Divided Eagles try to conquer Shut up, now they look to put up vs. Redskins

December 20, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles hope to prove today that Abe Lincoln was wrong. They think a house divided against itself can stand.

If they're right, they'll beat the Washington Redskins in a game in which an NFC wild-card berth is on the line.

Even though the loser will still have a shot at a playoff berth next week, both teams in this intriguing matchup want to clinch today. The game pits a Philadelphia team that usually talks a better game than it plays against a Washington team that usually plays a better game than it talks.

When Seth Joyner popped off last week and said that coach Rich Kotite is a puppet, owner Norman Braman cares more about making money than winning and that Randall Cunningham helped get Buddy Ryan fired, it was business as usual for the Eagles.

It just shows that the team is still divided two years later over Ryan's controversial firing and that many players think Cunningham had something to do with it.

It also shows that when Ryan was the head coach, the Eagles were more of a cult than a football team. The players loved Buddy. The problem was they didn't win a playoff game for him in five years. They haven't won one for Kotite -- or even made the playoffs yet under him -- but they still view him as an interloper.

Whether all this will affect the team's play today is difficult to say. The players didn't seem too upset about Joyner's comments. It happens all the time in Philadelphia.

"We're not afraid to speak our minds," tight end Keith Byars told the Washington writers. "We're not a bunch of robots. We have freedom of speech. We're not a bunch of 12-year-olds. Sometimes, you've got to be able to deal with the truth."

So does he think it's the truth that Cunningham got Ryan fired?

"I don't know. I wasn't in the room when it happened and I don't think Randall was, either, so I would say no," he said. Not a very convincing no.

For his part, Joyner held a news conference Tuesday to "clarify" his remarks, but didn't really back off of them.

"It's really important for my teammates to understand that I'm not trying to stir up anything," he said.

So is Kotite a puppet?

"That's in the past," he said.

On his suggestion that God punished Cunningham with his knee injury last year for his role in getting Ryan fired, Joyner said, "That is not my quote. My quote is, 'God works in mysterious ways. You do something wrong and sooner or later you have to pay for it.' That goes for me and everybody in this room."

While all this was going on in Philadelphia, the Redskins were their usual boring selves. The players know Redskins coach Joe Gibbs frowns on controversy, and they don't speak their minds.

What passed for controversy in Washington this week was Wilber Marshall getting upset at a reporter for asking him about the penalty he got for body-slamming Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek last week.

The only controversy surrounding the Redskins usually comes from ex-Redskins. Former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann has spent much of the year taking pot shots at Mark Rypien.

Last week, Theismann suggested that Rypien is a "scared" quarterback and that the Redskins traded their best quarterback when they shipped Stan Humphries to the San Diego Chargers.

"I wish I was still playing, because [owner] Jack Kent Cooke is a lot freer with his money now," Theismann said. "We expected to earn it."

Theismann is right about one thing. He wishes he were still playing. He's never gotten over the fact his career was ended by the broken leg he suffered in 1985. He also forgets that in 1984, Cooke gave him what was then the best contract in pro football after he had taken the team to two straight Super Bowls. Cooke didn't give Rypien the best contract in pro football this year.

Rypien is somewhat stoic about the criticism.

"It hurts when people you respect . . . take cheap shots at you," he said. "Joe has hammered me pretty good this year. . . . I don't know why. . . . I know Joe felt he had more years left [as a player] when he left here. He might have a sour taste in his mouth about that. Maybe some jealousy has kicked in. I really don't know."

Rypien does concede the defense has carried the team and he has to start making more plays. He figures to get his chance to do that against the Eagles.

With Ben Smith, who's been hurt since last year, Andre Waters and Wes Hopkins all injured, the Eagles are vulnerable in their secondary.

That means the Redskins receivers are likely to find some holes in that secondary. It's up to Rypien to hit them if the Redskins are to pull off the upset.

NOTES: The Redskins activated safety David Gulledge for the fourth time this season yesterday. He was waived for the third time last week when the Redskins activated rookie tight end Ray Rowe. To make room for Gulledge, the Redskins waived rookie linebacker Tony Barker, who spent the last eight weeks with the team and started two games. He's likely to go back on the practice squad.

Redskins-Eagles today

Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia. Time: 1 p.m.

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