PHILADELPHIA — On the day Andy Reid was hired to coach the Philadelphia Eagles three years ago, he was greeted by a headline on the front page of a local newspaper that said "Andy Who?"
Nobody is questioning the choice now.
Reid, a former BYU player, has the Eagles one victory away from their first trip to the Super Bowl in 21 years. They play the St. Louis Rams in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
"Other than X's and O's, we looked at coaches who had been extremely successful — Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson — and we tried to see if we can identify the characteristics they have in common," Eagles president Joe Banner said Monday. "They have exceptional leadership skills, are not afraid to be wrong or make a mistake, are self-confident, have a strong conviction, are detail-oriented, straightforward and honest.
"When we interviewed Andy, we felt like he represented those characteristics. Obviously, we were comfortable with his football knowledge, but this is what separates him."
Reid wasn't the people's choice or owner Jeffrey Lurie's first pick, but he has proved to be the right choice.
This is the first trip to the conference title game for the Eagles since they beat Dallas on Jan. 11, 1981, before losing to Oakland in the Super Bowl.
The Rams, who opened the season with a 20-17 overtime victory in Philadelphia, are 11-point favorites, but both of their losses came at home. The Eagles are 8-1 away from Veterans Stadium.
The odds were against Reid when he took over a team that finished 3-13 in 1998 and was considered one of the worst organizations in pro sports.
Though he came from a superb coaching pedigree, having studied meticulously as an assistant to Mike Holmgren in Green Bay — five of Holmgren's disciples took teams to the playoffs this season — Reid had no experience as a head coach at any level.
And, he wasn't one of the high-profile coaches available after Lurie fired Ray Rhodes. Holmgren and George Seifert, both Super Bowl winners, were looking for jobs. So were Brian Billick and Chris Palmer, offensive coordinators who masterminded high-scoring offenses.
But Holmgren chose Seattle over Philadelphia, so Lurie took a chance on Reid.