews with the Eagles, he headed back to Oregon to think it over, and for a few days it seemed probable that Kelly would remain at the school where he was already successful and loved, rather than chase success in the competitive and less familiar NFL.
After a few days had passed Kelly decided to accept the Eagles offer, and on January 17th, he was introduced as the team’s new Head Coach. By now, you’re thinking ‘So what, why is this story even interesting?’
Well when Kelly was home in Oregon trying to decide whether or
not to accept the Eagles job one of the key influencers that he consulted was Andy Reid, the man who had just been fired by the Eagles and who Kelly would be replacing if he took the job. You’d think that most organizations would not want their top candidate, who had plenty of options, to connect with the person you just fired, for fear that the sting of the firing would lead Reid to bad mouth the team, or otherwise try and influence Kelly to look elsewhere. But that is not what happened – check this quote from Kelly given at the press conference introducing him as the new Eagles coach:
“One person that I really want to thank, in terms of advice in this whole thing, was Andy Reid and the fact that Andy reached out to me and told me about his experience here just told me what this organization's all about,” said Kelly today. There's not a classier guy.
I want to publicly thank Andy because that really right there spoke to me about what this organization is all about.”
Wow, pretty amazing. Reid had, by all accounts a very successful 14-year run, still wanted to coach, but was fired by the Eagles. Only days later he proactively reaches out to a waffling candidate for the job he was just fired from, and essentially gives a glowing recommendation about the organization as a place to work and essentially helps sell Kelly on the job.
Maybe this isn’t all that unusual, and possibly it say more about Reid’s character as a person than the integrity of the Eagles as an organization. But I do think the story give us a chance to ask a question of our own organizations.
Namely, do you feel strongly enough about your culture, your commitment to excellence, and how you treat your employees – even the ones that don’t work out – to be comfortable with folks you have to fire connecting with your best candidates?
The Eagles did not win many games this year, and might not win very many next year either. But when the recently fired head coach turns into their best recruiter, then well, they must be doing something right.