- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

Never again will I snicker when a coach hires his kid as an assistant. Not after reading about the misadventures of Garrett and Britt Reid, sons of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy. Testing positive for heroin after causing a traffic accident? Aiming a handgun at another driver during a dispute?

And those are just two of the accusations leveled at them. It makes you wonder: If Reid had been a little less preoccupied with where Terrell Owens was parking his car the season before last — and a little more attuned to what was going on in his own home …

But then you stop yourself. You stop yourself because, if you’re a parent, the initial spasm of self-righteousness quickly gives way to empathy. You also stop yourself because you realize that Reid’s “home” isn’t really the one he shares with his family, it’s the one he inhabits at Lincoln Financial Field. That’s where he truly lives.

Last season it was James Dungy, 18-year-old son of Colts coach Tony, committing suicide in Tampa. This season it was the Reid brothers, 23-year-old Garrett and 21-year-old Britt, spinning out of control. And next season, sorry to say, it’ll probably be some other coach’s kid. At this point, we shouldn’t even need to ask, “Where was dad?” because we already know the answer:

“Sleeping at the office — along with the rest of the Vermeil Youth.”

Not trying to pin the blame on Dick Vermeil here, just trying to say that excess breeds excess. When one coach starts pulling all-nighters — snoozing on his sofa — others must follow … or risk falling behind. But at what cost? At the cost of becoming a stranger to your wife and children? At the cost of getting a call from the police one day and finding out you have no idea what’s going on in your son’s life?

If such thoughts don’t haunt most coaches, well, maybe they should. At the very least, Reid’s and Dungy’s misfortunes put the whole Coaching Nepotism Issue in a different light. Perhaps it’s not so horrible that a coach gives his kid a job on his staff; for one thing, it might be the only way they can continue to have any kind of relationship.

We’ve seen a lot of this in Washington in recent years, coaches hiring their offspring. John Thompson did it at Georgetown with Ronny (now the head man at Ball State). Mike Jarvis did it at George Washington with Mike II. Jarvis’ successor, Tom Penders, even did it with his son, Tommy.

Heck, the last three Redskins coaches — Marty Schottenheimer (Brian), Steve Spurrier (Steve Jr.) and Joe Gibbs (Coy) — have had their boys on the payroll. Given the stories about Gibbs — in the old days — being sent tape recordings by wife Pat, updating him on family happenings, it’s not surprising he might feel a need to make up for lost time. The same goes for any coach who hires his kid — Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, Lou Holtz, Bob Knight, Eddie Sutton, Don Nelson.

On one level, the practice is repulsive — especially at public universities, where equal employment opportunity should prevail. But on another level, it’s more understandable … or at least more forgivable. Might Garrett and Britt Reid have steered clear of trouble if their father had kept them closer, found something for them to do around the Eagles complex — administrative this, quality control that, deputy-junior-associate something else?

Besides, they possess the football gene, and there’s something to be said for that. Just because you get a job through your Old Man doesn’t mean you won’t perform it capably. Let’s not forget, Wade Phillips, the Cowboys’ new coach, broke into the NFL as an assistant under his father Bum in Houston. Then there’s Rex Ryan, one of the candidates for the Chargers opening, who started out on his father Buddy’s staff in Arizona.

And none of the aforementioned coaching progeny, I’ll just point out, has been mixed up with heroin or unlicensed firearms. Not to draw any conclusions or anything …

A sad state of affairs, indeed. What is it that compels so many coaches, already swamped with work 24/7/365, to seek Total Control of their organizations, to become the general manager/Grand Poobah on top of everything else? Particularly since that can only mean less time around the house, less time to be Dad?

Whatever the explanation, it must be enough to make Reid’s mentor, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, glad he has four daughters. That is, as long as one of them doesn’t decide to become an astronaut.

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