IS IT fair to write the epitaph before the funeral?
Andy Reid on Sunday likely coached his last game at the helm of the Eagles in a stadium that has never known another head coach.
The Eagles lost, 27-20. Even with a win in a week at the Giants, Reid will finish no better than 5-11, equaling his worst season - his first.
Combine this with the .500 debacle of 2011, which owner Jeffrey Lurie declared insufficient grounds for continued employment.
So, presumably, this was Reid's last appearance on the west sideline, where he was received with indifference before the game and left without incident afterward. No banners flew, no invective spewed, no coordinated chants deriding his weight or family or facial hair.
In fact, Reid left the field feted, to a small degree. A few boos rained, but the last thing he heard was his name, chanted in appreciation, as he retreated into his burrow.
"I got it. I understand," Reid said. "I understand the situation. I appreciate . . . everything."
Reid underscored the reality: Until notified to the contrary he is the coach, with a year on his contract and a guaranteed $5.5 million salary.
"I didn't expect it any other way," said David Culley, the receivers coach who has been on Reid's staff since Reid arrived in 1999. "That's the way the fans have been in the 14 years we've been here. And, because of what we've given them in the last 14 years."
The boos that came were boos of immediate disappointment: The game ended on an intentional-grounding call with the Eagles sniffing a comeback at the Redskins' 5.
Hailed or hated, for Reid it likely was his last trudge down the tunnel, where he often was accompanied by his elder sons, one of whom died this season during training camp, under Reid's watchful eye and his comforting wing.
It was his last, laborious undressing in the corner coach's office where once he regaled celebrities and reflected upon seven home playoff wins in his first eight seasons . . . but none in his last six seasons.
Much of the manufactured pregame angst centered on the sendoff assembled Eagles fans would afford the man who never embraced them and seldom acknowledged them.
Sunday featured moments of irony, such as when Reid went for it on fourth-and-1 and called a quarterback sneak. For years, even with a big running quarterback like Donovan McNabb, Reid clearly regarded the QB sneak a play unworthy of his playbook, not nearly clever enough to warrant use.
Third-round rookie Nick Foles ran Reid's offense. Foles is Reid's latest creation, a work in progress. The Eagles hope Foles' size and charisma carry him until he corrects his flawed mechanics, learns to read coverages and realizes how slow he is.
Sunday, Foles escaped a sack . . . then was run down and stripped by the same defensive lineman. He later threw a pass that was tipped, then intercepted . . . but the tip only served to allow an underneath defender to catch the ball instead of the cornerback who would have picked it off 10 yards downfield. In the third quarter, Foles, ungainliness personified, was sacked by the foot of his right offensive tackle.
Foles might progress. McNabb, then Kevin Kolb, then Michael Vick, then Mike Kafka all benefited from the tutelage of Reid and his assistants. None refined themselves totally. None necessarily needed Reid and Co., per se, since other coaches might have had as great or greater effect.
Reid likely will not affect Foles past next week.
Nor anything else in Philly.
Remarkable, certainly, since no one has affected the Eagles as much, ever.
For better or worse, Reid imbued in the franchise a sense of relevance, of gravity. He erased the cowboy legacy of Buddy Ryan, the buffoonery of Rich Kotite, the corrupt and seamy atmosphere left by his predecessor, Ray Rhodes.
He instituted a regime built on the tenets of character, of accountability, of production. Unsentimental and unconcerned with public sentiment, the Reid era saw the unceremonial dismissals of Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter, David Akers, Brian Dawkins and even McNabb, once untouchable.
The reign was flawed, as are all reigns. He introduced Terrell Owens in 2004, which helped sabotage 2005. He never adequately replaced defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, defensive line coach Tommy Brasher or special-teams coach John Harbaugh, the best lieutenants he ever hired. None of McNabb's successors achieved McNabb's successes; and, finally, he allowed depth along the offensive line to so completely erode that it cost them each of the past two seasons.
Reid was an offensive lineman in college then spent 14 seasons coaching offensive linemen.
Then, two seasons coaching Green Bay quarterbacks, led by Brett Favre - after Favre's first two MVP awards - and, without much pedigree, took the head coaching job in Philadelphia.
Seldom has a coach done so little to deserve so much.
Within two seasons Reid turned the worst team in the NFL into a playoff winner, and the era was under way.
His 130 regular-season wins are more than twice as many as Greasy Neale's second-place 63, and his 10 playoff wins more than three times better than second place.
"He made this a winning football town," said defensive end Trent Cole.
After 12 years of relatively consistent competence, it was impossible to imagine consecutive seasons of regression, of comical inefficiency and rank unprofessionalism.
His featured receiver tanking during games, and blowing off meetings.
His featured defensive end and his defensive line coach spewing insubordinate invective.
His son, his heir, his firstborn, overdosed and dead because of heroin, in a room where he kept stored steroids. A room that was, by lease, Eagles property; a room where slept an official representative of the team; a representative with access to every player and coach; and, of course, unlimited access to the man who ran it all.
Garrett Reid's tragic and criminal death is a final, unwashable smirch on Andy Reid's legacy.
Maybe they didn't boo out of sympathy.
With one game to go, these are words of finality. Are they appropriate?
Is it right to read the eulogy before the end has come?