Rather than cleaning house to begin the new year, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie issued a resounding vote of confidence in Coach Andy Reid and his staff on Tuesday afternoon, just two days after the final day of the 2011 NFL regular season that saw the team come up shy of making the playoffs, and miles short of its lofty championship aspirations.
While frank during Tuesday's press conference about his disappointment over the heavily hyped Eagles' letdown 8-8 season —calling it without question the most disappointing in his 18 years of ownership — Lurie's first postseason address to the media held good news for Reid, a former Glendale Community College player.
"Andy Reid not only has the love of his players and their respect, but he also has the fire in his belly to be the best," Lurie said, according to the Associated Press, in announcing that Reid will be back for a 14th season at the helm of the Eagles in 2012. "You've got to have the anger. You've got to have the motivation, the dedication, and the focus and the talent. My answer to those questions is yes. That's why I want to see our team coached by Andy Reid next year, and I can't wait to see that team play. There's no doubt in my mind, if our focus is on trying to win a championship next year, the best coach for that is Andy."
Many considered the Eagles a lock to contend for the championship this season, if not at least build on last year's one-game playoff run, after resigning star quarterback Michael Vick and dominating headlines in the lockout-shortened offseason with a series of high-profile additions via free agency and trades.
But a glut of talent and experience did not translate into wins for Philadelphia, which struggled to assimilate new players into its defensive scheme and sputtered on offense, particularly when Vick missed a midseason stretch of games with an injury.
Much of the public blame fell to Reid and his embattled first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, with a group of fans even camping out across the street from the Eagles' practice facility with a banner calling for Reid's firing early in the team's four-game losing streak that began in the second week of the season.
As the campaign further disintegrated into an overall 4-8 start, the chorus of disapproval grew, a factor Lurie said he gave strong consideration to before deciding to retain Reid and giving him free rein to assemble next year's coaching staff.
"We are a football team that has a large fan base and a passionate football team … You factor it in, but you put it in perspective," he said, according to philly.com, the Philadelphia Daily News' Eagles blog.
Despite the failures of 2011, Reid remains one of the most successful coaches currently tenured. At 126-81-1 overall, he has had just one losing season since being hired in 1999 and has led the team to nine playoff appearances, including a run to the Super Bowl in 2004. Reid, who is expected to address the media in the coming days, still has one year left on his current contract after 2012. While Lurie gave no indication on Tuesday that he would extend it, he stopped short of giving Reid a win-or-else ultimatum for next season.
"Every year the goal is to win the Super Bowl," Lurie said, according to the AP. "We'll let the process play out. There's no ultimatum.
"You've got to be in the tournament to be able to win the Super Bowl, that's the singular goal. This coach and his staff have a superb track record of getting to the tournament."