"Did the Giants win?"
No, he was told. Then McCoy asked what had to happen for the 6-8 Eagles to make the playoffs. Reporters offered him the road map: The Eagles need to win their last two games, while the Giants have to lose to the Jets next week but beat the Cowboys the following week. He let that sink in for a second and then said:
"Sounds like a lock."
Then McCoy smiled. It would be wrong to describe the 23-year-old as carefree, because he was as visibly and verbally frustrated as anyone in the Eagles' locker room when the team was digging the hole, week by week, from which it still really cannot see over the rim. But McCoy is clearly unburdened. He is very much about the moment. He is like most of them, if truth be told. For a typical player, the game is the thing and the rest is for other people to worry about.
And now he has surpassed the franchise records for touchdowns in a season, with 17 rushing touchdowns and 20 overall. The old records (15 rushing touchdowns and 18 overall) were set in 1945, in 10 games, by Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren.
"I guess it just tells you that I am a pretty good back who has an outstanding offensive line," McCoy said. "It's definitely a team thing. No back is going to score a lot of touchdowns unless his line is blocking and his teammates are blocking downfield."
The conversation is significant, even if McCoy cannot appreciate it. To break records held by Van Buren, a franchise legend, an almost mythical figure in black-and-white, is to do something that predates most of our memories. Next, though, is the franchise record for yards in a season. With two games remaining, McCoy is fifth with 1,274 yards. Ahead of him are Brian Westbrook (1,333), Wilbert Montgomery (1,402), Ricky Watters (1,411) and Montgomery again (1,512, the team record, set in 1979).
For a lot of people, Wilbert is not someone out of the mists of memory. Instead, he is the embodiment of a great Eagles era: tough and relentless, soft-spoken and dependable and uncomplaining. McCoy would tie all of the eras together if he could catch Montgomery - and that is true even if he himself cannot remember past Westbrook. Just this week, he said, he watched video of Westbrook catching screen passes to try to improve in that area.
"Brian has taught me a lot," McCoy said. "He didn't get that record but he is still a great back. I have so much work to do to even touch him in terms of being a running back."
McCoy has grown this year. Still a kid, he is nonetheless more thoughtful and humble in interviews with each passing week, it seems. He is putting up these numbers, and becoming known for his ability to make yards out of nothing, and maturing before our eyes.
And part of him scratches his head at 6-8:
"Yeah, I do. But you can't really dwell on the past . . . It confuses me sometimes, how we're in this situation. You think about the turnovers that have cost us."
And part of him is elated at 6-8:
"Still alive," he said. "It shows you the type of fight we have, knowing that we've got to win these last couple of games even to have a shot. Not even that - just having some pride in ourselves, to come out and battle."
It is complicated, it seems, except when Shady McCoy is actually playing football - away from the calculations and the permutations; when the game is the thing.
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