PHILADELPHIA — Andy Reid has been fired by nearly everyone except the man in charge.
It’s a foregone conclusion in Philadelphia and around the NFL that Reid will coach his last game with the Eagles on Sunday at the New York Giants. Fans already have a wish list for a new coach and the media has speculated for months about Reid’s successor.
But owner Jeffrey Lurie has said nothing. Lurie hasn’t spoken to reporters since Aug. 30, which is when he said another 8-8 season would be "unacceptable."
A careful look at the questions Lurie faced and his exact answers during that news conference leaves open the possibility that maybe Reid may not get fired.
It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll step down.
"I want to coach. That’s what I want to do," Reid said Friday.
Reid has one year left on his contract, so Lurie made it clear the last time he spoke publicly that he wouldn’t discuss a contract extension with Reid’s agent, Bob LaMonte, until after the season.
After that statement, Lurie was asked six straight questions about Reid’s future. Here’s the questions and responses:
• Does there need to be a certain level of success on the field for Reid to receive a contract extension?
"It goes beyond that but there’s no question what I said was we need substantial improvement," Lurie said.
• Did you set a level of what qualifies as a successful season?
"I don’t have a level or anything like that," Lurie said. "I just want to be clear about that. You just try to make the best judgment you can after the season."
• Would another 8-8 season be considered satisfactory?
"No, it would not," Lurie said.
• Will you know after the season whether it was successful?
"I do. I think it will be very clear," Lurie said.
• Does your statement on an 8-8 season have qualifiers, including potential injuries?
"Listen, you just have to make the best decisions you can after the season," Lurie said. "As I said, 8-8 was unacceptable."
• Regardless of injuries, is an 8-8 season unacceptable?
"Again, I am not going to make blanket statements," Lurie said. "I really wanted to try to explain to you that 8-8 was unacceptable. Yeah, I guess if two-thirds of the team is not playing, there are always exceptions. That was a really unacceptable outcome. I just want to reiterate that."
At no point did Lurie say he would fire Reid if the team didn’t make the playoffs. However, the widespread assumption after that news conference was that Reid had to take the Eagles deep in the playoffs to keep his job. Because the Eagles are 4-11 and out of the playoffs for the second straight year, it seems inevitable that Reid’s days are numbered.
But Lurie left himself an out when he said "there are always exceptions."
Here are five reasons why Lurie could keep Reid for one more year:
1. Reid is due to make $6 million in 2013. That’s a lot of money to pay a guy to go away. Sure, the Eagles have missed the playoffs two years in a row. But Reid is the winningest coach in franchise history. Nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five conference championship games and one Super Bowl loss is quite a resume.
2. A slew of injuries never allowed the Eagles to get in a rhythm on offense. The four best players — quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and left tackle Jason Peters — missed a combined 31 games. Center Jason Kelce missed the last 14 games, and Evan Mathis was the only lineman not to miss any. Though some players were hurt after the team started its slide, losing these key players didn’t give Philadelphia much of a chance to bounce back.
3. The Eagles had too much turmoil on defense. Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo after six games. The decision to move Castillo from offensive-line coach to defense in 2011 was Reid’s biggest mistake. But the defense struggled terribly after Castillo was dismissed. It wasn’t until defensive-line coach Jim Washburn was fired with four games remaining that the defense started making progress under new coordinator Todd Bowles.
4. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles and rookie running back Bryce Brown were bright spots on offense in a dismal season. Reid made his mark in the NFL by helping develop Brett Favre in Green Bay. He drafted and turned Donovan McNabb into a six-time Pro Bowl QB. So, he certainly knows quarterbacks. Foles would have to start fresh in a new system if Reid and his coaching staff are let go.
5. Reid has complete support in the locker room. No one on the roster has said a negative word about the coach and any player asked says he wants him back.
This already was a tough year for Reid before the Eagles even started playing games that count. Reid endured a devastating loss just weeks before the season opener when his oldest son, Garrett Reid, died during training camp after a long battle with drug addiction.
Lurie said that wouldn’t factor into his decision.
"You are there to win and win big and you have to separate the two. All of the analysis will be on Andy Reid the coach," Lurie said.
Still, it’s difficult to imagine a personal tragedy of that magnitude didn’t even affect Reid’s coaching. Lurie and Reid have had a close working relationship throughout their 14 seasons together.
Maybe Lurie lets Reid finish out his contract. It may cause a riot among the fans, but the city loves its Eagles and the stadium is always full.