9:26 PM EST, November 28, 2011
— Never before have we seen this kind of entropic adversity under Andy Reid, the NFL's longest current tenured coach.
Not in his first season of 1999, when he was trying to rebuild the Eagles; not in 2005, when Terrell Owens went bad and Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook went to injured reserve; not in 2006, when a loss at Indianapolis a week after McNabb was lost for the season dropped them to 5-6; not in 2008, when McNabb was benched during an ugly loss at Baltimore that dropped them to 5-5-1. Not ever.
In all those cases, Reid's strong program and even stronger convictions eventually prevailed. The system worked because of character players and the experienced, accomplished coaches who either knew how to move them around on a chessboard or would figure it out in time to often turn grave situations into fantastic ones.
Heck, in '08 the Eagles rebounded to make it to their fifth conference championship game in eight years. They were minutes away from their second Super Bowl in five years.
In '06, they installed Jeff Garcia at QB, won their last five regular-season games and a playoff game.
There is no chance to come back from the mess Reid has made of this season — and possibly the next two or three — with shamefully poor judgments and miscalculations, the biggest of all being the commitment the team made to a quarterback who's inexplicably reverted to old form after fooling nearly everyone into believing he had become an elite player during a 2010 season that is looking more like a fluke every minute.
Michael Vick obviously wasn't even part of the disgraceful 38-20 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday night, in which supremely talented receiver DeSean Jackson again displayed blatant disregard for his teammates, and a pair of assistant coaches, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive line coach Jim Washburn, nearly came to blows on the sideline.
But that's beside the point.
Fact is, owner Jeff Lurie now would face an impossible public relations mission if he chooses to keep Reid on after this season.
Everything points to the Reid era being over. He gave it his best shot, tried to make some changes, but the bottom line is that this franchise is headed for its third straight year without a playoff win under a coach who never went more than one year without a playoff win before this dubious streak began in 2009.
Not coincidentally, that season was the first to begin entirely with players of Reid's choosing. Safety Brian Dawkins and tackle Tra Thomas, the last holdovers from the Ray Rhodes regime, were allowed to depart in free agency after 2008, shortly after the late Jim Johnson's defense was eviscerated for 32 points by the same Arizona Cardinals team the Eagles demolished seven weeks earlier.
That was perhaps the beginning of the end for Reid, whose series of actions since have been way more ridiculous than sublime, starting with the desperation signing of linebacker Jeremiah Trotter midway through 2009, after Trotter had been out of football for nearly two full seasons.
Linebackers have been brought in by the dozen on conveyor belts ever since. Still no stability there.
But that's only one of countless factors that led to the spectacular meltdown on Sunday. Otherwise, the team may never regain the trust of its understandably furious fan base.
Lurie will have an extremely difficult time justifying Reid still being allowed to make franchise-shaping decisions, because Reid has proved with three years of actions that he no longer can be trusted to sustain a program he ran so well for so long.
Reid, who deserves a ton of credit for building it up, also unfortunately must deserve a ton of blame for tearing it down.
Had he not been so bold as to turn the defense over to offensive line coach Juan Castillo after firing Sean McDermott, Reid might be on his way to receiving a well-deserved free pass for another season, because the labor stoppage has had a huge impact on all the left turns this team has taken.
Asking any football team to mesh so many new players with so many new coaches and techniques in the span of one shortened training camp is unrealistic.
Yet Castillo, who's been preaching the value of patience throughout his first year on this new job, has no defense for the two giant steps backward his unit took against the Patriots Sunday night.
Neither does Reid.
Reid also has no defense for allowing DeSean Jackson to become a player who's more concerned with future earnings than he is with playing his best for his teammates. Jackson, playing out the final year of a rookie contract, all but admitted that after the game by saying he's keeping his head "on a swivel" to protect against any potential serious injury.
So now they have a situation where their most explosive receiver refuses to dial his game up, their most explosive quarterback of all time refuses to dial his often reckless running and passing game down, their defensive coordinator is in over his head and the other coaches know it and may even deep-down resent it.
Other than that, everything has come together quite nicely for The Dream Team.
Pity, too, because not everything Reid has done has backfired. Washburn has made the defensive line better, and Howard Mudd has installed a system with the appropriate young personnel that could make the Eagles offensive line dominant for the next decade, if it isn't already.
But they're all likely to go if Lurie has the pulse of the fans, because if Reid is forced out, they'll likely follow him in a show of support.
In the meantime, this season continues to die a slow, lingering death as we appear to be edging closer to a future without Reid but not a future without the risks that come from trying to line up a better alternative.
But the Eagles don't realistically have another choice. This is how far they've fallen.
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