Andy Reid’s job was on the line.
It was December of 2011, the Eagles were 4-8, they had just lost to the Patriots by 18 points and the Seahawks by 17 points, and 13 years into his tenure as Eagles head coach, Reid seemed to have lost his way.
Only four teams in the NFL had a worse record and even though the Eagles were coming off three straight playoff seasons, it looked like the end of the line for Big Red.
Nine years later, the Eagles were 3-8-1, they'd lost four straight games and only five teams had a worse record. And after three straight playoff seasons, it looked like the end of the line for Doug Pederson.
Nine years ago, the Eagles got hot.
They proved that Reid’s voice was still being heard, that he was still capable of getting his message across, that guys were still determined to play hard for him. They won their last four games and 4-8 became 8-8 and Jeff Lurie was impressed.
He had been leaning toward firing Reid, but that late run changed his mind.
He saw a team that was still battling every Sunday. He said he went back and forth trying to decide whether or not to fire Reid but ultimately decided to give him one more year because of that strong finish.
“I want a coach who coaches hard and how do the players respond to hard coaching?” Lurie asked a few days after the 2011 season ended. “This group was — contrary to the 8-8 record — one of the best groups in terms of energy and motivation at practice that I’ve ever seen.”
So Reid stayed.
And that was a mistake. That 2012 Eagles team lost 11 of its last 12 games and finished 4-12 and that was it for Reid, and Lurie knew it came a year too late.
Which brings us to 2020.
Who knows what these next three weeks will bring, but certainly the win over the Saints showed that Pederson’s message is still getting through. Bad record or not, this team — just like that 2011 team — has never stopped playing hard.
But is that enough to save his job? Should it be enough to save his job? And how will the events of nine years ago influence Lurie’s decision this year the first week of January.
Yes, the Eagles have made the playoffs three years in a row, just like that 2011 team. The big difference of course is a Super Bowl title. Maybe that changes everything.
But each of the last three seasons has started out the same way: 4-6 after 10 games in 2018, 5-7 after 12 games last year, 3-8-1 after 12 games this year.
Over the last three years, the Eagles are 14-21-1 the first 12 weeks of the season, which puts them among the 10 worst teams in the NFL the first three months of the season.
Over the last quarter of the season? They’re 8-1, tied with the Ravens for best in the NFL.
These late runs are fun, but where do they lead? Ultimately, nowhere.
The reality is that this is three straight years in which the Eagles have been out of it early. Maybe not mathematically but realistically.
Yes, injuries. I know.
But still: 14-21-1.
There’s a lot to admire about Pederson, and as Jason Kelce so passionately stated this week, one of the things that makes Pederson such a good coach is his ability to get 53 guys playing hard and not quitting and giving everything they have for 16 weeks no matter what.
But winning football games is important, too. And the Eagles haven’t done that consistently in three years.
This is the first time they’ll go three straight seasons under the same coach without winning 10 games since 1983 through 1985 under Marion Campbell.
So that’s what Lurie has to weigh.
Is playing hard enough?
Nine years ago it was, and it was one of the biggest mistakes Lurie's ever made.
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