Inside the Eagles: Is Andy Reid losing the locker room?

Posted: October 29, 2012

Andy Reid's end, if it finally occurs after this season, won't come with a bang.

In most cases, the first signs of a dead coach walking come with a whimper from the locker room.

The pulse of the Eagles is a hard one to accurately gauge, following their devastating loss at the hands of the Falcons on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

But there seems to be a disparity among the players in recognizing the urgency they now face at 3-4 and with their coach's job on the line.

Several players said they were aware of the ultimatum that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Reid before the season, that his team must show "substantial improvement" over last season's 8-8 record. A few, such as cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, said they had no idea.

"I wasn't aware of that until you just said it," Asomugha said. "I don't know how many other players are aware of that. Nobody's really said anything about it."

If true, it would not be a shock that Reid's future was not often discussed among the players. But one would have to live in a vacuum to not be cognizant of the pressure the coach faces with nine games left to play.

"We know we've got to win games," tight end Brent Celek said, "and we have a small window here."

You would think the players sensed the desperation when Reid, for the first time in 14 seasons, fired a coach midseason. You might think they would have slept on eggshells during the bye week when the coach said that he planned to make other moves aside from dumping Juan Castillo as his defensive coordinator.

But the Eagles were listless on both offense and defense at the start of the game, and one can only surmise that Reid has started to lose the ears of some of his players.

"I didn't see [any] pride," running back LeSean McCoy said. "I didn't see [any] heart, and this is as a team, myself included."

If Reid has lost his locker room, he's lost his job. Lurie stressed during his January assessment of the 2011 season that one of the primary reasons he chose to stay with Reid was because the players gave full effort until the season's bitter end.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Reid said his players "kept battling to the end" of Sunday's 30-17 loss. Celek and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said that they, as players, took blame for the Eagles' performance and the precarious position in which Reid has been placed.

"But at the end of the day, that's not anything we decide," Maclin said. "I love Coach Reid to death, so every time I'm out there I'm giving 110 percent."

Celek and Maclin are homegrown players, though. There are a significant number of players on this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, who are mercenaries.

Reid has always stressed the importance of building from within, but weak draft classes from 2010 and '11 forced the Eagles to look elsewhere for help.

Six starters on defense - defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri, linebacker DeMeco Ryans, and cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha - have been here for fewer than two seasons. How could they possibly understand the context of this season for Reid?

Only Jenkins has a Super Bowl ring. Asomugha has never played on a winning team. He was asked if this Eagles version had the smell of some of the bad teams he played on in Oakland.

"The game was bad. This team isn't bad, though. This is a good team," Asomugha said. "Unfortunately, we show stuff like that and then the question is, 'Well, are you?' "

Two weeks ago, following the meltdown against the Lions, receiver Jason Avant said that he was sick of hearing how talented the Eagles were despite their record. He did not echo those comments on Sunday, but many players kept insisting that the talent was there.

"I'm very confident in this team," receiver DeSean Jackson said. "I believe we have a great team. It's just frustrating that we can't put it together."

Said Asomugha, "We're better than an 8-8 team. We're a postseason team. We've got the talent. We've got the coaching."

They have nine games to prove it, nine games to save Reid. The pressure may be insurmountable.

"I think we're all playing for all of our jobs with the way that we've been playing," Celek said. "You start thinking about that, and then you play not to make a mistake, and it's bad."


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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