Eagles' Andy Reid walks off in defeat

Posted: December 24, 2012

Andy Reid had already endured the sloppy end of the football game, watching as rookie quarterback Nick Foles managed to finish things with an intentional-grounding penalty that robbed Reid of what was probably the final one second of his coaching tenure in Lincoln Financial Field.

After that, Reid had to wade across the field, accompanied by a small army of television cameras, to find Washington coach Mike Shanahan and congratulate Shanahan on the 27-20 win that pushed the Redskins one game closer to the NFC East title that the Eagles used to capture as if by habit.

There were more cameras than usual Sunday, and therefore more wading, because it was assumed to be Reid's last walk across the Linc field as the Eagles head coach. In terms of momentous events, it wasn't exactly one small step for man, but you take your news where you find it.

Reid shook hands with Shanahan and they had a brief exchange before Reid turned and headed for the southwest tunnel and whatever reception the remaining fans had for him. Even Reid, with his legendary focus on the game, had probably thought about that ahead of time.

If he was thinking about it again, however, he was interrupted when Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett caught up with him and encircled Reid with a hug. After 14 years and after all these miles, those two ships passed again in the gathering gloom of the late afternoon.

Whatever irony that represented for Reid, but it was much more of one for Jeffrey Lurie if he saw the scene from the owner's box. Reid and Haslett were the finalists for the Eagles head coaching job in 1999. Haslett, then the Pittsburgh defensive coordinator, was the recommended choice of Eagles general manager Tom Modrak. Reid became the eventual choice of Lurie and team president Joe Banner.

How would the history of the franchise be written differently had Lurie gone the other way on the decision? On one hand, it would have been difficult for the Eagles to win more games over the course of the next 14 seasons, but it would also have been impossible for them to win fewer championships. Those are the two edges of the knife and both will always describe the tenure of Andy Reid.

"I appreciate the effort, but the objective here is to win the game and we didn't do that," Reid said after Sunday's game.

It is a summation, at least in tone, of what Lurie might say after the final game against the Giants if he does fire Reid, as is almost universally expected. The effort was great; the results were ultimately less than that.

"The bottom line is that we have to finish the game and win the game," Reid said. "It's unacceptable to lose the game."

There's that word again, and you wonder if "unacceptable" has been on Reid's mind. It was how Lurie characterized the team's 8-8 finish in 2011 - and, boy, that doesn't look so bad now - and it is how he said another lackluster season would be judged as well. Unacceptable.

The current team started off 3-1, with wins over the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants, and has gone 1-10 since. That seems impossible for a team coached by Reid, whose hallmark has always been steadiness, but it is how badly the Eagles played. There were injuries that made the slide steeper, but only by a matter of degrees.

"I understand. I understand the situation," Reid said, asked yet again about his eroding tenure. "I'm the coach right now and I'm just coaching. That's what I'm doing the best I possibly can."

Not even his greatest detractors ever denied that. He works hard and to the limits of his ability. If that edge of the knife provided wins, but not the ultimate win, then that's just the way it turned out.

Out on the field, still trailed by the cameras and security personnel, Reid moved toward the tunnel after Haslett had delivered his message and released him. The fans, at least a few scattered groups, were still waiting for him.

Some were waving, as if goodbye. Some were booing. Some were screaming whatever nonsense had come into their heads. A decent percentage started an "Andy Reid, Andy Reid" chant - just that - and it was clearly an acknowledgement that if this were a passage in team history, it was one that had to be marked.

Reid raised his right hand and pointed into the stands as he jogged into the tunnel and disappeared into the shadows. The noise ended and everyone turned to leave. It had been quite a time, but it was finally time to go.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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