PHILADELPHIA -- There are going to be lots of stories out of Sunday's 30-17 Philadelphia Eagles loss to the Atlanta Falcons about quarterback Michael Vick. Asked after the game whether he'd consider a change at quarterback, Eagles coach Andy Reid mumbled the same "I'm going to look at everything" he always mumbles when asked that question these days. Somebody mentioned to Vick that his coach had said that and asked what he thought.
"Obviously, he's thinking about making a change at the quarterback position," Vick said. "The thing I do know is that I'm giving us every opportunity to win. I'm trying my hardest. Some things don't go right when I want them to, some things do. So if that's the decision Coach wants to make, then I support it."
Vick is believable on this, because he owes this second part of his career (and his second $100 million contract) to Reid and would do anything for him. And sure, Reid could make a change at quarterback even though Vick quite clearly wasn't the problem in Sunday's loss. Two weeks ago, Reid fired the coordinator of a defense that ranked 12th in the league -- a move that clearly had no short-term effect on a defense that came out post-bye Sunday and played its worst game of the year. Whether the move is justified or makes sense is almost immaterial at this point, because Reid is a desperate man who looks as though he's about to lose his job.
And that's the real story of what took place here Sunday. Reid's time as coach of the Eagles appears very much to be nearing its end. He's in his 14th season here, and he has done extremely well. But his team came out of this year's bye with no energy or intensity despite two weeks' worth of firings and promised changes. After they started the game so flat at home against such a tough opponent with their season potentially on the line and Reid's job in the balance, he has to be sensing that this is almost over.
"That was an embarrassing performance," Reid said. "We didn't get off the field on third downs early. We didn't have big plays on offense. Stating the obvious, we need to get better and I need to do a better job."
This is post-loss Reid boilerplate, though, and those in this town who feel it's getting old may have a point. The Eagles are now 3-4 for the season and 11-12 since the start of a 2011 season that carried so much hype and hope. Go back even further, and they are 11-15 since DeSean Jackson ran that punt back to beat the Giants in December of 2010. That's a pretty long stretch on which to base conclusions, and if Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wanted to conclude that his team isn't responding to its longtime head coach, there are few who would disagree with him.
Lurie said before this season that 8-8 again would not be acceptable. If we take him at his word, that means Reid needs to win six of his final nine games -- at least -- in order to save his job. For the past 14 months, it has been possible to watch the Eagles and convince yourself that they're better than they look. The talent, we are constantly told, is there -- they just have to put it all together. Well, we're dealing with a 23-game sample now with pretty much this group. And while it has had its moments, including fourth-quarter comebacks and victories this year against top teams such as the Ravens and Giants, on the whole this bunch of Eagles has put more negative than positive on the board.
"You have your backs against the wall going into a must-win and you go out there and play like that?" said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was responsible for one of the drive-extending penalties that helped the Falcons score touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. "I can't explain it."
No, it's getting to the point at which no one can explain it, and that's the point at which coaches get fired. Even really successful longtime coaches. It's very clear that Lurie does not want to fire Reid, that his strong preference would be for the Eagles to turn things around under Reid and make the Super Bowl run for which they've been longing in Philadelphia since the Super Bowl was invented. But we see this all the time in sports. There comes a point at which there's no other choice but to start over with a different person in charge.
The Eagles are coming up very quickly on that point. This was the game for Reid. The game after the bye week. He was 13-0 as a head coach in games after bye weeks, a proven master at refocusing, preparing and motivating his team to hit the second part of its season running. Just last year, the Eagles came roaring out of the bye with a dominating beatdown of the division-rival Cowboys in this same building. That was the kind of performance you expected if you showed up on this gray Sunday afternoon. Reid's second-half record as Eagles coach is a good one, and to the extent that there's any hope left for this team, it lies there. Do you love their chances next Monday night in New Orleans? Of course not. But you've seen them turn it on in November and December before, so you think they could do it again.
"This is fixable," Reid said. "And we're going to get it right. It's hard for me to tell you that after a performance like that."
Harder still to believe him. I know anything's possible and the NFL is unpredictable, and I've seen the Eagles play like a very good team in spots over the past two seasons. But the overriding feeling around the Eagles since the start of 2011 has been one of malaise, and never more stunning or inexcusable than it was Sunday. Reid can keep changing coordinators, and he can change quarterbacks if he really thinks rookie Nick Foles gives him a better chance to win games and save this season. But I don't think it's fixable at this point. I think we're watching something end. And for the first time since last season began under all of that hope and all of those expectations, I think the Eagles will have a different head coach when they open their season in September 2013.