For a vast majority of players on the current Eagles roster, Andy Reid was the only man that they ever knew as their head coach in the National Football League.
That will obviously change in 2013 after Reid was dismissed on Monday. But the arrival of a new head coach, especially one who is replacing the winningest coach in franchise history, is more than just X's and O's. The new coach will bring with himself a leadership style that breeds a culture in the locker room at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles have been used to a winning culture during Reid's 14 seasons in Philadelphia. Reid needed to clean out the locker room back in his first season of 1999 and rid himself of the players who were not going to buy into his program and be a part of the foundation for success.
Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman acknowledged that the culture of the locker room had changed in the past couple of seasons. The Eagles were eager to win that elusive Super Bowl crown and strayed from the decisions that earned them six division titles over the past 14 seasons. That change influenced a chemistry which helped result in this past season's unacceptable 4-12 record.
"Until you get guys who are willing to better themselves week in and week out and want to win, you're not going to win," a brutally honest Michael Vick said on Monday. "And I haven't played with guys like that. It's unfortunate for coach things turned out the way they are. It could have been a lot better. This locker room could have dictated that."
Vick was not the only player to voice similar complaints. The question is why didn't he - as the quarterback and leader of the team - do more.
"I tried to take the modest approach. I tried to lead by example. I held a team meeting and tried to help guys re-commit. It was still the same thing over and over again," Vick said. "I'm not going to tell a grown man the same thing twice because the reason I ended up incarcerated was because people told me the same thing over and over again and I didn't listen. I feel like if you don't learn in the first go-around, you disregard it. You just deal with the consequences because there will always be consequences."
The consequence for the players in the locker room is that a new coach will come in and look at the players with a clean slate. If players don't get with the new program, they might not have a job with the Eagles next season.
"Sometimes having that subtle change forces guys who have been complacent, who have had jobs for awhile, now all of a sudden they have to re-establish themselves," center Jason Kelce said. "So every single person on the team is going to have to do that. And I'm prepared to do that now."
Running back LeSean McCoy cited a "lack of focus" and a "lack of heart" as reasons for the team's struggles in 2012. McCoy was one of Reid's biggest supporters, but even he acknowledges that a new coach will cleanse the toxicity of the locker room.
"You want to impress the new coach. Guys are going to want to show in their first impression that they'll work hard. I think it'll put us in the right direction," McCoy said. "I think guys will play a little different because it's something new."
The Eagles are not just changing a head coach. They are changing a way that business on the field and in the facility has been conducted. We'll see which players want to be a part of the new program that will commence shortly in Philadelphia.
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