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Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles mirror Bucs' struggles of 2011

TAMPA — Mounting losses. A coach under fire. Struggles by supposedly star players.

Yes, this could certainly apply to the 2011 Buccaneers. It's also an apt description of this year's Eagles.

Riding an eight-game losing streak that is their longest in 42 seasons, the Eagles visit Tampa Bay on Sunday looking to end their nightmare. In the process, they'll encounter a Bucs team that, at this time last season, was right about where the Eagles are.

Tampa Bay lost the final 10 games last season, its longest such streak since 1977. The fallout was significant. Coach Raheem Morris was fired. Players were sent packing. Those who remained were put on notice.

If anyone can identify with what the Eagles are experiencing, it's the Bucs.

"The worst part is when you put your body on the line every week, you prepare as hard as you can, and then you lose again," Bucs defensive end Michael Bennett said. "It's just not a good feeling. You keep trying, but everybody around you, all they do is keep telling you why you should be winning or why you're not winning. It hurts."

Eagles coach Andy Reid, who has just two losing records in his 13 previous seasons, is learning that.

After winning six NFC East titles and reaching the NFC Championship Game five times, Reid is under intense scrutiny and is widely expected to be fired at the end of the season. In the City of Brotherly Love, where fans have an interesting way of showing that emotion, Reid has been vilified.

"When you're two months without a win in Philadelphia, it seems like a long time," Reid said Wednesday. "And it is a long time."

It has offered ample opportunity for constant speculation about the coach's future, which has become the sport of choice in the sports-crazed town.

It's the kind of thing that can have a noticeable effect in the locker room, where Reid is well-liked by his players; sort of how Morris was popular among his players in Tampa.

"It bothers you," Bennett said. "Those coaches are your friends. Some (players) are closer to their coaches than they are to their fathers. It takes a big toll."

The Eagles haven't won since Sept. 30. In the weeks since, none of their numerous changes — on the coaching staff, in the lineup and elsewhere — has produced a victory. And, like the 2011 Bucs, the drop-off was shocking given their encouraging start.

Philadelphia opened 3-1 with victories over the Ravens and Giants, before lapsing into this winless streak. Last season, the Bucs began 4-2 before their 10 straight defeats.

"There's a fine line between winning and losing in the National Football League," Reid said, trying to keep things in perspective. "It's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think."

The onfield struggles have compounded what has been a difficult season, personally, for Reid. His 29-year old son, Garrett, died Aug. 5 from what later was determined to be a heroin overdose.

"He's gone through a lot this year, and it's amazing how strong he's been through it," said rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who this week was named the starter for the rest of the season. "He's a man of faith. He's a great role model."

Said Bucs coach Greg Schiano: "Andy's a great coach and a great person. I have experiences with Andy that no one knows about. He did some things that are incredible. He's a great football coach and an even better man."

None of that makes Reid nor his team exempt from the ramifications of a horrible season. The Eagles already have fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin was waived last week. Quarterback Michael Vick won't regain his starting job, even when he returns from his concussion.

"Losing eight straight games is not fun," Reid said. "That's a miserable thing. But I know that through all that, I still love every minute of the game. I still have a great passion for coaching. … But I sure know that I sure don't like losing. That's not a fun thing."

Anyone associated with the 2011 Bucs surely could have told him that.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles mirror Bucs' struggles of 2011 12/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 9:29pm]
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