Bill Lyon: Looking for an Eagles fall guy

There is wide speculation that Eagles coach Andy Reid could be fired after this season. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

A cold, early-December day in South Philadelphia, yo. The camera pans and pivots and finally points toward a stern, sterile edifice. And there, up there on the ramparts, see that? Something white, fluttering in the wind.

First reporter: "Are we getting a new pope?"

Second reporter: "I think the Eagles are surrendering."

Third reporter: "We should be so lucky."

Fade in . . .

The Eagles war room, deep in the bowels of Fortress NovaCare. Three small men and one large walrus stand in a semicircle looking with baleful and puzzled eyes at sheaves of data. They are known only by their initials (because we don't want to get our sorry posteriors sued to a fair-thee-well, that's why).

The one known as JL: "Would one of you please explain to me how we got in this mess?"

The one known as JB: "Hey, don't be looking at me, pal. Who gets us in the black every stinkin' year?"

The one known as HR: "You want winners? I've won my fantasy league three years running. Match that. Right, Coach?"

The one known as AR: "Did any of you remember to order that cheese tray we like so much?"

JL: "Let's examine this inventory. . . . We got coaches fighting each other. We got a little gnat moaning about his contract and short-arming every pass to him. We got a $60 million D-back doing the matador olé on tackles. We got a backup QB throwing helium balls, and half of them to the other team. Does this look like a gold standard to you?"

JB: "With a little finesse and finagle I can probably free up three or four million more to get us under the cap. We can always raise ticket prices."

HR: "Did any of you see that interview with Asante Samuel? He looks square in the camera and says we got Coach's back . . . we love coach . . . we're going to play hard for Coach all the way through."

AR: "Did they say how long for the pizza to get here?"

JL: "I can't understand why we're losing. Everyone says we've got all this incredible talent, and if I hear Dream Team one more time I'm . . . well, it won't be pretty. And you, JB, what was that 'all in' nonsense? You're just stoking the fire, man."

JB: "You know, you can have all the talent in the world, but no matter how good it might be, it still has to be coached. And just so you know, a person ought to have figured out how to tell time after 13 years."

AR: "Are there any leftovers from that Chinese take-out?"

JB: "I think we're at a critical juncture here. There's talk among the fans of a boycott. We need to do something drastic. We need to feed that angry mob."

JL: "You mean a sacrifice?"

JB: "Yes."

JL: "But who?"

The three small men look as one at AR, who is munching on a chicken leg.

JB: "Coach, how would you feel about taking one for the team?"

AR: "I thought I already was."

The professional football team of Philadelphia has had 21 head coaches.

Nine of them had winning records.

For some, those who crumpled under the heat, getting sacked was almost a relief. One who wasn't fired, who left on his own volition, was Dick Vermeil, and he was a sobbing, emotional wreck stumbling out the door.

To put the Andy Reid era in a different perspective: With his 13 years, he has coached the Iggles as long as all three of his predecessors combined: Buddy Ryan (five years), Rich Kotite (four years), and Ray Rhodes (four years).

Count 'em up: a baker's dozen.

Here's the one lead-pipe cinch in this saga: Sooner or later, the coach will be gone. On merit.

It is time. In fact, it's probably past time.

It's like a divorce - hard to tell exactly when it all begins to unravel. It is gradual erosion. Too much familiarity.

Reid's players have always stood by him. Trouble is, they haven't always performed as if they want to save him from the hanging tree.

There is only one certitude: No one coaches forever. No one. So to beat the Christmas rush, they ought to allow AR a last word. What, you wonder, might he like to say?

"Time's mine."