PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Andy Reid has shuffled players in and out of the lineup, fired a loyal friend and done everything possible to get the Philadelphia Eagles to win. Nothing has worked.
The Eagles (3-7) have lost six straight games and are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight year for the first time in Reid’s 14-year tenure. That doesn’t bode well for a coach who received a preseason directive from the owner to win this year.
Now the biggest question in Philadelphia seems not to be whether Reid will be back in 2013; rather, fans and media are speculating about the timing and nature of his departure.
Will Reid step down or wait for Jeffrey Lurie to fire him? Will it happen during the season or after?
Reid already has made it clear he isn’t quitting on his team. It’s not part of his makeup. If he’s going down, he wants to fight until the last game.
But Reid’s confidence seems shaken and he even sounds like a guy who knows the end is near.
“My leadership right now isn’t good enough,” Reid said. “I’ve got to do a better job there and make sure that we play better.”
Outsiders have questioned whether Reid’s message is getting through to the players. After 14 years, perhaps his way has become a little stale. The fact that Reid himself is critical of his ability to lead the team supports that theory.
The Eagles began the season with Super Bowl aspirations. Experts considered them legitimate contenders. However, they’re lucky they’re not 0-10. They needed final-drive touchdowns to squeak out 1-point wins in the first two games, and secured their other win on a missed field goal in the waning seconds.
Maybe people within the organization and football observers overvalued the team’s talent level. After all, the Eagles are proof that having a roster filled with Pro Bowl-caliber players wins more games on paper than on the field.
Reid, though, disputes the knock against the players.
“I think I have good players, so that’s why I take full responsibility for it,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting the guys to play better and make sure I’m putting them in the right position to do so.”
Reid doesn’t make excuses and refuses to point to injuries. The offensive line has been decimated, leaving only one starter from last year. As a result, an inferior line has crippled the offense. Michael Vick has struggled mainly because he’s consistently taking hits and being pressured. Playmakers LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin haven’t been able to produce.
“You don’t want the injuries but you don’t use those as an excuse,” Reid said. “These guys have an opportunity to show and it’s their time. Let’s go play. That’s how we approach it.”
Reid’s resume speaks for itself. In 1999, Reid inherited a team that was a laughingstock coming off a 3-13 season. He quickly turned the Eagles into perennial winners. Reid has won more games (139) than any coach in franchise history. He’s led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five trips to the NFC championship game and a Super Bowl loss.
Yet all those accomplishments don’t seem to matter in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. The Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since 2008.
Many fans want Reid gone now.
Before the last home game, a man drove a truck with a billboard that read: “Fire Andy Reid” up and down Broad Street. Fans inside the stadium chanted “Fire Andy!” and security took down a sign that said: “Andy, Quit. Your Team Has.”
It could get downright ugly in front of a national television audience Monday night when the Eagles host the Carolina Panthers (2-8).
Reid understands the city’s frustration and why fans are hostile.
“You go play,” he said. “You make positive things happen as coaches and players. Make plays, make positive plays. Fans like that. That’s what they want to see. I’ve always said they’re on the same page with all of us. When we’re stinking it up, they understand that. When we’re doing well, they understand that, too. We have to do a better job as coaches and players. There’s no hidden agenda there. We have to do a better job.”
Players realize their poor performance could cost Reid his job. They also have to worry about their own futures.
“It’s really tough,” veteran tight end Brent Celek said. “But it’s something that you can’t continue to dwell on. … all we can do is move forward and work on winning a game. Play for this team, play for each other and worry about your own job. I think if we do that, you stop worrying about, ‘Oh, this guy’s going to lose his job or this guy’s going to lose his job.’ Because if you allow all those outside factors in, it’s just like anything in life: you keep putting negative things in, negative things will come out.”
This has been a painful year for Reid emotionally. His oldest son, Garrett Reid, died during training camp after a long battle with drug addiction. Last month, Reid dismissed defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, a longtime assistant and close friend, in a desperate move to shake up things.
“Obviously, you want to bring it together for him,” veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “You want to bring it together for all the coaches, the players, owner, everybody, fans. It’s been tough. It’s been a tough little stretch here; six straight loses. It’s not easy for anyone involved with the organization. We need to try to get this turned around for everyone.”
It’s probably too late.