EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Andy Reid walked off the field for the last time as an Eagles coach, and just as he entered through the tunnel Howard Mudd waddled up behind him and locked arms.
With bad knees and an artificial hip, Mudd has a difficult time walking. But he wanted to say something to Reid, who lured him out of retirement almost two years ago, so the offensive line coach picked up his cane and walked swiftly.
New York Giants fans hung over the tunnel from their seats and mocked Reid and his players. "Come back next season, please! We need another easy win!"
When Mudd caught up to Reid, he grabbed him, smiled and said something.
"I said, 'I'm sorry, my friend,' " Mudd recounted later.
He wasn't the only one. Reid's players, coaches, and many of those close to the team said after the Eagles ended the season 4-12 with their worst loss of the season - a 42-7 drubbing by the hated Giants - that they had done Reid wrong.
Reid said after the game that owner Jeffrey Lurie had not told him of his fate, but two sources told The Inquirer that he was informed on Friday that Monday would be his last day. Whether Reid told anyone else, there was an ominous feel to Sunday's proceedings.
Reid's immediate family, save for his daughter Drew Ann, made the trek up the New Jersey Turnpike for the season finale.
His sons, Britt and Spencer, stood on the sideline during the game. They had done that many times before, as had the eldest of Reid's children, Garrett, who died of a heroin overdose at the team's training camp in August. But it wasn't commonplace anymore, and in light of their father's situation, it felt unique.
Reid's wife, Tammy, was in attendance, as she always is. As the final moments ticked away on the game, she stood near the tunnel with her daughter Crosby and Lindsey Mornhinweg, wife of Marty, the Eagles offensive coordinator and a longtime aide to Reid.
The Reid women stood in long fur coats and their faces suggested that this was not a normal family gathering.
After Mudd said his piece, Reid walked toward the locker room and briefly acknowledged his wife by grasping her hand. He disappeared and addressed his players. It was brief, they said.
"He didn't do much talking," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said, "but he brought us up at the end, and he said: 'Rough year - rough year for all of us.' "
Reid then added a last line: "Just that there will be better days ahead," he later said.
The team then took a knee and said a prayer, as usual. There weren't any tears, eyewitnesses said, but it "was different," Asomugha said of the postgame talk.
Reid then walked into what was expected to be his final news conference as Eagles coach. He was the kinder, gentler Reid, not the one who would usually stonewall the press after tough losses.
He was asked if this was the toughest year of his life, both professionally and personally.
"By record, it's obviously the toughest. You know we weren't very good," he said, avoiding the personal part.
Reid answered the tough questions about his uncertain future, cracked a joke at a reporter's expense, and walked out after eight minutes, his wife and daughter following him close behind.
In the locker room, the players searched for words. The season had gone sour long ago, but to lose by 35 points and send Reid out that way was inexcusable for some of the veterans.
"If it is [the end], I would say . . . it's tough to send him out like this," running back LeSean McCoy said.
Many players insisted that Reid did not lose the locker room. They came up with other reasons for the collapse. Wide receiver Jason Avant questioned the character of some players and theorized that too many players came from other teams and weren't homegrown.
McCoy said that if some players quit, it wasn't because of Reid.
"It can be for other reasons - record or playing time, things like that," he said. "I don't really see guys quitting on him as a coach."
Mornhinweg has known Reid since the 1980s when they were young college assistants. They worked together in Green Bay, and then Reid brought Mornhinweg to the Eagles in 2003.
"You get what you earn in this league and in this business," said Mornhinweg, whose contract with the Eagles is up. "The only regret I have is not winning [Super Bowl XXXIX] in Jacksonville," he philosophically added.
After the players and coaches had boarded the team bus, Reid came out in a dark suit and striped yellow tie. He declined an interview request, hopped in a waiting golf cart with his wife and daughter, and sped away.
Season W L T W-L% Playoffs
1999 5 11 0 .313 -
2000 11 5 0 .688 1-1
2001 11 5 0 .688 2- 1
2002 12 4 0 .750 1-1
2003 12 4 0 .750 1-1
2004 13 3 0 .813 2-1
2005 6 10 0 .375 -
2006 10 6 0 .625 1-1
2007 8 8 0 .500 -
2008 9 6 1 .600 2-1
2009 11 5 0 .688 0-1
2010 10 6 0 .625 0-1
2011 8 8 0 .500 -
2012 4 12 0 .267 -
Total 130 93 1 .583 10-9
Winning the NFC Championship, Jan. 23, 2005 - After losing three consecutive NFC Championship games, the Eagles finally reached the Super Bowl with a 27-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. "I think it makes it even more worthwhile that we had to do it four times to get over the hump," Reid said after the game. It was the only victory out of five NFC championship appearances for Reid as a head coach.
Losing Super Bowl XXXIX, Feb. 6, 2005 - There were many examples of Reid's poor clock management during his 14 seasons, but the most egregious came in the biggest game of his career. Trailing the New England Patriots by 10 points with 5 minutes, 40 seconds left, quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' offense moved liked molasses starting from their own 21. As the Eagles puttered, New England coach Bill Belichick said, to no one in particular: "Is that scoreboard right? What are they doing?" The Eagles eventually scored a TD, but took 3:52 off the clock. And, after an onside kick failed, they didn't get the ball back until it was too late.