PHILADELPHIA — The Andy Reid era officially ended shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, when Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie called him into his office at the NovaCare Complex and told Reid his tenure as the team’s coach was over.
“That was extremely heart-wrenching for me,” Lurie told The Press after his formal news conference Monday afternoon. “I knew I had to say goodbye to a coach who is also a very good friend. I don’t think people really understand what a good person he is. He treats the janitor in the building the same as the quarterback.
“Andy completely understood that it was strictly a business decision to go in a new direction and that made it easier. I had to fire a coach, but I’m not losing a friend. Andy and I have a friendship that will endure forever.”
Reid, 54, became the third coach Lurie has fired since purchasing the team from Norman Braman in 1994. He dismissed Rich Kotite after he went 7-9 in the ’94 season and let Ray Rhodes go after a 3-13 record in 1998.
Lurie didn’t intend to fire Reid before this season began but began to realize the time had come to change coaches during the Eagles’ eight-game losing streak. The owner said he discussed the possibility that Reid would not return when he talked with Reid on Friday but didn’t become convinced until a 42-7 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, an embarrassing defeat that left the Eagles in last place in the NFC with a 4-12 record.
“I had been leaning that way for a long time,” Lurie told The Press. “But I promised myself that I wouldn’t make my decision until the last game was over. Andy wanted to stay on as coach. He was very excited about the young players on our team.
“But my mind was made up.”
An atypical Monday
Lurie’s news conference was part of a strange scene at the NovaCare Complex on Monday.
Media members started showing up around 10 a.m. but were denied access to the parking lot until 11, forcing approximately 20 cars and TV new vans to park on the sidewalk on the other side of Pattison Avenue. Curiously, no fans showed up.
Inside the locker room, players were stuffing cleats, hats, pictures and autographed footballs into blue trash bags and cardboard boxes after attending a tearful meeting with Reid that ended with the entire team giving him a standing ovation.
“Everybody stood up and he definitely deserved it,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said Monday. “It was pretty emotional. I mean, the guy has been here 14 years. Andy’s a great person and a great coach.”
Reid did not address the media Monday but said goodbye to players, assistant coaches and various team personnel, as well as other club employees.
The team website showed a video that featured him talking to some of them in the cafeteria of the NovaCare Complex on Monday morning.
“I have a hard time standing before people without a few boos involved,” Reid said in the video. “But I’m taking it all in. These have been the greatest 14 years of my life.
“Sometimes change is good. I know the next guy that comes in will be phenomenal. The ultimate goal is a Super Bowl. Everybody in this room, I wish you a big ring on the finger in the near future.
“Hail to the Eagles, baby!”
The search begins
Lurie said he already has compiled a list of possible replacements but has not yet contacted anyone for interviews.
A number of candidates have been mentioned as possible replacements, such as former NFL coach Jon Gruden, University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Roman, 40, is a native of Ventnor and a Holy Spirit High School graduate.
Both Koetter and Roman would be eligible to interview with the Eagles and the six other NFL teams that fired their head coaches Monday.
“While you’re trying to decide what you’re going to do with your coach, at least the way that I operate, is in doing a lot of research over the last month or so,” Lurie said during his news conference. “That is done meticulously and in great detail. We do have a very, very defined list of candidates. And we hope to be able to meet with some of them as soon as possible.
“The most important thing is to find a leader. It’s better to find the right leader than to make a fast decision. We will leave no stone unturned. We now know if we didn’t before that the goal is to win it all. I feel the pain (like the fans) so much. To have a season like this year is embarrassing to me, personally crushing. It is terrible.”
Reid leaves as the longest-tenured coach in Philadelphia pro sports since Connie Mack, who managed the now-defunct Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 to 1950.
Reid also was the winningest coach in Eagles history. His 140 regular-season and playoff victories — his overall record was 140-102-1 — were more than double those earned by second-place Greasy Neale (66-44-5).
But Neale won two NFL championships in 1948-49, which is something that was missing from Reid’s resume’ in Philadelphia. Although the Eagles enjoyed their share of success during Reid’s reign — nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five NFC championship games, a Super Bowl in the 2004 season — his failure to give the fans their first title since 1960 marred his legacy.
The rise, the fall
The Eagles were at their best under Reid from 2000-2004. Behind quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was Reid’s first-ever draft pick in 1999, and an aggressive defense coached by the late Jim Johnson, the Eagles won at least 11 games all five seasons.
The slide began in 2009, a year after they lost to Arizona in the conference championship game.
Veteran safety Brian Dawkins left for Denver via free agency after the 2008 season and Johnson died of cancer a few months later. The Eagles still went 11-5 in ’09 but lost to Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, prompting the Eagles to trade McNabb.
The last two seasons sealed Reid’s fate. Lurie was unimpressed with their 8-8 record last year and suggested that Reid’s job would be in jeopardy if the Eagles failed to enjoy a successful season.
A number of factors contributed to the 4-12 record. A rash of injuries to key players such as tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and quarterback Michael Vick certainly hampered the team, but there were other mistakes that resulted in a 1-11 record in the last 12 games.
“We are used to winning and we are used to winning big,” Lurie said. “It’s rare when we are not in the playoffs and that was a big reason why I didn’t make a change after last season.
“Whenever we were 8-8 or less in the past, every single time we won double-digit games the following year. I really believed this season we would be a strong contender. Nobody was more more disappointed and crushed about the way things went than myself.”
Reid may have had a shot at returning next season — he is due to make $7 million in the final year of his contract in 2013 — but that hope disappeared with the humiliating loss to the Giants.
Instead of rewarding Reid by sending him out with a win, the Eagles suffered the second-worst loss in Reid’s tenure. A number of players, including running back LeSean McCoy and Vick, suggested that some players did not give their all.
“Seeing Andy get fired hurts,” McCoy said Monday. “It hurts a lot. He’s a great coach and a great person who just had a couple of bad years and now he’s gone because of us. There was clearly a lack of focus, a lack of heart in certain games. It (stinks) that he’s gone.”
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