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BOB RYAN

The book on Eagles coach: Pretty good Reid

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The "other" coach isn't bad, either.

The Patriots have the cerebral, focused quasi-genius on their side. With four Super Bowl rings in his collection -- two as an assistant with the Giants and two as the boss in New England -- Bill Belichick has become the Coach of the New Millennium, or something like that. If the Patriots win it all again, stand back. A coronation as King Pigskin is about all that's left.

Opposing him will be a guy with some OK credentials. Andy Reid has a Super Bowl ring of his own, and he's not shy about waving it around. Asked yesterday if he had taken the bauble out of storage to use it as some kind of motivational tool for his team, the man in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles said no, not really. "I wear it year-round," he said.

Whoa. That doesn't fit the Andy Reid image at all.

You might expect a Brian Billick or a Mike Martz to wear a Super Bowl ring full-time, but not Andy Reid, otherwise known as the Bard of Blandness. It's not often that Belichick is the more colorful coach in any NFL matchup, but he wins this contest easily. Our Bill is from the name-rank-and-serial-number school when it comes to dispensing information, but, compared with Reid, Bill B is a regular Joan Rivers.

I didn't put the stopwatch on him, but I'd estimate that his average answer to the media queries he was hit with yesterday was about seven seconds. "Andy's in good playoff form," confirmed Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "In the regular season, he's up to about eight or nine."

The given among New England media is that Our Bill answers most -- not all, most -- questions in an uninspired monotone. But Reid takes things a step further. He has both a monotone and a face right off of Mt. Rushmore. Is anyone out there old enough to remember a comedian named Jackie Vernon, the rotund "I'm-a-dull-guy" chap who became an Ed Sullivan favorite? Andy Reid is Jackie Vernon, except that he comes with a mustache.

But Reid must have a way of getting his message across to the Eagles, because in the last six years no NFL coach has won more regular-season games (59). After a shakedown-cruise 5-11 season in 1999, his Eagles have gone 11-5, 11-5, 12-4, 12-4, and 13-3. And they might have gone 15-1 this season had he not rested key players in the final two games, which turned out to be losses to the Rams and Bengals. The Eagles were locked in as the NFC's No. 1 seed, and he made a decision; that's all.

"I think it would be easy to stand here and tell you it was the right decision because we're here," Reid shrugged. "A lot of people I really respect in this league didn't agree with it, and a lot of other people I respect did. It turned out to be the right decision."

That Super Bowl ring came from his role as an assistant with the Green Bay Packers, for whom he worked from 1992 through 1998. This means, yes, he earned his ring at the expense of the Patriots in the 1997 Super Bowl.

This makes him a member of the Bill Walsh School of Coaches, since he worked under Mike Holmgren, a noted Walsh disciple. He has the requisite organizational skills, having learned from Holmgren about such things as practice regimens, travel procedures, and offseason preparation.

One thing he shares with Belichick is a strong background in special teams. Belichick became deeply involved in special teams at the beginning of his coaching career three decades ago, and believes firmly that they are one-third of the football whole, right there with offense and defense. Reid is similarly committed to the concept.

"I had a lot to do with the special teams in Green Bay," he said. "I think they're a big part of the game. If you're going to be good at it, you'd better spend a lot of time on it. We have starters who want to be a part of the special teams, and that's not the way it is everywhere." One place where that is the norm, as you might imagine, is New England.

It would be unReidlike to boast, but he made it clear that he has come here to win the football game, not to have his team serve as docile opponents in a Patriots production.

"Our players don't come in here feeling as underdogs," he declared. "I think we're as good as any team in the National Football League. We have to prove that every Sunday."

Let the record show that Reid actually did make 'em laugh at one point. After he realized that he was heaping praise on one of his assistants for a third time, he quipped, "I don't want to sell off the whole staff here. It's like an auction."

That may not be Comedy Central material, but for an Andy Reid press conference, it's pretty good.

His owner doesn't pay him to drop one-liners. His owner pays him to put a highly competitive football team on the field, and that's what he's done for the past five years. We know he has the full respect of Belichick, and we know he's proud enough to wear a Super Bowl ring. Who knows? If he wins the game, his answers might even swell to 10 seconds.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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