Before the season, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stood in front of a swarm of reporters and television cameras and told the NFL world that 8-8 was unacceptable last year, indicating that improvement would be needed for Andy Reid to keep his job.
At 3-8, improvement is officially unattainable. Reid has long since lost the faith of the city, and if Lurie doesn't do something soon—as in this week—he is in danger of completely losing the trust of the fans. More than that, Lurie is in danger of losing their money.
With a winning season now a statistical impossibility, Lurie has the responsibility to the fans of his franchise to keep his word and move on from the Andy Reid era.
Everyone in Philadelphia knows Reid will be gone before next year. Heck, even Reid knows it. He consistently addresses the situation in his weekly press briefings, saying just days before the 30-22 loss to the Carolina Panthers that he wouldn't quit his job, that he wasn't "wired that way" and that leaving his players at this point in the season would be a "cop-out."
He was essentially daring Lurie to fire him. Tuesday, in his slog of a day-after recap press conference where he ran down a growing list of injuries to what seems like his entire offense, Reid again refused to admit he is staring at the writing on the locker-room wall.
"I'm coaching to get ready to get after the Cowboys," Reid said during his Tuesday press briefing. "That's what I'm coaching to do and I don't go beyond that. If that's simple, or whatever the term is that works with that, that's how I go. I'm not going to let anything distract that other than getting the team ready to play them."
Reid was sullen for most of the press conference (who wouldn't be, with the way this season has gone?), but he smirked when he answered the question about next year. It has been blatantly obvious for weeks that Reid is a beaten man, yet he still won't give up thinking about next week.
After an unimaginable family tragedy this offseason, losing a son who was working for the team at the time of his death, followed by an absolute implosion of a season that began with very high expectations, you almost have to feel sorry for Reid at this point. There is certainly a lot to blame Reid for this season, but the way he is handling this is, in a way, commendable.
It would benefit him at this point to be fired. Reid gave nearly a decade-and-a-half of service to the Eagles—to Lurie—and he honestly deserves better than to be paraded out onto the field for another game.
Any way you look at it, firing Reid is the right thing to do. Lurie owes it to the fans to show them he is a man of his word and that 8-8, or whatever horrible record this team will end up with at season's end, is not good enough. Lurie also owes it to Reid, giving him a five-week paid vacation at the end of his long and successful run. That sure would beat a gold watch.
With a nationally televised game on Sunday night against the hated Dallas Cowboys on the horizon, Lurie has the ability to control the conversation. With Reid at the helm, the game against the Cowboys will be a four-hour death march (for Reid and maybe Jason Garrett as well). Were Lurie to fire Reid before the Dallas game, the telecast would assuredly take a more positive spin, turning the game into a prime-time commercial for potential coaching candidates.
Lurie has been silent on this topic during the season, but with a new coach to hire, surely NBC would welcome the owner of the Eagles into the booth for a conversation about the team's future. Why wouldn't Lurie want to sell his program to whoever the next guy in charge will be?
Speaking of selling things, Lurie should be concerned about fan apathy growing through the important holiday season. When the Eagles are good, merchandise is flying off the shelves. Right now in Philadelphia, you can barely give away Eagles gear. Even the Christmas ornaments remain fully stocked on the shelves. Could season-ticket renewals be next? Does Lurie really want to have to tap into that waiting list to fill his stadium?
There were reportedly 20,000 empty seats for Monday Night Football this week. How many people will show up on Thursday, Dec. 13—another nationally televised game—if the Eagles lose their next two games on the road? At some point, those fans will be smart enough to stop paying, not just stop going.
To be fair, keeping Reid around until now made sense. Lurie is a man of his word, and until now, the Eagles were mathematically capable of eclipsing last year's record. Until now, a winning season was still possible.
Now, it's different. Now, it has to be about the future of the franchise, and that future will not come with Reid in charge. Why, then, should Lurie wait?
I'll be the first to admit my opinion on this has waffled. For weeks I felt Reid would not and should not be fired until the end of the season. I felt Reid deserved better than to be jettisoned before the end of the year.
But a lot has changed over the last two months. The team has not only lost seven straight games, it has barely been competitive in four of the last five, with the only close game coming against the only team in the NFC with a worse record than it. And the game was at home.
What does keeping Reid another five weeks serve to accomplish for anyone? Smacking an interim tag on Marty Mornhinweg for a month isn't going to cost Lurie anything, but getting rid of the disdain, resentment and downright apathy the fans have collectively fostered toward the franchise the last seven weeks should be his only concern moving forward.
Getting rid of Reid now will get fans excited about the coach of the future—whether that is Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher or Chip Kelly or whatever current NFL assistant eventually takes the job—instead of thinking about how terrible the season has been under Reid.
It's the holidays. Nobody wants to be depressed during the holidays—not the fans and not the coach. By getting rid of the coach and giving him some long-overdue time with his family, Lurie would be accomplishing two magnanimous things. It just makes good business sense and it makes good sense on a basic, human level.
Of course, having just fired his personal PR guy and the head of his marketing department over the last week, there may not be anyone left in the building to convince Lurie of the right thing to do. He shouldn’t need the help, truly. He just needs to listen to his fanbase and make a move now, before this season isn't the only thing that's lost.