Andy Reid's firing: A long time coming
Sometime before 9 a.m. on New Year's Eve, Jeffrey Lurie walked from his office to Andy Reid's and relieved him of his duties as Eagles coach after 14 seasons of carrying the weight of the franchise.
When Reid met with his players an hour or so later he told them that he would no longer be their coach. And then he cried.
"We hadn't seen him that emotional since the day that he lost his son," center Jason Kelce said. "You think about what he's gone through, not to mention a terrible season, but the loss of his son and the loss of the job that he's held for 14 years, all in a manner of three or fourth months."
Approximately an hour after Reid met with the team, Lurie gathered Eagles employees in the cafeteria at the NovaCare Complex so that Reid could give a final farewell.
The Eagles aired a three-minute clip of the meeting on their website. Lurie presented Reid with a specially made football that marked his achievements as the franchise's winningest coach, and the coach, in a black button shirt and khaki pants, spoke briefly.
"Sometimes change is good, and I know Jeffrey does nothing that isn't the best for the organization," Reid told the employees. "So I know the next guy that comes in will be phenomenal. The ultimate goal is the Super Bowl, right? So everybody in this room, I wish you a big ring on that finger in the near future."
The Eagles did not make Reid available to the media and he did not respond to requests for comment. His next step is unknown, although Reid has continually said that he wants to continue coaching.
"He's a football coach," Lurie said. "He wants to coach right now."
It is likely he'll get the opportunity. Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell said that he already had an interview set up with Reid for their vacancy after Ken Whisenhunt was fired Monday.
Reid has been preparing for his next step and lining up his potential staff, according to two sources close to the coach. A number of former Eagles executives and coaches are also now unemployed.
In Cleveland, where former Eagles president Joe Banner is the CEO, general manager Tom Heckert, coach Pat Shurmur, and offensive coordinator Brad Childress were fired. All three worked with Reid in Philadelphia.
Lurie said that Reid's current staff was still on the payroll. Most are expected to leave. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's contract expires in February. Mornhinweg said that he did not expect to be retained.
"It's my priority that whoever we bring in as head coach will have an opportunity to meet [the assistants], and for those who want to stay, consider them," Lurie said.
A few of the assistants had been saying privately for weeks that they knew the end was near. So the final blow did not come without warning. Lurie told Reid on Friday that Monday would be his last day, although the Eagles owner said that he actually did not make the final decision until Monday morning.
"There's been a lot of leaning in that direction over the last month," Lurie said.
In truth, the leaning had begun long ago, perhaps after the 2007 season, when the Eagles finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Last season, there was another 8-8 finish, one Lurie said Reid would have to improve upon if he was to return for the final year of his contract.
Lurie was asked if he regretted not firing Reid a year ago. He said that he believed the Eagles would bounce back because the three previous times the team finished 8-8 or worse under Reid, "we were a double-digit playoff team."
"That was the history," Lurie said. "I really believed that this season, with our talent, that we would be a strong contender and a double-digit-win team."
In the end, though, they were a double-digit-loss team and finished 4-12. The lesson, as one former Eagles staffer put it, was: "Don't stay too long."
Although Reid and the Eagles reached the playoffs in the three seasons after 2007, they last won a playoff game in 2008, when they advanced to the last of Reid's five NFC championship game appearances.
Reid couldn't get the Eagles back over the hump, so he made radical changes starting in 2010. He traded away quarterback Donovan McNabb and then revamped his coaching staff by hiring veterans such as Jim Washburn, Howard Mudd, and Bobby April and promoting Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator.
"You notice it with any organization that has had a lot of success, that you will start to reach, thinking, 'That's the thing that's going to [get us over the top], that's the player, that's the method, that's the mechanism, that's the coach, that's the thing that is going to put us over the top,' " Lurie said.
Reid's decisions fell short in 2011, but he brought back almost the same group for a do-over, claiming a full offseason with no lockout would benefit the team. And then in early August during training camp his son Garrett died of an accidental heroin overdose.
Reid missed only two days of practice.
"You just got to think from a human being standpoint any type of tragedy like that would at least have some effect," Kelce said. "Now whether that had enough of an effect on wins and losses? I don't know."
Reid continued to immerse himself in coaching, but after the team opened the season 3-1, he lost control. First, the Eagles blew close games, then the margins grew, and then the injuries starting piling up.
At that point the season was lost, however, and some players started packing it in with a lame duck coach.
"When we were [3-9] and I realized and faced up to the fact that we were not going to be improved over last year at all, I was leaning in that direction," Lurie said of firing Reid. "But I promised myself that I would wait until all of the games were played, every factor was taken into consideration."
When it came time for Lurie to pull the cord, both men knew what was coming.
"These have been the greatest 14 years of my life," Reid said to Eagles employees.
Reid ended his speech and said, "Hail to the Eagles, baby," and then exited stage right.
Contact Jeff McLane at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.