EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Before the 2012 season began, Eagles players received T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, "It's Time." The shirts were commissioned by Andy Reid, who wanted to convey a sense of the team having built up to that moment, a sense of urgency to win, that the group was ready to redeem the unmet promise of 2011.
Players still wear those T-shirts, which have taken on an unintended mocking quality. "It's Time," all right. Oh, boy, is it ever time.
Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie is expected to meet Monday with Reid, and then to announce around noon that Reid's 14-year tenure as head coach is over, after a 4-12 season that began with great promise but ended as the worst of the Reid era. The Eagles lost an astonishing 11 of their final 12 games.
As a bitter wind whipped a few stray napkins across the field at the final gun, it was time for Reid to bid farewell to Giants coach Tom Coughlin and head for the end-zone tunnel, where a hardy group of Giants fans waited to lean over the railing and razz the coach one more time.
Reid, ruddy-faced in the cold, remained expressionless, his path bulldozed by team security director Dom DiSandro. As Reid and DiSandro churned toward the locker room, offensive-line coach Howard Mudd caught up with them and pulled Reid close.
"I told him, 'I'm sorry, my friend,' " said Mudd, 70, who has decided to retire.
"I've been doing it a long time, and I have a lot of respect for Jeff Lurie. I'll go in eyes wide open,'' Reid said in what presumably was his final postgame news conference, in a cramped, dreary room under the end-zone stands at MetLife Stadium.
Reid denied reports that he was informed of his fate in a Friday meeting with Lurie. Later, as the reports persisted, other Eagles officials vehemently denied them. Team spokesman Derek Boyko said those reports were "100 percent false."
"Either way, I understand," said Reid. "That's how it is. This is the business that I've chosen. I've been very fortunate to have been here as long as I have. If I'm here again, I'll love every minute of it. If I'm not, I understand that . . . Whatever [Lurie] chooses will be the right thing. He's always done things in the best interests of the Eagles, and I completely understand."
Lurie said in August that last year's 8-8 record was unacceptable, that he would have to see substantial progress to retain Reid, who is under contract through 2013.
"Our bar was higher than 8-8 for all of us, Jeffrey included," Reid said Sunday, indicating he had no problem with Lurie's ultimatum.
"You start off 3-1, you've got to build on that. We had a couple of tough losses in there before the bye week; things seemed to go south from there," Reid said. "That's how it works. I'll let you guys put all that together and figure that out . . . You guys have written about it, go check your notes."
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who said he reckoned he would start thinking about his fate on the bus ride home, summed it up this way: "You get what you earn in this league . . . To be a really good football team, you have to overcome an awful lot, and we just weren't able to overcome all of the things that happened to us this year."
His players gave Reid a sendoff for the ages Sunday, losing by 42-7 to the New York Giants in their season finale. It was the franchise's most lopsided defeat since it fell to Seattle, 42-0, at the Linc back on Dec. 5, 2005, the night Mike McMahon threw two pick-sixes in the first half alone.
"It's pretty bad," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who said he'd thought the team might give Reid and his staff a better tribute. "The coaches, it being the last game of the season, the way the season's been, I thought we'd go out there and at least try to end it with a bang. We ended it with a bang, all right. That's tough."
Players said Reid brought the players together after the game and "broke it down" the way he always does. Corner Nnamdi Asomugha, benched during the fourth quarter, said Reid told the Eagles it was a rough year, but that better times were ahead. They said Reid did not address his fate.
"Yes. Absolutely," left guard Evan Mathis said, when asked if he'd expected a better final effort. "This is terrible . . . I'm not saying there was a lack of effort, because I haven't seen the tape, but the score shows that something was terribly wrong, and that is surprising to me."
Running back LeSean McCoy, who carried 10 times for 45 yards and caught five passes for 61, said: "We didn't play at all today. The Giants played very well today. I feel surprised, the last game, it's tough to send [Reid] out like this."
McCoy said he still hopes Reid will keep his job. "He's definitely one of the top five coaches in this league," he said.
Sunday's game showed us everything that was rancid about this season, tied up in a leaky, odiferous Hefty sack. Reid decided to go out gambling, and the Birds perfectly executed an onside kick on the opening kickoff, Brandon Hughes recovering on the Eagles' 47. But after quickly moving for a first down at the Giants' 40, the offense bogged down. On third-and-13, a rusty Michael Vick threw high and wide - this would become a recurring theme - missing Brent Celek but finding Giants safety Stevie Brown, who ran the ball back to the Eagles' 26. The Giants scored their first touchdown four plays later.
They would score touchdowns on their first four possessions; at one point, they held a 175-32 yardage edge. Vick missed a wide-open Damaris Johnson in the end zone, then Alex Henery shanked a 28-yard field-goal attempt.
Eagles middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans called the defense's play "unexplainable."
"They made play after play on us. It seemed like we couldn't get off the field, couldn't stop 'em," Ryans said.
Vick, who had been out since Nov. 11 with a concussion, and was told a week earlier he would finish the season inactive, did not seize the moment in what surely was his final Eagles start, necessitated by Nick Foles' broken metacarpal in his throwing hand. Vick finished 19-for-35 for 197 yards, a touchdown and the first-series pick, for a 68.4 passer rating. Trent Edwards saw late mopup duty, Edwards' only snaps of the season.
The Giants, who had been floating face-down the previous 2 weeks, gave a season-saving type effort, but they were eliminated from playoff contention anyway when the Bears beat the Lions.
That is more than enough about what happened on the field.
Vick said Reid "is a great man and I love him to death and I wish we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. I wish I could have done more. Hopefully, a lot of players in this locker room wish they could have done more. Coach can't go out and play the game. He can only coach. That's our responsibility to go out there and make it right, and we didn't."
"You know [Reid] is giving it his all. He's up in there studying film, trying to put us in the best position, and we look like that? It's embarrassing, man," tight end Brent Celek said. "I've never been a part of a football season like this. You have one or two [bad] games, but my goodness, it was like seven, eight games like this."
Reid, 130-93-1 in the regular season, 10-9 in the playoffs, is the longest-tenured and winningest coach in Eagles history. He is currently the NFL's longest-tenured coach, and is 22nd in overall victories in the league. He was asked Sunday how he would like to be remembered in Philadelphia.
"I don't know. I'm not that sentimental," Reid said. "I can tell you I love Philadelphia."