EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On the ring finger of his right hand, as big around as a truck tire and gleaming in the camera lights, Andy Reid wore the Super Bowl ring he won long ago as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers.
It isn't wildly uncommon for Reid to wear the ring, but he doesn't put it on for every game, either. In the past, he has used it as motivation for his team, a prize for the players to behold, but on this day it caught the light defiantly.
There is a difference between coaching a loser and being a loser. Reid can't deny the first part this season. The second part is a matter of perspective, and it was telling that the head coach slipped on a size-16 hunk of perspective before his final game as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. He probably earned the right to that mute statement, particularly since no one in the organization has said a word in his defense during this long, dreadful season.
Reid said he would meet with Jeffrey Lurie on Monday and accept whatever decision the owner makes regarding his employment. According to sources, though, Lurie already gave Reid the news on Friday. Stubborn soldier to the end, Reid wasn't coughing up that information. He would observe protocol even as the team quit around him and the front office distanced itself from any blame for the 4-12 finish.
"I understand this business. I know how it works," Reid said after the season closed with a 42-7 loss to the Giants that was a disgraceful effort, even by the standards of his current team. "My eyes are wide open. Either way, I understand. This is a business that I've chosen."
All that remains now is the official notice, which probably will be delivered in conjunction with another of those peculiar séances the owner likes to conduct in front of reporters. Lurie helped weave the net that encircled Reid this season. The players knew the coach's tenuous position after that August news conference in which Lurie stamped his feet and promised things would be different if nothing was different.
Players respect power, and Reid didn't have much leverage over them when things started to go badly. The problems snowballed; the reserves weren't good enough to challenge the starters; the injuries piled up; and, regardless of what Reid said, the team quit on him.
"This was a lack of effort by a lot of guys," said quarterback Michael Vick, who started against the Giants after missing six games because of a concussion and was yanked in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.
Vick could have been talking about the last 12 games of the season, when the Eagles went 1-11, or he might have been talking about just this game against the Giants. Either way, he was right.
Even Reid's attempt to defibrillate the team with an onside kick to open the game didn't change anything. The Eagles recovered the free ball, but Vick threw yet another interception after being smacked full in the ribs once again, and the Giants were on their way to a 21-0 lead before the end of the first quarter.
That interception was Vick's 10th of the season and his 15th turnover. Overall, the Eagles had 37 turnovers and just 13 takeaways. Only a lack of effort and talent, in some combination, can account for a disparity like that.
"Not enough guys buy into the system," receiver Jason Avant said, putting most of the season's failures on his teammates. "It's not a Coach Reid problem."
Ultimately, of course, it became Reid's problem, and he couldn't solve it. The result is that he has coached his last game for the Eagles after 14 seasons.
"We had quite a run," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said, and that is as good a valedictory as any.
The head coach and his staff, his system, his organizational style, and his methods had more successes than failures, even if almost all of the greatest ones were front-loaded into the first half of his career with the Eagles. His exit wasn't an indication of his tenure, but there was no mistaking the time had arrived.
Reid came to town with one Super Bowl ring to display in public, one reminder of a shining moment that could help lead the way to the next. He leaves town the same way.
"There are going to be better days ahead," is what Reid said he told the team after Sunday's game.
Not in Philadelphia, though. Not for Andy Reid. The days, like the team, have run out on him.