Eagles need to rebuild souring image

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Eagles need to rebuild souring image

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

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).