For the Philadelphia Eagles and their fanbase, the 2012 season will go down as one of the most forgettable years in the history of the franchise.
Expectations surrounding this team were at an all-time high entering the year. The Eagles were fresh off their Dream Team debacle the previous season, when they stumbled out of the gate with a 1-4 record and finished 8-8.
So the Eagles spent the 2012 offseason doing everything right that they had done wrong the previous season. They re-signed their own players to sizable contracts. And they selected the best player available at their spots in the draft instead of reaching for 26-year-old firefighters or younger brothers of superstar linebackers.
But owner Jeffrey Lurie stated before the year that another 8-8 record would not be acceptable for head coach Andy Reid to keep his job for another year. So the pressure was on heading into the 2012 season.
The Eagles responded, winning three of their first four games, all with dramatic last-second defensive stops after a late offensive score. They had fire, passion and tons of confidence.
And all of that disappeared as the Eagles lost eight straight games, a first in the Andy Reid era. By season's end, the Eagles were 4-12, and Reid's fate had been all but sealed in Philadelphia.
But that doesn't mean that the season didn't have a lot of memorable moments. The following slides will highlight the top 25, beginning in reverse order.
In a scoreless tie in the second quarter, Avant hauled in a sideline throw from Nick Foles to pick up 20 yards on 3rd-and-17. The catch, seen here, was nominated for the NFL Play of the Year.
Avant ended the day with seven catches for 133 yards, and the Eagles won in walk-off fashion for their first victory in more than two months.
At 3-5, the Eagles faced the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, likely needing seven wins in their final eight games to reach the playoffs.
Things actually started out well, as the Eagles led 17-10 late in the third quarter. Fast forward 2:27 of game time and the Eagles trailed, 31-17.
First there was a 30-yard touchdown reception by Dez Bryant on which Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie added a pass interference penalty. Game tied.
The Eagles received the kickoff and Nick Foles, playing for an injured Michael Vick, tossed an interception on the first play. But defensive holding on Morris Claiborne nullified the play, and the Eagles went three-and-out. Dallas receiver Dwayne Harris returned the punt 78 yards for a score—24-17 Dallas.
The Eagles received the kickoff again, and three plays later Brandon Carr returned an interception 47 yards for a score—31-17 Dallas. Game, set, match.
The Eagles ended up losing 38-23, their fifth straight loss.
Rookie running back Bryce Brown provided Eagles fans with a glimmer of hope for the 2013 season with his incredible games against the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys in Weeks 12 and 13.
Making his first start since high school, Brown rushed 19 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Carolina.
He carried 24 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas the following week.
But he lost a pair of fumbles against Carolina and another one against Dallas. For the year, he lost four fumbles and should have had a fifth charged against him (in the Cincinnati game).
Brown is expected to become a featured member of the 2013 offense for the Eagles, but he better cure his fumbling woes or he'll find himself on the bench.
The only thing the Eagles could do in their Thursday Night Football matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals was play spoiler, as the Bengals were fighting for a playoff spot.
The Eagles led 13-10 late in the third quarter and then proceeded to allow 24 points in the next 3:55.
During that stretch, the Eagles lost three fumbles. Nick Foles' fumble was returned 25 yards for a Cincinnati touchdown. Clay Harbor lost a fumble after a catch. And Cedric Thornton lost a fumble after botching a short kick.
It was a perfect example of the 2012 Eagles. Just when things are actually going okay, everything falls apart.
Heading into their week 11 matchup against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles knew they were facing something special in RGIII. The Redskins rookie had been the talk of the league for his incredible combination of passing and running.
All he did against the Eagles was turn in the best game of his young career. RGIII completed a ridiculous 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns. He added 12 rushes for 84 yards.
The signature play of the game occurred when RGIII launched a deep pass to Santana Moss, who was double-covered by Brandon Boykin and Kurt Coleman. Moss reached over Coleman to catch the ball, broke a Boykin tackle attempt and walked into the end zone.
The lone positive moment for the Eagles in the season's final three months occurred when rookie Nick Foles orchestrated an 11-point comeback in the final four minutes.
On the final drive, Foles led the Eagles 66 yards in 13 plays. He converted a pair of fourth-down conversions, including a 22-yard strike to Jason Avant on 4th-and-5 in the closing seconds, a play that wasn't even in the original playbook. The game's final play, a one-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy Maclin in the corner of the end zone, was a play called by Foles.
The 23-21 victory was the team's only win after September and the last in the Andy Reid era.
This was one of the most embarrassing Eagles plays I've ever witnessed. It's not quite on the same level as Ronnie Brown's goal-line fumble in 2011, but it's close.
Against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, the Eagles (3-4) needed a win to save their season. Trailing 28-13 in the third quarter, they executed their own version of the Music City Miracle.
Brandon Boykin received the kickoff, returned it 13 yards and hurled a pass across the field to Riley Cooper, who returned the ball 91 yards for a touchdown. The play woke up the Eagles defense, as they intercepted Drew Brees three times in the fourth quarter of an eventual 37-34 victory. At least that's what was supposed to happen.
Instead Boykin was called for a forward lateral, the Eagles ended up losing by 15 points and the team didn't win another game until December.
I commend Reid for the brilliant play call. I really do. If not for Boykin's blunder, the Eagles might actually have rallied to win the game.
What I can't get over is how ridiculous Cooper looked. Take a look at the picture. He literally laid down in the end zone during a real play. I've never seen that before, and I never want to see it again.
The Eagles' season was in complete disarray following their 28-13 beatdown at the hands of the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-5, their fourth straight loss.
During the game, the big story on Twitter was the reaction of Marcus Vick, the brother of quarterback Michael. Marcus made several tweets criticizing the offensive line, saying that they're not even an NFL-type offensive line. He also requested that the Eagles trade Michael, saying that he wanted out of Philadelphia. And he added that he doesn't want his brother to suffer brain damage by the time he's 45.
Marcus later apologized for his comments, but the damage had already been done. It was just another piece of drama to an extremely forgettable Eagles season.
The talk surrounding the Eagles during the 2012 season centered, as usual, on the health of Michael Vick. If Vick could stay healthy, most believed that the Eagles had the potential to be one of the league's best teams.
Well, Vick didn't stay healthy. As usual. But it didn't even matter. He suffered a concussion against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, but the Eagles were already on their way to a 3-6 record.
Rookie Nick Foles took over for Vick, and in early December, the Eagles announced that Foles would become the permanent starter. By that point in the season, nobody even cared. The Eagles were headed to double-digit losses regardless of who played quarterback.
The excitement in Philadelphia before the 2011 season was off the charts, largely because of the team's signing of veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year, $60 million deal.
But the Asomugha signing will go down as one of the worst in the history of Philadelphia sports. As disappointing as he was in 2011, he was awful in 2012. Asomugha surrendered a 120.6 passer rating, the fifth-worst mark in the NFL.
Asomugha's decline culminated in a benching against the Giants in the season finale. That's how far the four-time Pro Bowl corner fell from grace.
Asomugha is scheduled to receive $15.3 million in 2013, meaning the Eagles will either ask him to take a massive pay cut or release him.
The turning point of the Eagles' season occurred when the Detroit Lions overcame a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes of a Week 6 matchup.
Philadelphia appeared to have the game locked up when Michael Vick hit Jeremy Maclin for a 70-yard touchdown with five minutes remaining. But Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson had other ideas.
Stafford led the Lions on a touchdown drive in less than two minutes and engineered a game-tying field-goal drive at the end of regulation. In overtime, Johnson's 17-yard catch set up Jason Hanson's game-winning 45-yard field goal.
Johnson caught just one pass for 28 yards in the first three quarters, thanks to a brilliant game plan by defensive coordinator Juan Castillo that featured cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha doing most of the coverage on Johnson. But Castillo switched his game plan in the final quarter, and the Lions took advantage. Johnson recorded five grabs for 108 yards in the final quarter and overtime.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-3 for the season and started the downward spiral that resulted in the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.
In the season's first month, the Eagles won three games after a late offensive score and a big defensive stop in the final minutes. Things appeared to be going that route against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5, as Michael Vick hit Brent Celek for the go-ahead touchdown with 6:38 remaining.
Enter Ben Roethlisberger. Trailing 14-13, the Steelers quarterback orchestrated a classic 13-play, 64-yard drive culminating in a 34-yard walk-off field goal by Shaun Suisham. The key play came when Roethlisberger completed a 20-yard pass to Antonio Brown on 3rd-and-12.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-2, but five games into the season, optimism surrounding the Eagles was still pretty high.
The marquee matchup for Week 3 featured the 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles facing the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals. Specifically, it featured Michael Vick facing Kevin Kolb, the quarterback who he beat out for the starting job early in the 2010 season.
All Kolb did in the game was complete 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards and two scores. Vick, on the other hand, completed just 17 of 37 passes for 217 yards and no scores. He also lost a fumble on the final play of the first half, which was returned 93 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagles were crushed, 27-6. Little did Eagles fans know that this would be far from the most embarrassing loss of the season.
When the Eagles released defensive end Jason Babin in late November, it spoke more about the team's attempt to build for the future than Babin's production.
After all, Babin led the Eagles with 5.5 sacks. He had collected 18 the previous year in his return to Philadelphia. But his release allowed the Eagles to give some of their younger linemen some additional playing time, notably Brandon Graham and rookie Vinny Curry.
Babin's attitude had also become a distraction, as the me-first player was only obsessed with collecting sacks in the Wide 9 defense instead of focusing on becoming a better all-around football player.
Babin has since been picked up the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the few teams in the league worse than even the Eagles.
You'd think that Michael Vick would have been humbled following his disappointing 2011 season in which he missed three games with broken ribs and failed to lead the so-called Dream Team into the postseason. You'd think he would be silent during the offseason. You'd think that. But you'd be wrong.
In a comment that was even stupider than Vince Young's ill-advised Dream Team remark, Vick boldly stated that he thinks the Eagles have the talent to turn into a dynasty. A dynasty. Imagine that. Vick hadn't won a playoff game since he arrived in Philadelphia, yet he spoke about the team's potential to win multiple Super Bowl championships.
The Eagles' mindset should have been on rebounding from a humiliating 2011 season. They should have been focused on making the playoffs. Instead, their most important player had the nerve to use the D word, the word reserved for the '60s Packers, '70s Steelers, '80s 49ers, '90s Cowboys and '00s Patriots.
Vick then went out and committed 22 interceptions plus fumbles in just 10 starts, the last six Eagles losses. If there was a Least Valuable Player award, Vick would have likely finished first for his disastrous 2012 season.
In 2011, the Eagles collected 50 sacks, the most in the NFL. But defensive line coach Jim Washburn, widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the game, wasn't satisfied. Washburn said before the 2012 season that he should be fired if the Eagles don't collect more sacks than the previous season (h/t Bo Wulf, PhiladelphiaEagles.com).
What happened was a disaster of epic proportions.
The Eagles played 236 minutes of football, almost four full games, without a single sack. From Jason Babin's third-quarter sack of Kevin Kolb in Week 3 to Cedric Thornton's third-quarter sack of Matt Ryan in Week 8, the Eagles defensive line was completely shut out.
It's been all but forgotten because of the Eagles' dreadful season. But this team actually had a trio of heroic victories in the season's first month.
Against the Cleveland Browns in the season opener, Michael Vick overcame four interceptions to lead a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes. Kurt Coleman's interception of Brandon Weeden sealed the Eagles' 17-16 victory.
Hosting Baltimore in their home opener, Michael Vick capped off a long drive by running for a one-yard touchdown in the final two minutes. The Eagles forced a turnover on downs at midfield to preserve a 24-23 victory over the eventual Super Bowl champions.
In Week 4, the Eagles survived a close contest with the Giants after Lawrence Tynes missed a pair of 54-yard field goals (one before Reid's timeout, one after) to preserve a 19-17 victory for Philly. Vick had led the game-winning drive in the final minutes for the third time in four weeks.
That, essentially, is where the magic ran out for the Eagles. They won just one game in the final three months. Like the others, this one came in the final seconds, as rookie Nick Foles tossed a walk-off touchdown to Jeremy Maclin on the game's last play.
If you had to pick the absolute rock bottom moment for the Eagles in 2012, this was it. The Eagles had just lost their eighth straight game, plummeting to 3-9 for the season, and the tension on the team was at an all-time worst.
So Andy Reid decided to fire his second assistant coach of the season. This time, it was defensive line coach Jim Washburn who got the boot. Washburn had apparently become a train wreck in the locker room ever since Jason Babin had been released.
Following Washburn's firing, reports surfaced that the veteran coach had been openly shown contempt to defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in the beginning of the season, calling him "Juanita" in front of his players. Even more disturbing is the fact that Reid never put a stop to it. By firing Castillo two months before Washburn, Reid also showed which coach had the power on the defense.
The defense became historically awful after Juan Castillo was fired in midseason. Under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Eagles endured an eight-game stretch without intercepting a pass. That's one game short of the NFL record, set by the 2011 Minnesota Vikings.
During those eight games, the Eagles allowed 19 touchdown passes, including four to Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III, 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions. That's in the NFL, not the Arena League. That should not be possible.
If you watched the Eagles, you'd see at least one blown coverage per game, and when I say blown coverage, I mean a receiver catching a pass in the end zone with no other defender within 15 yards of him. Coverages don't get blown that badly in high school football.
The Michael Vick era officially ended (or so we thought) when the 32-year-old suffered a concussion against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in Week 10.
At that point in the season, it didn't even matter. The Eagles were 3-5, on their way to being 3-6. The season was over. Playing Foles was likely going to happen sooner or later, as the Eagles needed to see whether their third-round pick could be the quarterback of the future. Vick's injury took away a potentially difficult decision for Reid.
Three weeks later, Reid announced that Foles would be the starter for the remainder of the season, even though Vick was fully healthy. Again, it made complete sense because Vick was expected to be cut after the season and Foles needed as much playing time as possible to demonstrate his potential.
Foles suffered a broken hand against the Washington Redskins in Week 16, giving Vick one final game to start in an Eagles uniform (or so we thought). For the year, Foles won just one game, throwing six touchdowns. He recorded a streak of 169 consecutive passes without an interception, throwing just five in six starts.
The single worst decision made by Andy Reid during his 14 years as head coach occurred when he promoted lifetime offensive line coach Juan Castillo to the position of defensive coordinator, essentially making a mockery of the position.
The move worked about as well as you'd expect it to, as the Eagles surrendered five blown fourth-quarter leads in 2011 despite a slew of big-name players on the defensive side of the ball. Castillo was not fired during the offseason, although many thought he would be.
In 2012, the Eagles defense actually played very well in the season's first month, using dramatic late-game defensive stops to defeat Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens and Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
But Ben Roethlisberger led a game-winning drive as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Eagles in Week 5. When Matthew Stafford led the Detroit Lions back from a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes in Week 6, Reid decided that Castillo's tenure was over.
Castillo was fired during the bye week, although many said Reid made him the scapegoat. They did have a point, as the offense ranked 31st in the league through the first six games.
We all know what happened next.
Defensive backs coach Todd Bowles was promoted to defensive coordinator, the Eagles went eight games without an interception and Castillo incredibly earned a Super Bowl ring as the running game coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
If the Eagles had fielded a completely healthy team for all 16 games of the 2012 season, I still think they would have finished with a losing record. But there's no denying that injuries to a number of the offensive players cost the Eagles a couple of wins. It also played a role in hurting the development of rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who never got to play with the starting offense.
Let's count the injuries.
Michael Vick suffered a concussion and missed two games before the Eagles named Foles the permanent starter. Foles then missed the season finale with a broken hand. LeSean McCoy missed four games with a concussion. DeSean Jackson missed five games with broken ribs. Jeremy Maclin missed a game with a hip injury. Brent Celek missed a game with a concussion.
On the offensive line, Jason Peters missed all 16 games with a torn Achilles. Jason Kelce missed 14 games with a torn ACL. And Todd Herremans missed eight games with ligament damage and a dislocated bone in his foot.
Why isn't this higher on the list? Because by the time most of these injuries happened, the season was mostly over.
When Jason Peters tore his Achilles tendon in March, it marked the beginning of the end of the Andy Reid era. We just didn't know it yet.
Peters ended up re-rupturing his Achilles tendon six weeks later when his Roll-A-Bout broke while he was riding it in the kitchen. Needless to say, the Eagles' left tackle did not see the field for a single snap throughout the 2012 season. That's a shame, because he was arguably the best offensive lineman in the entire NFL in 2011.
Without Peters on the field for the Eagles, the screen pass was all but eliminated from the playbook and the rest of the line failed to even adequately protect Michael Vick.
Veteran Demetress Bell was signed as Peters' replacement, but he turned into one of the biggest free-agent busts in franchise history. He was benched for career backup King Dunlap and later rookie fifth-round draft pick Dennis Kelly throughout the season.
Heading into the 2012 season, I'm embarrassed to say that I was still one of the Eagles fans fooled into thinking that the 32-year-old veteran had one more great season left in him. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Vick was a complete disaster in 2012, throwing 10 interceptions and fumbling 11 times in 10 starts. Not only did he become a turnover machine, but he found a way to do it at the absolute worst possible time. For example, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vick lost a fumble diving into the end zone and a fumble in Steelers territory. The Eagles' two-point loss could be directly traced to Vick's untimely miscue.
The incredible aspect of Vick's season is that he led last-minute game-winning scores in three of the first four games, against the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants, despite turning the ball over six times in those three victories.
The regression of Vick from an MVP-candidate in 2010 to a turnover machine in 2012 is the biggest reason why the Eagles turned from an offensive powerhouse to a laughingstock.
Heading into the season finale against the New York Giants, everybody knew that Andy Reid was entering his final game as head coach. Count me among those who thought the Eagles would give the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants a battle, especially with veteran Michael Vick likely making his last start in a Philadelphia uniform.
The Eagles started the game with a successful onside kick, like Reid did against the Dallas Cowboys in 2000 to launch the Eagles into the most successful decade in franchise history. But Vick threw an interception on the drive and things went downhill.
When the dust had settled, Eli Manning had thrown a career-high five touchdown passes, the Giants scored 35 in the first half and cruised to an easy 42-7 victory.
Goodbye, Andy Reid.
Following a last-minute victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 4, the Eagles were 3-1 and as confident as any team in the National Football League. That confidence and swagger was completely gone heading into the bye week, as the Eagles were 3-3, fresh off a pair of last-second losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions.
From there, the Eagles' season spiraled completely out of control. Two defensive coordinators, two quarterbacks and eight losses later, the Eagles were 3-9 and in the running for the top overall draft pick. Those eight games composed easily the darkest moments of the Andy Reid era, as the 14-year veteran head coach's fate was all but sealed.
The running joke around the league was that the Phillies had won a game more recently than the Eagles. That's about as bad as it gets.