PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Philadelphia Eagles went after Mike Holmgren seven years ago and ended up with Andy Reid.

Fans, of course, were disappointed and Reid was greeted on the day he was hired by a headline on the front page of a local newspaper that said “Andy Who?”

That was in 1999. The perception is much different now.

Reid has led the Eagles to the NFC championship game four straight years and the Super Bowl last season, while his mentor, Holmgren, hasn’t won a playoff game in Seattle.

This year, however, the teacher is having more success than the student. Holmgren’s Seahawks lead the NFC with a 9-2 record going into Monday night’s game against Reid and the struggling Eagles (5-6).

Many of the problems in Philadelphia went beyond Reid’s control. He has dealt with several injuries to star players – quarterback Donovan McNabb, tackle Tra Thomas and cornerback Lito Sheppard are out for the season – and there was the never-ending saga involving banished wideout Terrell Owens.

“He’s handled it as good as any human being could,” Holmgren said. “And, he’s one of the quality coaches, and quality human beings. I’m honored to call him a friend of mine. I wouldn’t wish that situation on anybody. But now I’m sure there’s a little more bounce in his step, and he’s going to be coaching like crazy. But it was a horrible thing to go through, I would think.”

Reid learned a lot from Holmgren working as an assistant coach under him for seven years in Green Bay during the 1990s. The two coaches who bear a striking resemblance to one another still talk often, though they don’t necessarily discuss strategy.

“When I worked for him, I had a hard time believing that anybody did it better than he did as a head coach in the NFL,” Reid said. “Even when he was going through the tough times, he didn’t change. He kept doing what he did in Green Bay up there and he has that thing turned around and heading in the right direction.”

Holmgren led the Packers to consecutive Super Bowls following the 1996-97 seasons, including a victory over New England in their first trip. He spurned the Eagles and other offers to take over as the coach and executive vice president in Seattle in 1999.

Holmgren has led the Seahawks to two division titles and three playoff appearances, but they’re 0-3 in those games. A victory over Philadelphia or a loss by St. Louis against Washington on Sunday would give Seattle its second consecutive NFC West title.

Reid rebuilt the Eagles from rock bottom, taking them from 3-13 the year before he came in to 11-5 in his second season in 2000.

Philadelphia won at least 11 games and one playoff game in each of the last five seasons, but must win out to reach 10 victories this season.

Holmgren expects the Eagles to be contenders next year no matter how they finish up this season.

“The setup is good, and they should be good for a long time, in my opinion,” Holmgren said. “Now, injury or this other thing that went on with them, you can’t count on that. No one can plan for that, and it can affect your season, but heck, they’re good and they will be good, and I think they’ll be good for a long time as long as Andy Reid is their coach.”

The Eagles snapped a four-game losing streak with a 19-14 victory over lowly Green Bay last week. Without McNabb and Owens, the offense had trouble moving the ball. But running back Brian Westbrook had a career-high 120 yards rushing and the defense stopped Brett Favre in crucial spots.

Seattle was helped by three missed field goals in its 24-21 overtime victory against the New York Giants.

The Seahawks, off to their best start since opening 12-2 in 1984, have won seven straight, one short of tying a team record for consecutive wins in a season.

AP-ES-12-04-05 1509EST

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