Andy Reid still remembers the name of the play, and he can spit it out at the speed of a quarterback in the huddle. To the uninformed listener, about the only thing that’s easy to pick up is that it ends in the word, “Omaha.”
Buccaneer fans would certainly remember the way the actual play ended, however. “Omaha” was apparently the last thing Donovan McNabb said to his fellow Eagles players in a hurried huddle before he threw the pass that Ronde Barber picked off and returned 92 yards to seal Tampa Bay’s win over Philadelphia in the 2002 NFC Championship Game.
A decade later, Reid can speak about the play with gracious humor, but there’s no doubt it was painful at the time. Barber raced right past the Eagles bench on his way to the opposite end zone, and by the time he got there Veterans Stadium was eerily quiet.
“He got us,” said Reid of Barber. “He picked it and took it the distance. He was a heck of a player then and he’s still a heck of a player. He’s switched positions, which is really a tribute to his ability to adapt to a couple different positions, just being a football player. I have a lot of respect for him. I have a lot of respect for Jon Gruden, too; he’s a good friend.”
Gruden, the Buccaneers’ Head Coach for that Super Bowl season, and Reid worked together on the Green Bay Packers’ staff from 1992-94. Gruden then went on to Philly to be the offensive coordinator, then went to the Raiders as their Head Coach in 1998, one year before Reid began his long and successful tenure at the Eagles’ helm. Philadelphia made the playoffs in nine of Reid’s first 13 seasons, went to the NFC Championship Game four straight times from 2001-04 and broke through to the Super Bowl in ’04.
Reid is bringing his team to Tampa this weekend, which has not so coincidentally been chosen as the date to bring that 2002 Buccaneers team back for its 10-year reunion. There will be a halftime ceremony honoring the returning Super Bowl alumni during Sunday’s Bucs-Eagles tilt, and it will be impossible for Reid – one of only four remaining coaches or players from that 2002 Philly squad – to miss all the reminders.
“I’m happy for [them],” said Reid, again with grace and some tongue-in-cheek bitterness. “I can’t say I’m excited to see that whole group again. Every time I see [FOX analyst] John Lynch I get upset. He also is a great, great person, a great kid. They had a good football team. They beat us fair and square. You wish it hadn’t happened, but it did, and I’m glad they have a chance to honor that group. That’s where I’m at with it.”