How Andy Reid helped build the Eagles team he's trying to beat

How Reid helped build the team he's trying to beat originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

In a strange way, Andy Reid next Sunday will be trying to beat a team he helped create.

It was Reid who first brought to the Eagles the notion that when trying to put together a championship roster, you have to build from the lines out.

And if you have the ability to control the line of scrimmage, everything else will fall into place. Even without elite talent elsewhere.

Joe Banner, then the Eagles’ team president, was a big believer in building from the inside out and devoting more resources to offensive and defensive linemen than any other position, and he and Reid were in lockstep on that.

Reid drafted 12 players in the first round during his 14 years here, and eight were linemen. The only exceptions were Donovan McNabb, Freddie Mitchell, Lito Sheppard and Jeremy Maclin.

Seven times he had a pick in the first half of the first round. The first was a franchise quarterback. The last six were linemen.

And some of Reid’s most prominent free agent additions were linemen as well. Jon Runyan in 2000. Jevon Kearse in 2004, although that one didn’t work out quite so well.

Even though Reid’s execution wasn’t always ideal – Jerome McDougle, Shawn Andrews, Brodrick Bunkley – the philosophy was a sound one.

From 2000 through 2010, largely on the strength of their two lines, the Eagles had the 4th-best record in the NFL, reached five NFC Championship Games and got to the playoffs nine times in 11 years.

And while Reid might have been right that you build first through the lines, you still need enough wide receiver talent to be functional. And other than one guy who played 23 games here before imploding, Reid didn’t figure that out until a decade into his career here, when he drafted DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

In 2000, the Eagles brought in an unknown front office intern named Howie Roseman who had no NFL experience and was just starting to learn about professional football.

And who did he have to learn from? Yep. Andy Reid and Joe Banner.

Although Roseman started out here working mainly on salary cap issues, when you’re part of an organization led by Reid and Banner, you’re going to quickly learn the value of prioritizing the two lines.

And once Howie became GM, it was clear he did.

His first five 1st-round picks as general manager were linemen and so far – just like Big Red – eight of his 12 1st-rounders have been linemen (with a little overlap).

Watching the Eagles this year – and in particular in the playoffs – the Eagles have been dazzling up front. Just obliterating people on both sides of the ball.

They have the best defensive line in football. They’re up to 78 sacks now, and they’re just routinely terrorizing quarterbacks.

And they have the best offensive line in football. If you can rush for 150 yards and four touchdowns against the No. 1 rush defense in the game, you’re just imposing your will on the other team.

Using Big Red’s model, Roseman built two lines that are better than any that Reid ever came up with. All five o-line starters and all four d-line starters were either Pro Bowlers or Pro Bowl alternates.

These lines are just steamrolling people right now. The Eagles are deep, healthy and just about unstoppable up front going into the biggest game of the year.

And at the heart of those two lines are Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Jason Kelce, three guys Reid drafted, three guys Howie made sure to keep and three guys who a decade into their Eagles careers are still playing superb football.

You have to love the fact that as Reid sits down to study film and prepare for the Eagles, he’ll see a team created using his template.

Only better.

Reid created the blueprint and Roseman perfected it. And it’s the biggest reason the Eagles are one win away from another Super Bowl championship.