Dana Pennett O'Neil | Despite troubles, Birds stick together

Posted: November 09, 2007

CHICKEN LITTLE hasn't visited the Eagles' locker room.

Apparently the puny poultry is so busy spreading woeful news around the rest of the city he hasn't quite made it down to the NovaCare Complex just yet.

Because inside the inner sanctum that is the Eagles, there is urgency and purpose, but the ceiling is intact. The sky isn't falling.

"No, not on this team, never on this team," tight end L.J. Smith said.

Ordinarily about this time in a spiraling season, someone starts turning on someone. When the wheels spun off the Giants last season, Tom Coughlin stood alone in the face of an all-out mutiny.

Four games into 2006, Terrell Owens screeched his way out of Lincoln Financial Field, distraught with and disgusted by his Dallas Cowboys.

Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones started the season opener and bolted 2 weeks later.

In Nebraska, Bill

Callahan is the only man in an entire state endorsing Bill Callahan for head coach.

Heck, the Flyers ran beloved Broad Street Bully Bill Barber from behind the bench.

It happens everywhere but in the building where the group lobotomy is handed out with the uniform. Say what you want about the Eagles' play-calling, offensive

ineptitude, quarterback, wide receivers, linebackers, secondary, punter, returners, cheerleaders, parking prices, concession options and de-inking of Signman (and wouldn't he be a welcome diversion right now?).

They do control the groupthink well.

The chances of finger-pointing among the T.O.-less Eagles are about as good as Andy Reid doing standup.

"We don't do that," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said (finger-point, not standup). "We don't whine or cry or point fingers or anything. We admit our mistakes and find a solution and we

correct it and move on. That's how we

approach things. We don't care who gets credit when we do well and we all take

responsibility when things are going poorly. We're 3-5 at the midway point, and

we've got a lot of football ahead of us."

Some might argue the Eagles right now more closely resemble ostriches, failing and refusing to see the disaster that is laid right before them. Their all-out refusal to confront the problem, critics would argue, is like an alcoholic failing to take the first step on the road to sobriety.

But the Eagles counter they aren't admitting

disaster because they still see a glimmer of hope. They counter with the 2006 season, an oft-mentioned revival these days.

Labeled roadkill after Donovan McNabb blew out his knee, the Eagles

instead circled the

Escalades and wound up in the playoffs while their rivals up the turnpike

imploded amid their


"We've been here before," Quintin Mikell said. "That's what we keep saying and that's the truth. Last year, everyone had written us off but it's crazy. Anything can happen in the NFL. We know we're a good team and we know the games we lost, we lost

in this locker room. Even though you look at the score of the games, we made mistakes. It's not like they whupped our tails. We made mistakes that helped them out."

The irrational among us, of course, want the quarterback benched, the coach fired and the answers to be found yesterday. But a day after McNabb did a poor job in conveying his portion of culpability - he didn't say he wasn't at fault, for the record. He just did a lousy job in explaining why he's simply part of the problem - the quarterback has the support of his teammates.

"If the rest of us were playing great and it was one guy all the time, we'd get on that one guy," Sheldon Brown said. "Donovan? People you know are going to do that because they drafted another quarterback and because of who he is. If you make all that money, you stand up there on the podium when we win an NFC championship and you get the credit for the Super Bowl, you've got to be willing to take the good with the bad. We know how it goes."

Ditto the coach.

Lambasted by a judge and now the subject of national scrutiny as both his team and his family life appear to be in a shambles, with people begging him to react or at least emote, Reid is actually being lauded for his flatline approach by his players.

"We can't ride the roller coaster," Mikell said. "If you do that, that's when you have guys pointing at each other,

giving up on plays and not giving their all.

"I really think it starts with the head coach. He doesn't get too up or too down. If you make a mistake, he'll let you know. But he doesn't come over and curse you out and that's something that filters down to the team. It helps in times like this, when it feels like everybody is against us."

The real issue is, this is all pretty new. Eagle-dom has long been spared the feeling of a listing ship, so it's understandable that quite a few people are interpreting a slow roll as an all-out Titanic.

But take it from someone who knows, says Smith. A Rutgers player back when Rutgers was the walkover game of the week, the tight end has been on a few sinking ships. He recognizes the swaying well.

He doesn't see it here, not yet.

Nor does he see anyone ready to call out anyone else.

"You have to police yourself," he said. "You can't control everybody else, just make sure that everybody is on the same page. What it comes down to, I have to

do my job. That's all I can control. You just hope everybody else takes the same attitude and in here, they do."

So there, Mr. Little. Go take your shtick to Miami.


"What do I take out of the Dallas game? Not much." Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, echoing the sentiments of an

entire city. *

Send e-mail to oneild@phillynews.com

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