With this, his Eagles' latest new low, the issue stops being whether Andy Reid should return for a 14th season as head coach. He should not.

After blowing a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time, after falling to 3-6 with a roster full of expensive stars, after letting John Flipping Skelton outplay Michael Vick - after all that, the issue has become whether Reid can give owner Jeff Lurie even the flimsiest pretense for defying reason and bringing him back for 2012.

We really are in end-of-the-line Ray Rhodes and Rich Kotite territory now. That is stupefying, given Reid's accomplishments from 2000 through 2008, but it is still true. This is what it looks like when the bottom falls out.

This little episode with wide receiver DeSean Jackson lent an air of utter dysfunction to a season that had already become an embarrassment. Jackson is a grown man who should have been at his Saturday morning meeting, but that is hardly the point. Beginning with the decision to draft a guy everyone knew was as mercurial in temperament as in talent, the Eagles have managed this situation in such a way that this was inevitable.

It's not exactly wrong of Reid to bench a player in order to set an example. But to bench this particular player with all the issues surrounding his contract, and with the way his production is affecting his value, and with how teammates such as Steve Smith are earning scads more than he is? When some of these players clearly have quit on plays earlier in the season with no apparent consequence?

It just smells bad. And that stench carried over to Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, the latest in this season of shocking new lows.

This Arizona team was 2-6 on merit, traveling to the East Coast for a game that started before noon according to the players' body clocks. They were without Kevin Kolb, leaving a second-year man from Fordham to start at quarterback. They were ranked among the worst teams in the league in pass defense. The biggest danger going in was that the Eagles could win without changing anyone's opinion of them.

But to lose? And to look utterly clueless on both sides of the ball? How does anyone explain that?

"It's my responsibility to make sure that everybody is on the same page," Reid said. "Obviously, by this performance that didn't look very good. That's my responsibility. I don't know about disconnects and those types of things, but I have to do a better job along with my guys."

It drives fans crazy that Reid repeats such things after every loss. It sounds especially empty now. That's because the problems and failures this year are the direct result of Reid's decision making. The Eagles aren't losing because of injuries or bad luck or anything else. They are losing because of poor decisions that seemed obvious to anyone outside the Eagles' NovaCare bubble who was paying attention.

It was Reid who made Juan Castillo his defensive coordinator. One of the presumed candidates, Pittsburgh assistant Ray Horton, was hired by the Cardinals instead. That was his defense embarrassing Reid's offense all afternoon.

It was Reid who married Jim Washburn's unique-for-a-reason defensive-line approach to woefully mismatched linebackers and safeties.

It was Reid who threw money at Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Jason Babin, and Smith instead of Jackson, a player who had actually won games for him.

It was Reid who committed real gold to Vick based on a few fool's-gold games last season. In his last 16 games, Vick has thrown 18 interceptions. The Eagles are 7-9 in those games, with Vick failing on fourth-quarter drives in five of them.

The most interceptions Donovan McNabb ever threw in a 16-game season with the Eagles was 13.

As the Cardinals made clear, defenses have figured out how to limit this guy and, with him, this offense.

"Our goal was to be really physical," former Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "The kind of blueprint that Chicago laid out [last week]. You can attack him with good old-fashioned physical football across the board. It wore on him."

Especially when, through benching Jackson and failing to give LeSean McCoy enough carries, Reid and his staff minimized two of the Eagles' best weapons.

"It made things a little easier not having to worry about that deep threat," Arizona cornerback A.J. Jefferson said.

But the Jackson benching reverberates even more off the field. It was almost quaint, Reid trying to set the tone the way he did early in his tenure.

That was a long time ago now. Reid has let his program drift away from the high-character standards he set early on. He now has a team that plays soft and that seems more interested in contracts than contact. His ship appears rudderless, and there's no one to blame but the captain.