Eagles cornerback points finger at coaching staff
Column by Kevin Roberts
The Eagles were tight this season. They played tight, and thus poorly, when they found themselves in a must-win game. It started with the coaches, and trickled down to the players.
And now that the pressure is off, and everybody is loose, the Eagles are playing better and they look pretty good.
This was the explanation Sheldon Brown offered to reporters after Sunday's game. It's a jarring assessment, because it speaks to all the worst things about a team and a coach and group of players who will sit at home during the playoffs, wondering what might have been.
Brown was talking about how the Eagles were loose Sunday in an impressive 38-23 win over New Orleans -- a team that absolutely had something to play for. The Eagles, who had nothing to play for, turned in one of their best performances of the year.
And, why now? Where was this when the Eagles could have used it?
"We all played tight -- you know what I mean?" Brown told reporters Sunday. "The last two weeks it was like: Let's just go play ball. We should have had that attitude from day one."
Someone asked Brown why that didn't happen.
"It's a trickle-down effect," Brown said. "If the coaches feel tight, it trickles down to the players. They're like: Oh, I can't make a mistake. I can't make a mistake.
"Now the coaches are relaxed, the players are relaxed and we're having fun playing and that's how it's always been since I've been here. I don't know why it wasn't that way from the beginning."
We can debate the way this team has performed in big games, pressure games, when they were an elite-level team from 2001-2004. But the idea that Andy Reid has squeezed his team until it folded under the pressure has never been part of the discussion.
Reid has had a trying and difficult year personally, and it's sort of hung over everything. The Donovan McNabb soap opera has sort of hung over everything.
There was a lot of stuff muddying the waters this season -- everybody looking sideways at the head coach and the quarterback. That's draining, an oh-gosh-what-now feeling that gets in the way. And maybe that did create a pretty tight atmosphere.
In fairness, this is just theory -- and it certainly can come across as an excuse. The head coach gives off a vibe (or whatever you want to call it) and teams typically take on the personality of the guy in charge. If Reid was edgy and anxious this season, yeah -- that could trickle down into the locker room.
But the players can always just go play better.
Still, how many times have the Eagles faced an absolute must-win game this season and responded with a strong, all-around game? You'd have to say just twice -- a 33-25 win over the Redskins in Washington and the blowout over Detroit (mitigating factor -- they were the Lions).
No one expected the Eagles to compete with the Patriots, and they played a strong game but lost. Then in two definitive save-the-season games against Seattle and the Giants Dec. 2-9, the Eagles lost two heartbreakers.
It's been that kind of season. It's useless to look at what might have been -- there's no money in it. But it's hard not to.