Out of contention, Eagles say they'll still give Skins tough time

December 18, 1991|By Kevin Mulligan | Kevin Mulligan,Knight-Ridder

PHILADELPHIA -- A second straight Philadelphia Eagles season will fizzle out against the Washington Redskins Sunday at Veterans Stadium.

There will be no fourth consecutive postseason appearance for the Birds.

There will not even be another weekend of scoreboard scrutinizing and wishful wild-card thinking for the Eagles. Self-satisfaction, respect, a 10-6 regular-season repeat and incentive clauses will be the only things for the Eagles to play for against Washington.

The New Orleans Saints saw to that with their 27-0 Superdome victory over the Los Angeles Raiders Monday night.

The win snapped a four-game Saints slide and boosted them to 10-5 and into the playoffs. They clinched the final available NFC wild-card berth because of their tiebreaker edges over both the Eagles (9-6) and San Francisco 49ers (9-6).

"It's a shame, obviously," coach Rich Kotite said Monday night. "We were hoping our playoff hopes would remain alive and that we could do our part to still get to the playoffs by beating Washington next Sunday and by getting a bit of help from other teams as well.

"But I don't think this will hinder us from getting ready to play the Redskins. Hey, we still want to finish with 10 wins, and, like I said Sunday [after a 25-13 loss to Dallas], if you told me seven weeks ago when we were 3-5 and fighting all kinds of adversity that we were going to win six of our next seven games, I'd have been ecstatic. To finish with 10 wins would be quite an accomplishment."

Only a few Eagles spent a quiet evening at home watching the game. Most of the players attended a private team Christmas party and did not plan on being anywhere near a television. Tuesday is the players' regular day off.

Keith Byars, one of the Eagles' captains, said the elimination from the playoffs would not be a negative factor in this week's preparation for the season finale.

"They pay us to do a job, and we agree to do that each year," Byars said. "It's a 16-game schedule and if you play well over the 16 weeks, you get in the playoffs. They don't pay you to play 15 games, 14 games. They pay you to play all of them, and every time you're healthy enough to go out there on the field, you've got to give it your best.

"Anything less than 120 percent effort next week wouldn't be a winning performance, and anybody not willing to go out there and lay it on the line each time out, they don't need to be on this team.

"They're quitters and we don't need them. I don't think we have anybody in our locker room who's not going to come out Sunday at 4 o'clock ready to go full tilt.

"If otherwise, I think Rich will notice that and remove those guys from the team. I don't think we have any of those, so I don't think Rich will be faced with that possibility."

Byars thinks the Redskins, 23-0 shutout throwers against the Eagles on Sept. 30 in D.C., will bring out the best in the Birds.

"The Eagles are still going to play hard on Sunday," he said. "If there was nothing on the line. If both of us were 8-7 or 7-8 going into the last game, it would be a hard-fought game against the Redskins. If you asked us to come here in April to play the Redskins, one game only, with no preparation, we'd do it and we'd play our guts out. That's just how we feel about the Redskins."

Said center David Alexander: "If we were both 0-15, it would be a good football game. We're two teams that play tough and it's going to still be a good football game."

There were mixed opinions among the Eagles on whether 1991 was a success or not. When you consider the crushing losses of injured quarterbacks Randall Cunningham and Jim McMahon, among others, that the Eagles have a chance to equal last season's record can be judged as a remarkable accomplishment under the first-year head coach.

L Reaching "the next level" will have to wait until next year.

"Hopefully, we get that 10th win and can look back on it all later as being a successful season," Byars said. "The job is still not done. But I think we all have nothing to be ashamed of and we can all hold our heads up high, because we've overcome so much adversity on this team this year. More than any team I've ever been associated with at any level of football. We're still proud and came back working hard each and every Sunday, and never rolled over and died for anybody, even though we had every reason in the world to quit. All season long. Starting from the first game until now."

Alexander joined a handful of others in saying that success can be measured only by realizing goals, and this season's goal started with making the playoffs and taking it from there.

"There are no moral victories," he said. "A moral victory is a cliche you read someplace. If we had 14 wins and didn't make the playoffs, I'd see it the same way.

"The only goal we have in the NFL is to get to the Super Bowl. You leave the game limping, after surgeries, and with metal in your joints, the only thing you say you tried to do was get a Super Bowl ring.

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