The inmates are restless in Eagles asylum

October 19, 1990|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA -- The asylum is cleverly disguised as a locker room at Veterans Stadium.

It's the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, who may be the most controversial and inexplicable team in pro football.

When the Eagles complained after they started out 1-3 that they might play better if their coach, Buddy Ryan, was given a new contract, owner Norman Braman snapped back.

"The inmates won't run the asylum," Braman said. "I'll run the asylum."

The Eagles concede he's in charge.

"That's the bottom line. He's the boss," defensive end Jerome Brown said yesterday.

Defensive lineman Reggie White said, "I've been talking about that too long."

But there's still unrest.

Take -- he wishes somebody would -- Keith Jackson. The tight end who missed all of training camp and the first two games in a bitter holdout, smiles when asked about the asylum remark.

"That would make him the warden. I've never heard of an honest warden yet. That would make me a prisoner of the system. You can't argue with the facts," he said, jokingly.

Yet there's a serious side to Jackson's joke. He does consider himself something of a prisoner because the National Football League doesn't have true free agency. He's counting the games until his contract expires after the 1991 season.

"In two years, I'm thinking I'll get out of here. How many games do I have left? I've got 27 games," he said.

He's counting the 11 games left and 16 next year.

What about playoffs?

"I don't get paid for playoff games," he said. The players do get paid, but not their regular-season salaries, and Jackson sniffed and called the playoff checks a "pay cut."

Of course, there's no guarantee Jackson will be free of the Eagles in two years. Under the current system, another team trying to obtain him would have to make him an offer the Eagles wouldn't match and then give up two No. 1 picks.

"Hopefully, we'll get free agency by then," Jackson said.

Jackson, though, made it clear his beef is with management, not Ryan.

"We don't think there's a better coach out there. We want him here," he said.

They averted another crisis Monday night when they rallied late from a 24-15 deficit to stun the Minnesota Vikings, 32-24.

They hope to get to .500 Sunday with a victory over the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium.

The Eagles who two years ago overcame a 1-3 start two years ago to win their division.may have to make the playoffs to save Ryan's job.

Quarterback Randall Cunningham said: "Buddy is a player's coach. He's not a business-type coach. Buddy does things his way. He doesn't care what people think. We love Buddy."

Ryan, meanwhile, doesn't sound concerned. In his fifth season, his overall record is only 34-34-1, but he makes it sound as if he has won a couple of Super Bowls.

"I've done a great job here. I think my record speaks for itself. Somebody told me a couple of weeks ago that I'm the third-winningest coach in the franchise's history, and I've only been here four [actually five] years. I've got a good football team. We'll be there [in the playoffs] when the snow flies," Ryan said.

He brushed off the reports of problems with Braman.

"We get along great. He gave me an opportunity to coach this football team. He realizes I've done a great job. Who's done a better job in the NFL than we have?" he said.

When it was pointed out he hasn't won a playoff game yet, he said, "No, but we got there, most of the time they hadn't been there in the 10 years before I got here."

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