THE DATE was Sept. 21, 2010. It was the day after Andy Reid had said that Kevin Kolb was still his starting quarterback, despite how well Michael Vick had played for a game-and-a-half while Kolb nursed a concussion. At about 5:45 p.m., the blast text arrived from the team:
"Andy Reid names Michael Vick as team's starting quarterback. Reid will be available on conference call with media at 6:30 . . . "
And so it began, what likely was the beginning of the end. It remains the move in Reid's 14-season tenure that will be debated most because it is the move that likely will get him fired. But it was more than that. If this goes bad - if Reid ends up benching Vick - he will forever wound the image that he had built up over the years as a man who knows quarterbacks.
And the wound will have been self-inflicted.
We all know the current state of the mathematics. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has said that another 8-8 season will not be enough for Reid to save his job. The team is 3-4 now, which suggests Reid will need to go 6-3 between here and the finish line to have any kind of a chance. But Lurie said he is looking this season for real improvement, and it is fair to surmise that minimal improvement will not be sufficient. So there is that.
We also know the current state of the Eagles' offense. It is not the team's biggest problem, and Vick is not the offense's biggest concern, but a fair assessment of his tenure as the starter indicates a decided lack of improvement over time, and, really, a regression. That first handful of games he played in 2010, when he was bombing the ball down the field to DeSean Jackson and knifing through secondaries with his legs, created an expectation. Everything since has been disappointing. Just flat.
The line in front of Vick has been sporadic this season, to put it kindly, but his style of play has never been an offensive lineman's best friend - and now Vick seems to lack the athletic burst that once made him a feared player. Twice on Sunday against Atlanta, defensive linemen chased him down from behind.
He cannot complete many balls downfield. He does not run like he used to run. There is no indication that this is going to get any better. He remains a player who brought them back in the last 2 minutes of all of their wins this season, and who left the field with a late fourth-quarter lead in two of their losses. He has not been terrible and nobody can pretend he has been.
But everyone senses the offense should be better and he should be better. And now there is all of the talk about whether or not Reid will bench Vick and turn things over to rookie Nick Foles.
That is how desperate Reid's choices have become. If going to Foles is not exactly a shot in the dark, it is no better than a shot in the predawn. And it would be a tacit admission of an enormous error - again, an error that challenges everything Reid was supposed to have been about.
Remember back to 2010. The Eagles had eased Donovan McNabb out the door and spent years quietly building the notion that The Man Who Knows Quarterbacks had deemed Kolb to be McNabb's worthy successor. It was hard to argue, especially when Kolb did well in a couple of cameo appearances along the way. Reid had been the guy who won games with McNabb, and A.J. Feeley, and Koy Detmer, and Jeff Garcia, and now Kolb. When he traded McNabb, it was fair to assume that - even if Kolb would not necessarily be a championship-level quarterback - he could be a winning quarterback in Reid's offense.
It was pure Reid. He knew quarterbacks and he knew detailed planning. He took his time, and thought it through, and he made a very Reid-like decision. First McNabb, then Kolb. There were no guarantees, but there was a clear and obvious thought process.
And then he ripped it all up on a Tuesday night in September of 2010.
It seemed impulsive. It was out of character. The careful plan was trashed. The chips were pushed to the middle - a gamble involving not only a quarterback, but his coach's reputation.
All of them are on the edge of ruin.
Contact Rich Hofmann at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @theidlerich. Read his blog at philly.com/TheIdleRich, or for recent columns go to philly.com/RichHofmann.