Nothing is forever, not even Andy Reid.
Ask Jeff Fisher and Hosni Mubarak. Everybody has an expiration date. It's just that you often don't know what that date is until it arrives.
In a wide-ranging chat with reporters Tuesday, Eagles president Joe Banner made it very clear that Reid still has the full confidence of Banner and their mutual boss, owner Jeff Lurie. Their approval of Reid's unorthodox decision to promote offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator was proof enough of that.
But Banner made it just as clear that the standard for judging Reid is the same as always: Is he the right man to win a Super Bowl?
"That is what we're here for," Banner said. "And we haven't done it."
For now, the answer is yes. The Eagles are one of just three teams that have been in the playoffs each of the last three seasons. They managed that feat while changing franchise quarterbacks and turning over much of their roster. Because of that and Reid's entire body of work, the internal belief is that Reid remains the man to complete the job.
"We are trying to win the championship every year," Banner said. "We went into each of the last few years believing we had a good-enough team - not saying we were the favorite - but we felt we had a good-enough team to compete. And next year won't be any different. . . . If we don't win it next year, there'll be nobody here making excuses or saying we needed another year to get the team ready to go. We're not setting the bar any lower than going all the way and winning a championship."
While they have been in the playoffs three years in a row, the Eagles have been dismissed in the first round two years in a row.
"We're not satisfied we only got to the first round," Banner said. "At the same time, we're not willing to pretend that isn't an accomplishment."
Those first-round exits were followed by seismic changes: at quarterback, at general manager, and on the defensive coaching staff. At some point, without the seawall of a Lombardi Trophy to stop it, that wave has to reach the head coach. Doesn't it?
"It's a fair question," Banner said. "It's just not constructive for me to get into a hypothetical. I think you all know we have a very high opinion of Andy, as a person and as a coach. That doesn't mean to imply that he's perfect. He would tell you that himself. There's criticism that's fair. . . . The future will be determined when we get there. Whatever criticism it leads to, there's nobody in a decision-making position in this organization who doesn't have a very high opinion of Andy Reid."
Of course, they had very high opinions of Donovan McNabb and Tom Heckert and Sean McDermott, too. All of them reached their expiration dates. The common thread is this: Lurie and Banner have a clear vision of what they believe it takes to be successful in the NFL and they stick to it regardless of outside pressures.
That can be maddening to fans, especially since it has not produced a Super Bowl title. But it has produced more than a decade of consistently good football with five berths in the NFL's version of the final four.
"There are some years, with hindsight, I kind of look back and I'm not sure how we didn't quite get there," Banner said. "There are other years we were probably lucky to get as far as we did when you look at the talent level or injury factors or whatever it may be."
For now, then, that approach means sticking with Reid. Banner cited the coach's leadership skills and his ability to attract elite assistant coaches such as Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd, who were recently hired to coach the defensive and offensive lines. The team has attracted free-agent players, Banner said, who want to play for Reid. And he gets the players to commit and play hard.
"We put a lot of value on those skills," Banner said. "At the same time, we're here to win a championship and that needs to be part of the equation, too."
Reid has made some dubious decisions the past few years. Odd as the Castillo thing was, it resulted from having to replace McDermott, Reid's previous handpicked man. If Washburn can be a difference maker, why was that job in the hands of Rory Segrest? Mudd is universally acclaimed, but the real issue seems to be the vast resources, in money and draft picks, that have been squandered to produce a subpar line. The team committed about $16 million to Michael Vick for 2011 after flushing $12 million on a bonus for Kevin Kolb last off-season.
Win a championship in the next couple years, and those mistakes are footnotes. Fall short, again and again, and they add up to something - an expiration date, whenever that might be.