PHILADELPHIA - Still reeling from personal tragedy, Andy Reid now faces his toughest personal challenge.
Reid enters his 14th season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles with no promises he'll be back for No. 15. In fact, owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear the Eagles must win for Reid to keep his job.
"We need substantial improvement," Lurie said. "As I said, 8-8 was unacceptable."
While Lurie's directive on Thursday was perceived by a majority of the media as an ultimatum, he didn't flat-out say Reid has to win a Super Bowl to stay.
Would an NFC East title be good enough? How about a wild-card berth and the team's first playoff win in four years?
"I don't have a level or anything like that," Lurie said. "I just want to be clear about that. You just try to make the best judgment you can after the season."
It's impossible for Lurie to put a number on success because there are so many intangibles, especially injuries.
Suppose Michael Vick is injured for much of the season - he's already been hurt twice in preseason and missed three games in 2010 and 2011. That would change things. Vick's not the only one, either. An injury to All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy significantly decreases Philadelphia's chances of contending.
"I'm not going to make blanket statements," Lurie said. "I really wanted to try to explain to you that 8-8 was unacceptable. Yeah, I guess if two-thirds of the team is not playing, there are always exceptions. That was a really unacceptable outcome. I just want to reiterate that."
Lurie was so bothered by the team's record last season that he admitted a few days after the season that he seriously contemplated firing Reid. The Eagles never lived up to the Dream Team label backup quarterback Vince Young irresponsibly gave them and failed to perform up to enormous expectations. They started 4-8 before winning their last four games.
That almost was the final straw for Lurie, who is desperate to win the franchise's first championship since 1960. Under Reid, the Eagles have made nine playoff appearances, won six division titles, played in five NFC championship games and lost one Super Bowl.
All that's left to do is hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"It's a big emptiness because I feel like we've accomplished everything else," Lurie said. "It's kind of the one remaining situation, the one remaining goal, and I think we have the means to do it. It is just a question of if we make it happen."
Reid's contract runs through 2013, but Lurie will not give him an extension during this season. When Reid's agent, Bob LaMonte, told reporters a few weeks ago that his client would coach the Eagles for as long as he wanted, Lurie quickly denied it. …