"I've got a good locker room, a good coaching staff, they're working hard and they're getting themselves ready for the Seattle Seahawks," Reid said yesterday. "That's where we're at. Every season presents its issues and you've got to fight through them."
Defensive end Darryl Tapp noted that the playoffs are still a possibility, however remote at 4-7, but even if they weren't, Tapp said, there is ample reason to play hard.
"First all, you're professionals. You understand that this is your job, this is the way you provide for your family . . . Second, we're still in this [postseason hunt] . . . [And] eyes are always watching you . . . You still have to put yourself in good position for this year and also for your next opportunity. No team ever wants somebody that's going to quit on a team," Tapp said.
This is new territory for Reid; his Eagles have never lost quite like this before. They were 5-11 in 1999, but that was the coach's first year, retooling around rookie Donovan McNabb. The subtext there was hope and promise. They were 6-10 in 2005, but that was the Super Bowl hangover year, when Mike McMahon had to take over after McNabb went out with a sports hernia, much of the rest of the roster got hurt, and Terrell Owens tried to blow the team apart. You figured the Eagles would be back in the playoffs the next year, with key figures healed and Owens banished, and they were.
The closest thing in the Reid era to what we are seeing now might have been 2007, when McNabb, coming off two successive injury-shortened seasons, was ineffective, the only real weapon was Brian Westbrook, and the Birds limped to 5-8 before winning their final three games, to avoid a losing record and provide a positive spin going into 2008. But the public focus then was more on whether rookie quarterback Kevin Kolb should replace McNabb for the meaningless stretch run. There was no serious discussion of Reid's future. Reid deflected everything, focusing as he is now on the faint glimmer of playoff hope. Then as now, even at their low point, the Eagles had not been officially eliminated.
Here is Reid on Dec. 10, 2007, the day after a 16-13 loss to the Giants dropped the Birds to 5-8: "Do I think the players are frustrated, and the coaches are frustrated? Sure, absolutely. On the other hand, you still have a chance. So, I don't see where the frustration would overrule your opportunity to achieve this week."
The fact is, Reid has been unable to count on consistent focus and adequate desperation from this team even when the season still really was salvageable. How does he summon it now?
"We're all blessed to be here playing in this position," middle linebacker Jamar Chaney said. "I don't think any of my teammates are going to go out there and take it for granted, and just go out there and go through the motions . . . You don't want to put bad film on tape anyway, so you're going to go out there and play your hardest; these last couple of games, you're going to give it your all."
That's two guys who eventually got around to the "play well for your next coach, here or somewhere else" rationale - which definitely is a pragmatic, individual, mercenary focus, removed from any notion of team or city. Or maybe that's too harsh.
"You play the game to win," said defensive tackle Derek Landri, who started every game last season for the 2-14 Carolina Panthers. "I don't care what the record is, how far you're down, how far you're up. You play to win the game.
"I really don't think we're out of it. I don't think we're there [at the point of hopelessness] yet. I don't think anybody on the team thinks we're there yet. I don't think people are walking around with their head down, sulking in the corner or anything."
Guard Evan Mathis has played for the Panthers, the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals. Like Landri, he has been here before.
"To succeed in this industry, you can't only be motivated by the carrot in front of you," Mathis said. "Most of the guys who last a long time in this game are guys who have a passion for the sport, and they come to work ready to put in the effort, put in the focus day-in and day-out, regardless of the situation they're faced with."
Mathis said that even if guys are thinking mostly about not putting bad work on tape, that doesn't hurt anything, it's good for the team, ultimately.
Mathis said there is a danger of players withdrawing into themselves, as losing mounts, "but I don't think we have that kind of locker room here. Everybody has each other's backs, and is willing to keep working together as we move forward."
The letter of the Laws
Defensive tackle Trevor Laws raised some eyebrows Monday when he told comcastsportsnet.com that after looking over film of the Seahawks, he felt if the Eagles played to their potential, they should win in a blowout.
Laws said yesterday he meant "if we play our defensive game, like we did against the Cowboys, like we did against the Giants, I think that we're going to have a real big victory. And I still feel that way. We haven't done that all year, no doubt, but when we do, I think it's a special thing, so I'm hoping we play our game . . . We play good, we're going to have a big win. I don't know what's so crazy about that."
Maybe the crazy part is predicting a blowout when you're 4-7, have dramatically underachieved and are coming off having been blown out? What's the advantage to saying anything?