The “Fire Andy” chants started with six minutes left in the third quarter and grew louder before all but a few diehards filed out of Lincoln Financial Field.
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While it’s not typically shouted like it was during Sunday’s 38-20 loss to the New England Patriots, the sentiment has been expressed more than a few times in Andy Reid’s 13 seasons as Philly’s head coach. Coaches — especially those who have full control over player personnel decisions — make easy targets in towns less sports-obsessed than this one, but Reid is more a victim of what he can’t manage (expectations) than what he can (odd play calls in the red zone).
“I don’t hear much down there, so I didn’t hear it,” Reid said, who was first subjected to the chants after a failed pass play on fourth-and-1 from the Pats’ 2 in the third quarter. “The way we played, I can understand it.”
Injuries, dropped passes and the complete inability to tackle anybody in a Patriots uniform won’t immediately be solved if Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy or anybody else on that oft-cited list of accomplished and available coaches is on the sideline against the Seattle Seahawks this Thursday.
This is not a playoff team and, at least according to those in Eagles’ locker room, it’s not Reid’s fault.
“He’s not the one out there playing. We are,” Eagles receiver Riley Cooper said. “He’s not in pads. We are. Ultimately, it’s the players’ responsibility.”
Added Philly free safety Nate Allen: “It’s tough, for sure. Fans don’t want to see that (type of loss). It was a tough game. They may not understand everything that’s going on, but what are you going to do? It’s one of those things you don’t want to hear. That’s our coach. We’ll go to bat for him any day.”
Allen was one of the Eagles’ many foils against a Tom Brady-led Patriots passing attack that accounted for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Brady was 24 for 34 with no interceptions.
“That’s on me,” Allen said of a 41-yard TD strike Brady thrown to Wes Welker in the second quarter. “I just bit on the play action. That’s the bottom line.”
The Eagles were again without Michael Vick, who missed his second consecutive game with a rib injury and wasn’t even on the sidelines in street clothes for the game. In his place was Vince Young, a player you can blame for uttering the “Dream Team” line after the Eagles signed him to a free-agent deal last summer.
Already without receiver Jeremy Maclin due to shoulder and hamstring injuries, Young did his best to thin the receiving ranks some more. He led his receivers into some very dangerous situations and was lucky the worst outcome was Jason Avant getting the wind knocked out of him in the third quarter.
“You can’t really put it all on Andy,” said Young, who was 26 for 48 passing for 400 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “Us players have to go out and play the game as well. I say that out of the utmost respect for Andy. We’re going to always continue to keep fighting hard and playing hard for him.”
Even the player who held out of training camp and apparently got benched by Reid late in the game said nice thing about his coach. Receiver DeSean Jackson, who dropped two TD passes, sat out the final two Eagles drives, although Reid said he just “wanted to give other guys an opportunity.”
“We have a good relationship,” Jackson said.
The Eagles have all but one of their opening-week starters signed for next season. (Jackson is the exception.) Reid, along with GM Howie Roseman, maneuvered the salary cap well enough to bring in some big-name free agents like Young and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was limited by a knee injury on Sunday.
There could be changes — like sacking defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who was promoted to the position after more than a decade as the team’s offensive line coach — and maybe the longest-tenured NFL head coach will also get a pink slip.
Still, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie might be just a little more forgiving than the fans.