The time is no longer ours. It's really not his, either.
Andy Reid's day of reckoning will come a month from now, when he sits down with his bosses and sifts through the carnage and explains to them what happened here, and what, if anything, he can correct so it won't happen again. And they decide whether that's good enough to bring him back.
Between then and now, though, there are four football games, beginning with this weekend's visit to Miami. Four games for a 4-8 team whose players insist they have not quit on their head coach, have not quit on their coordinators, have not quit on themselves and each other, to prove it.
"Any time you're losing, the media is going to pick out the things you're doing wrong and blow them up," tight end Brent Celek was saying inside the Eagles' locker room at the NovaCare Complex yesterday. "You never want to be a team that's known for lack of effort. And I don't think we are that. But in order to get rid of that, we have to win football games. And it starts this week."
Yes, it does. A final exam, if you will, a last chance to rescue that "F," a last chance to salvage some pride and prove wrong all of us who believe this team has lost whatever fight it ever had, to prove wrong those who believe this season was a case of ego overindulgences and poor study habits as much as it was about poor teaching.
You hear it every week. You heard it yesterday again. They hear it, too. They are soft. They are selfish. They are the opposite of resilient.
"You never want to be called a quitter," center Jason Kelce was saying. "As an athlete and as a competitor, it's insulting when people say you are quitting or even that you're not giving it your best effort. I know when somebody says that about me, my next game I'm going to come out and show you something. Maybe some guys will be motivated by that. We'll see."
The coaches say players are trying real hard, are giving it their all, even as the evidence suggests the opposite. The players say they haven't quit on the coaches, not even beleaguered defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who sounds more perplexed and saddened as he takes the podium each Thursday and tries to explain why his game plan - which he continually calls "good" - works out so badly most weeks.
Reid continues to laud effort. He has yet to "Akers" anyone on this squad, even the conflicted wide receiver who was benched earlier this season after missing a meeting.
Last Thursday's loss in Seattle marked the second consecutive game in which the Eagles failed to even compete. This time, against an equally bad team, a team with even less of a chance to make the playoffs than them. This Sunday's opponent, the Miami Dolphins, owns the same record as the Eagles, but enter this game with a far more favorable perception and self-image. After beginning the season 0-7, Miami has won four of its last five, outscoring opponents 139-54 over that stretch.
"On the fun meter, I think we're at the top of the league," Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake said last Sunday after Miami whipped Oakland, 34-14.
"Swag meter, too."
Jason Taylor, Miami's veteran linebacker, lit into his teammates earlier this season for lacking professional pride. Sound familiar? Now though, Taylor said, "Our whole attitude has changed. This team is a lot looser now and not playing uptight, not preparing uptight and that shows on Sunday."
Unlike the Eagles, the Dolphins don't speak of the playoffs. In a conference in which five wild-card contenders own records of 7-5 or better, to do so would be insane. They do speak of finishing strong, though, about setting up their 2012 season with a strong 2011 finish.
No one knows what the Eagles will look like in 2012, whether they still will be coached by Reid, whether DeSean Jackson will be catching passes from Michael Vick, whether there will be some sort of surgery to expunge their perceived softness. We do know, though, that these last four games will mean something in those assessments, which should be enough to play for even without the faint hope of a playoff bid.
"Everybody's in," Kurt Coleman insisted. "We're going to be fighting until the end. Regardless of what happens in the division, or with our record, we're going to keep fighting until the end.
"Pride in yourself, pride in your teammates, pride in the organization. We have a lot on the line. And this is our job. For us to not go out there and give 100 percent, we're not doing ourselves any service."
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