It was not the worst loss of Andy Reid's tenure or even the Eagles' miserable season. It was merely the most revealing.

At Reid's zenith, the Eagles faced the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl. They lost, but they were competitive with what was inarguably the league's most dominant team.

Now, at Reid's nadir, the Eagles lost to the Patriots again. No shame in that. But to lose by 38-20 (thanks to a cheap late touchdown, the score wasn't as lopsided as the game), to not be capable of competing with Bill Belichick's team - there is plenty of shame in that.

To go one full calendar year with exactly two wins (against eight losses) in Lincoln Financial Field, there is plenty more shame in that.

To lock in another year of steady regression - from NFC runner-up in 2008, to 11-5 in 2009, to 10-6 last year to no better than 9-7 this year - there is plenty of shame in that.

Eagles fans felt it. Sunday's debacle was marked by harsh booing as the team left for the locker room at halftime and when it returned for the start of the third quarter. A brief chant of "Fire Andy" filled the air at one point. When Juqua Parker's taped message - "Everybody make some noise!" - was inexplicably played on the big screens early in the fourth quarter of a rout, the fans responded with another volley of jeers.

And they left. En masse. Most of the fourth quarter was played without Tom Brady, whose work was done; without DeSean Jackson, who completed the journey from fan favorite to full-fledged pariah, and without all but a few of the 69,144 who paid to watch this game.

There are two questions dangling over this 4-7 team:

Does Eagles owner Jeff Lurie feel the shame of this wretched season, too? You'd have to think it would sting to sit through such a pathetic performance against the team he grew up rooting for, the team he tried to buy before settling for the Eagles, the team owned by his friendly rival Bob Kraft.

And what could possibly happen over the final five weeks to convince those disgusted, chanting fans that it would be a grand idea to bring Reid back for a 14th season?

Even if the Eagles win out - which seems absurd but, given their schedule, not impossible - the best they could do is finish 9-7. Again: worse than last year, and probably not good enough to sneak into the playoffs.

If this were a one-year aberration, the way 2005 was, it would be one thing. But the downward trend is unmistakable, and the coach's decision-making just keeps getting worse. It is hard to imagine these fans happily signing on for another year of poor drafting, ignoring LeSean McCoy, sloppy penalties, and stonewall news conferences.

The obvious reality is that nothing can be done during this season to improve anyone's mood. That die was cast when Reid turned his defense over to the inexperienced and overmatched Juan Castillo.

So change the question slightly. What would it take for Lurie and club president Joe Banner to convince themselves that Reid deserves another chance?

They will start by examining the impact of the NFL lockout on this team's ability to prepare. Going into it, they touted Reid's stable approach as an enormous advantage over other teams. Now they will have to explain why a first-year coach like Jim Harbaugh can have his team playing together with discipline while Reid's team is a mess, or why Belichick can absorb so much roster churn and keep his team playing at the same high level.

Surely they will consider giving Reid another year on the condition that he changes the defensive coordinator again. Maybe they will go so far as to insist on hiring one for him. Will scapegoating Castillo be enough for Lurie and Banner? For the fans? Would Reid go along with that?

Would a 9-7 finish with a five-game, season-ending win streak do it? How about 8-8? If the team stumbles along to finish 6-10, does that change the thinking?

If that all seems premature, blame the Eagles. This was supposed to be a season of realistic hopes for a championship. They are the ones who turned it into a travesty of inconsistent effort, questionable commitment, and routine failure when games were on the line. It was the Eagles who made this season about Reid's continued fitness to coach them.

Reid benched Jackson in the fourth quarter. After watching the mixed-up wide receiver continue to make the same costly mistakes over and over, Reid decided he'd seen enough. All of Jackson's past success just didn't matter anymore.

The stadium was still mostly full of fans who felt exactly the same way - about Jackson and about his coach.