- Ashley Fox
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PHILADELPHIA -- DeSean Jackson's first thought was probably the right one. A throng of media spilled into his locker space while gathering around Jeremy Maclin one stall to the right. Jackson grabbed a backpack, slung it over his right shoulder, headed toward the exit and said to no one in particular, "I'm out."
Just like his team.
Out, over, done. The Eagles can cling to their faint hope, can continue to remind themselves that they are talented when the results just don't support it, can believe that just one win would turn this speeding truck around in the middle of an eight-lane highway. But it doesn't matter. Philadelphia lost to Dallas on Sunday 38-23 after it collapsed in all three phases of the game in a three-minute span in the second half.
The defense gave up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. The special teams gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown to Dwayne Harris, the first by a Cowboys player since Deion Sanders in 1998. And the offense threw a touchdown pass to a Dallas defender when a Nick Foles pass bounced off Jackson and into the waiting arms of cornerback Brandon Carr, who returned it 47 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 31-17 lead.
Nick Foles? Yes, Nick Foles. But more on that in a minute.
It has become almost painful to watch the end of the Andy Reid era. It is crashing so spectacularly that it is impossible to avert the eyes, but the vision is no less gruesome. Before the first frost, before the trees have even become bare, the Eagles' season is over, lost because of a thousand mistakes that have slowly, effectively poked a gaping hole in a team that was built to contend for a title.
This Philadelphia team isn't contending for anything other than a high draft pick, and the opportunity to show it has enough pieces in place to attract a high-wattage coaching prospect.
That is it. There won't be a seventh NFC East title under Reid despite how flawed the other three teams in the division look. There won't be a 10th playoff appearance, or a run at a sixth NFC championship, or a second Super Bowl appearance. There won't be the realization of the Andy Reid-Michael Vick reclamation-project dream, where the two answer all the critics and get to the promised land.
It is all coming to an end, be it in seven weeks or one, at the conclusion of the regular season or now. The only missing details are how and when -- not why -- the obligatory explanation, the thanking Reid for all that he has done for the franchise. Make no mistake, Reid has done a lot. In Philadelphia, the perception is that Reid has been a good, not great, coach. Good enough to be consistently good, not great enough to win the big one.
The interesting twist in all of this now is what Reid, a fiercely loyal coach who must be aware that his tenure is ending, will do with the quarterback position.
Vick led the Eagles on a nice opening drive -- aided by a pair of what became many Cowboys defensive penalties on third down -- to take a 7-0 lead. Dallas answered on its opening drive. With the game knotted 7-7 early in the second quarter, Vick got hit after releasing a pass toward LeSean McCoy that fell short. Vick injured his eye and also got a concussion. His day was over.
The rookie Foles, a third-round pick from Arizona, entered to a mini standing ovation. After an effective preseason playing against opponents' second- and third-string defenses, Foles had become the people's choice to become the starter. He stands 6-foot-6 and throws a decent ball, but he was understandably erratic against the Cowboys. He had not taken a first-team practice snap in weeks, if not months. He threw behind Jackson on the pass that was intercepted, but he did find Maclin wide-open at the goal line for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 14-10 lead in the third quarter.
When asked whether he had butterflies, Foles said, "Sure."
"I mean, that's natural," he added. "It's with anything. You get the butterflies. You get that, but it's taking deep breaths and you just remind yourself that it's football. It's high-level football; it's the NFL; but it's football. ... When I get in the huddle with the guys and I see them, it's a calming thing."
So what will Reid do now? Vick is the present. Foles represents a future of which Reid likely won't be a part. Does he play Vick when healthy, to stick with his guy? Or does he go with Foles so that the franchise -- owner Jeffrey Lurie and presumably general manager Howie Roseman -- can evaluate Foles to see what they have?
It will be interesting, and telling, to see. On Sunday, Reid seemed less irate about the loss than he had in previous weeks. He didn't snap at the media in his postgame news conference. He wasn't effusive, but he never is. He was calm, like a man who knows the ride is about to end.
"You don't worry about the things you can't control," Reid said. "You worry about the things you can, and that's becoming a better football team and eliminating the mistakes that we're making, and getting ourselves on track to win football games. We start with preparing for Washington next week, getting ready to play them and play our best football game."
Washington, Carolina, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, New York Giants. They are all just names on a schedule. Jackson doubled back to the Eagles' locker room late Sunday to say his catch-turned-interception was a bang-bang play and that he still has hope for this team.
But Jackson's initial thought was the best. Turn off the lights. The Eagles are out.