Eagles need to rebuild souring image

Eagles need to rebuild souring image
January 4, 2013, 5:44 pm
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The Eagles are out shopping for a new head coach. Its time. While theyre at it, theyd be wise to pick up a new identity as well. Its time for that, too.

Andy Reid did a lot of things for the organization over the last 14 years, but he never got enough credit for serving as the teams emotional and professional adhesive. Reid was the Eagles best and strongest bond. He held that team together. It shouldnt be surprising, then, that the Eagles immediately fell apart once Reid was gone.

Michael Vick wore a Kevlar protective vest for much of the season. After the Eagles ended their rotten 4-12 campaign, everyone in the NovaCare Complex locker room should have been similarly outfitted. Thats how many verbal shots the Birds took at each other without considering the fallout.

A quick review of the unapologetic in-house bickering:

Cullen Jenkins said the Eagles had no heart.

Jason Avant questioned whether enough guys bought in to what Reid preached, while Evan Mathis insisted that the Eagles dont have enough leadership.

Jeremy Maclin said the team had too many new faces that were used to doing things a certain way. When you come to a new place, Maclin said, you have to buy into everything coach is preaching, whether its scheme-wise or how you handle yourself as a professional.

LeSean McCoy criticized unnamed players for failing to lay it on the line and for having a lack of heart.

I think guys made a lot of excuses, McCoy continued. Guys maybe werent playing up to par. Guys werent focusing enough. Guys making money and not putting out. Guys were looking for excuses.

And then there was Vick, who denounced his teammates focus, dedication, commitment and effort in a spectacular screed. I tried to take the modest approach, Vick said when asked why he didnt confront the problem players during the season. I tried to lead by example. I held a team meeting and tried to help guys recommit. It was still the same thing over and over again. 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 Eagles just had their worst season since 1998. The roster is overloaded with underperforming players and bloated contracts. And the locker room is populated by finger-pointers and warring factions that openly argue without compunction.

Vick was right. There are always consequences. In this case, the consequence of having a bad team thats hard to like is a much tougher marketing job for the Eagles. The organization is now charged with selling a product that has spoiled to consumers who have soured.

The Eagles have always had a passionate fan base. That will almost certainly remain the case, though you wonder how the zealotry will manifest itself moving forward. Toward the end of the season, the usual grumbling and grousing about the Birds gave way to abandonment. It became relatively common to watch people flee Lincoln Financial Field in the fourth quarter of games that got out of hand which was most of them.

Compared to fixing the teams image and likability, finding a new coach ought to be easy. The Eagles arent numb to that. Jeffrey Lurie seemed fully aware of the locker room issues and how contaminated the chemistry has become.

I take some responsibility for that because I was right out in the forefront for Lets do anything we can to try to win a Super Bowl for the city and our fans. Lurie said. At times you probably had to be a little more self disciplined and say, Doing that and injecting that into the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, thats not the best thing to do. And yet, youre so able to do it because of whatever opportunities we had, maybe in free agency, that its kind of like indigestion. You have the capability of ingesting more and more but theres a point of diminishing returns and indigestion.

So true. It was tough season to swallow. Now the Eagles must eliminate the bitter aftertaste.

E-mail John Gonzalez at jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

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