Reid: 'I don't mind being the bad guy'

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Good seats still available at Andy Reid's table.

That was the case as reporters fanned out across a cavernous ballroom for the NFC coaches' breakfast at 7 a.m. Wednesday. As you might expect, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was the only coach to show up 10 minutes early, but Reid wasn't far behind. His spring collection of yellow Hawaiian shirts have been stunning this week, and even at such an early hour, he didn't disappoint.

After some lengthy discussion about his nearby beach house, Reid settled into one of the most revealing (by his standards) interviews I could recall. The other writers had better table manners because they didn't have someplace else to be, so I interrupted a delightful exchange about the offensive line to dive into the Donovan McNabb situation.

Reid declined the opportunity to talk about his now infamous meeting with the quarterback, which was leaked to ESPN last month. He said he talks to McNabb "all the time" and doesn't expect him to miss any of the offseason minicamps. When Philadelphia Inquirer beat writer Bob Brookover brought up the "nuclear bomb" scenario of McNabb being a no-show, Reid reminded us that he'd dealt with a few of those during his decade and change with the club.

"Obviously, the quarterback position is very important," Reid said. "I'm always looking at the positive. The positive is, that [when a veteran isn't there] the young guys get to work with the 'ones.' The negative is that you sure want your starting quarterback there."

To be clear, Reid doesn't anticipate McNabb will skip any of the minicamps, but it certainly sounds like the scenario's crossed his mind. These two men have been in lock step for nearly 11 years, but the November benching may have changed that dynamic.

What McNabb is asking for with a contract extension isn't so much about money (or offensive weapons) as it is about security. He felt betrayed by the organization and a longtime confidante when he was made the scapegoat for how poorly the team was playing. And even though Reid often comes across as a cold fish in large group settings, it seems like he does have a grasp of where McNabb's coming from. And unlike a certain Boy Wonder in Denver, Reid knows it's not wise to get into a whizzing match with the franchise quarterback.

When I asked him if he understood why McNabb felt like the fall guy, Reid said, "Absolutely."

Sounding like the parent he is, Reid said he made the decision to bench McNabb for his own good. He knew it would be devastating, but for the greater good of the team, he felt like it was the only option. Oh, and in case you don't remember, it actually worked.

"I've got to do what's best for the football team," he said. "And, honestly, in that situation, what I thought was best for Donovan. You never know how things are going to go. I could sit here and tell you, 'Ah, I knew everything would work out like it did.' But you never know what's going to happen in this game when you do things like that. But I felt like it had to happen.

"Donovan is the type of person that carries the world on his back. As a result of that, at times, people around him expect him to carry the world on his back. And they're not doing their jobs to their fullest. It's too much. Too much for one person to do. That's the point where this got to.

"It wasn't from Donovan not trying or doing anything wrong. No human can do what he was trying to do. We were leading the league in drops. We weren't playing great defense during that stretch. The offensive line was struggling. Everybody was having their thing. And to be honest with you, I wasn't coaching very good. Everybody needed to pick their game up. And that's kind of what happened after that."

The immediate results -- winning four of the next five games and reaching the NFC Championship Game -- are hard to argue with, but the organization is still dealing with the repercussions of the benching. You already have a quarterback with historically thin skin ("What, you're drafting a QB in the second round?"). And, honestly, that doesn't make McNabb different than most franchise quarterbacks. In his mind, quarterbacks with similar tenures around the league (Tom Brady, Manning the Elder, Drew Brees) would never have to worry about getting the hook in a close game at halftime. If Tony Romo throws five interceptions in a game -- as we saw in Buffalo two seasons ago -- it never crosses Wade Phillips' mind to replace him with Brad Johnson (Insert Brad Johnson joke here).

In basic terms, McNabb's request for a contract extension would be something like, "For the next two years, I don't want to be looking over my shoulder every time I have a bad game." Of course, that language will never show up in the contract, but a large signing bonus might do the trick.

For a man who already had an underappreciation complex, the November benching only reinforced his paranoia. Now he's basically asking for an apology, which is something this organization's not particularly good at.

"I don't mind being the bad guy," said Reid. "That's my responsibility to get the football team right."

In an offseason marked by the departure of the team's most beloved player and a longtime starter at left tackle, sentimentality is in short supply. The Eagles want to reward McNabb for his strong play down the stretch, but they're not into lifetime achievement awards. There's only one way McNabb can receive assurance he'll never be benched again.

It's called retirement.