EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - At 5:01 p.m. on Sunday, Andy Reid walked through the double doors of the visitors' locker room at MetLife Stadium. He greeted his wife and daughter. Together, the three sat on a golf cart and waited to be taken to the team bus.
From there, Reid returned to South Philadelphia and prepared for his exit as coach of the Eagles.
One hour earlier, Reid experienced the worst loss of the worst season in his 14 years as coach. The New York Giants dominated the Eagles, 42-7, and Reid's team finished 4-12, the poorest record of his career. He stood in front of the underachieving players that he assembled, a roster that finished 12-20 in the last two seasons, and told them: "There will be better days ahead."
Those days will not include Reid. He was informed Friday that he will not be the coach next season, according to two sources, and owner Jeffrey Lurie is expected to announce the decision Monday. The Eagles' 12 losses are the most since the team went 3-13 in 1998, a season that prompted Lurie to fire Ray Rhodes and hire Reid.
"By record, it's obviously the toughest [season]. We weren't very good," Reid said. "I take complete blame for the year. That's what I get paid to do, and we weren't good enough."
There will be no more responsibility to shoulder in Philadelphia, no more games to put players in better position, no more hats going off to the opposing coach. Sunday's game was the end for Reid, and it was a loss so embarrassingly bad that even Reid's staunchest defenders would have a hard time justifying the result.
"I wish we wouldn't be having this conversation," said quarterback Michael Vick, who completed 19 of 35 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "I wish I could have done more. Hopefully, a lot of players in that locker room feel like they could have done more."
Vick sounded critical of the Eagles' performance. Safety Kurt Coleman was surprised there was not a better effort. When wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was asked if effort was present, he answered: "I would like to think so."
There was brief optimism that Sunday's contest might be different than most this season after the Eagles surprised the Giants with an opening onside kick and recovered the ball. The Eagles sideline erupted in glee.
But nothing has marked the 2012 season more than the Eagles' turning over the ball, and that's exactly what happened next. Vick, starting his first game since Nov. 11, threw an interception on his team's fifth play. The Giants scored a touchdown four plays later.
Before the quarter ended, the Giants added two more touchdowns. New York quarterback Eli Manning shredded the Eagles secondary all afternoon, completing 13 of 21 passes for 208 yards and five touchdowns.
The Giants did not need to punt until there was 1 minute, 1 second remaining in the first half. Even then, New York got the ball back and scored on a Manning pass to Victor Cruz, making it 35-7 at halftime.
"We don't play to lose by that much," Reid answered when asked if he felt the players played hard. "That's not what anybody wanted."
Little this season has gone as Reid wanted. The tenor for 2012 was set at the end of last season, when Lurie deemed 8-8 "unacceptable" and emphasized that notion in August. The edict of "substantial improvement" loomed over the season, and Reid spoke Sunday about how the Eagles started 3-1 before two losses preceding the bye week started a downward spiral.
"Our bar was higher than 8-8 for all of us, Jeffrey included," Reid said. "We didn't reach the goal we wanted to. When it drops down into the area that we're at, that's not good enough, so we've got to be a better team than that."
In the locker room, the players responsible for a 4-12 finish were beginning to grapple with reality. There was support of Reid, albeit with a mix of melancholy and acknowledgment that the end was near.
Even Reid spoke with a sense of resignation that he had not previously shown. The winningest coach the Eagles have ever known had just one more night before becoming an unemployed coach on Monday. The franchise he built is officially one of the league's worst teams, just as the Eagles were when Reid inherited them 14 years ago.
"Either way, I understand," Reid said. "This is a business that I've chosen."