PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Andy Reid stuck around after he was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles, meeting with players, encouraging staff and shaking hands with the man who let him go.
After 14 years, Reid found it hard to walk away.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie understood. "He had the love and respect of every individual in this organization," he said at his news conference Monday. "This man is amazing to work with, smart and dedicated, and the record will speak for itself."
Not this season’s 4-12 record nor the humiliating score of the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, 42-7, on Sunday.
It was the worst finish by the team since Lurie fired Ray Rhodes following a 3-13 finish in 1998.
"When you have a season like that, it’s embarrassing. It’s personally crushing to me and it’s terrible," Lurie said. "Our fans deserve the very best. This year, they got a team that was not very good at all. I feel terrible about that."
Lurie informed Reid of his decision shortly before 9 a.m. Reid addressed the team an hour later and received a standing ovation.
"It was emotional," running back LeSean McCoy said. "We felt his pain. It hurts a lot."
Many players blamed themselves for his ouster and a few held back tears while talking about their former coach.
"It’s unfortunate. I feel we personally let him down," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "It’s a sad day."
Reid took over a 3-13 team in 1999, drafted Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick and quickly turned the franchise into a title contender.
He is the winningest coach in club history and led them to a run of four straight NFC championship games, a streak that ended with a Super Bowl trip after the 2004 season — and a loss, 24-21, to the New England Patriots. The Eagles are still seeking their first NFL title since 1960.
Reid cemented Philadelphia as a destination football town and led the team to an unmatched level of success. But the team hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008 and after last season’s 8-8 finish, Lurie said he was looking for improvement this year.
Instead, it was worse.
"I look forward to the day when everyone welcomes him back into the Eagles Hall of Fame because that’s inevitable," Lurie said.
Reid grew up in Southern California and may welcome a return home. He already has said he wants to coach next season.
"I think Andy is an outstanding football coach," Lurie said. "That’s what Andy wants to do. He doesn’t want to transition to other aspects of football operations. He’s a football coach. He wants to coach right now. He was very excited about the future of this team and this franchise. He wanted to stay."
Reid is due to make $6 million in 2013 in the final year of his contract. He is the franchise leader in wins (140), losses (102) and winning percentage (.578) and led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles and five NFC championship games.
Aside from team troubles, the year was a painful one for Reid. He endured a devastating loss weeks before the season opener when his oldest son, Garrett, died at training camp after a long battle with drug addiction.
In October, Reid fired close friend and longtime assistant Juan Castillo, who was in his second season as defensive coordinator after coaching the offensive line for 13 years. He later fired defensive-line coach Jim Washburn.
Still to be determined is whether Michael Vick stays with the team. He’s under contract for $16 million next season, but the Eagles can release him within a few days after the Super Bowl and avoid a salary-cap hit.
In 2009, Reid and Lurie gave Vick a second chance in the NFL after the former star quarterback spent 18 months in federal prison related to a dogfighting operation. Vick took over as the starter in 2010, had a remarkable season and led the Eagles to the NFC East title. But like rest of the team, Vick regressed the last two seasons.
"There is nobody who wants to win more than I do," Lurie said. "Once you’ve experienced the success we’ve had, it makes you just realize that there’s nothing more that you want than a Super Bowl, and to deliver that to our fans."
After beating the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Sept. 30, the Eagles lost eight straight games — their worst losing streak in 42 years.
Lurie said he has a "defined" list of candidates to replace Reid, but hasn’t spoken to any coaches or set up interviews yet. General manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski will assist him in the process.
"It’s better to find the right leader than to make a fast decision," Lurie said. "There’s no guarantee I’ll make a great decision, but I’m confident I will."
Earlier, PhiladelpiaEagles.com posted video of Lurie and Reid addressing employees, who gave Reid a big ovation. Lurie handed him a game ball.
"I have a hard time standing before people without a few boos involved. But I’m taking it, I’m taking it all in," Reid said. "These have been the greatest 14 years of my life."
He added: "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."
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL