LET US PRETEND, just for a second. Let us pretend that the Eagles' season had played out the way it was supposed to play out, rather than the way it did.
What was supposed to happen was that the Eagles would win 10 or 11 games, win the division title in the tame NFC East, and win maybe one playoff game. Maybe. But that was it. No serious person in Philadelphia picked them to win the Super Bowl. Some national people took them as their boutique choice - simultaneously creating the programming hype and then buying into it, cash and carry, repaying a decade-plus of whispers from the head coach (who only whispers long distance) - but nobody in the Philadelphia-area media who watched what they were doing and how hurriedly they were throwing this thing together thought this was a Super Bowl team.
There was a conversational distraction before the season, of course - the "Dream-Team/All-In" exacta - and it did set up the straw man that was devoured in flames in the season's first month. There is no denying that, or that the narrative for the season was written in that early rage, and in ink. But from the very beginning, people with eyes never saw these Eagles in the Super Bowl.
Vegas had the over/under at 10.5 wins - and that was after all of the roster moves, after Asomugha, et cetera. Ten-point-five. It seemed about right to the people paying attention.
Let us pretend that it had gone that way.
Would people be calling for Andy Reid's job?
Yes. Some people - especially if they went another year without winning a playoff game. But a declining majority would have folded their arms and been willing to watch the predetermined-but-unspoken scenario play out - that is, to watch Reid and Michael Vick, with their contracts synced up, take another shot in 2012 and then make the hard call if the Eagles were to fall short.
Of course, this season didn't go that way. Instead, the Eagles will max out at 8-8 if they beat the Redskins on Sunday. What would be a 7-4 finish to the season was obliterated by a 1-4 start, with one blown lead after another in the fourth quarter, and terrible tackling, and a million interceptions.
The overall result stinks, even if the team as it is playing today is now a reasonable facsimile of what we all expected. The awakening was too late, and the NFL is not a league in which everybody gets a trophy for participating. And while nobody has done any public polling, the strong suspicion is that Reid's majority with the fans is now a minority.
The question has always been this: Is the failure of missing the playoffs enough to derail the original scenario, the one in which Reid would get 2011 and 2012 to win a Super Bowl or be shown the door?
It would have been enough to fire him if the team had quit on Reid, but that did not happen. It would have been enough if the record had been an abject disaster, but it will not be. The Eagles do not owe Reid anything, not after all of this time, but they had a plan and they lined up Vick's contract accordingly, and there is no reason to abandon it now. It is, in fact, very easy to make the argument that Vick will benefit from keeping this coaching staff intact, and that this offensive line will benefit from keeping this staff intact, and that the last thing this defense needs is another schematic convulsion.
I am going to quote from something I wrote before the start of the season, not because it was prescient, but because it was, I think, a fair reading of the team's actions after the volume on the rhetoric had been turned down. It was written to knock down the "all in" argument:
"If they were all in, they wouldn't be moving their best guard to tackle and starting a rookie and a waiver-wire pickup on the offensive line.
"If they were all in, they wouldn't be starting what might very well be the youngest linebacking corps in their history.
"If they were all in, they wouldn't be risking a DeSean Jackson explosion/implosion by not yet renegotiating his contract.
"If they were all in, they wouldn't be going into the season with a rookie kicker and a rookie punter.
"If they were all in, they wouldn't be opening the year with a defensive coordinator who has never called a front or a coverage in a regular-season NFL game.
"If the Eagles were all in - and I mean really all in, completely and totally focused on the short term, and on this year in particular - they wouldn't have traded away backup quarterback Kevin Kolb . . . "
The point is, the Eagles have not hamstrung themselves for the future. They still like their kids and their draft choices, and they have some willingness to grow with them. They did not lard this roster with mistake-free veterans on the last go-round (except for guard Kyle DeVan). They have new coaches and new, young players, and they obviously are willing to live with some stuff at the start of the year.
This was never all about 2011. The failure came so early, and the anvil they have been lugging around grew to be so heavy, that the resulting furor drowned out everything.
But this was always a 2-year vision, at least. Amid the disappointment, that needs to be restated.
Reid should be back in 2012, for the reckoning.
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