Eagles bag trash talk, fly united to 2-0 mark Redskins unsettled for visit to the Vet

September 19, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles no longer talk about body bags and bounties.

"That was the last regime," coach Rich Kotite said last week. "I don't talk about body bags and things like that. I think that's ridiculous."

Kotite, of course, doesn't have to identify the last regime.

He was talking about Buddy Ryan, who has been gone from Philadelphia for three years, but still casts a large shadow over the franchise.

When the wounded Washington Redskins play the Eagles at Veterans Stadium today, it will bring memories of the last time they went there without Mark Rypien as their starting quarterback.

It's now part of the lore of this rivalry -- the "Body Bag Game" on Monday night, Nov. 12, 1990.

The Eagles knocked out more than a half-dozen Redskins -- including quarterbacks Jeff Rutledge and Stan Humphries -- en route to a 28-14 victory. Running back Brian Mitchell finished the game at quarterback.

Along the way, as trainer Bubba Tyer made several trips to the field to attend to the wounded, one Eagles player asked him if he had brought enough body bags.

That comment symbolized the trash-talking Eagles of the Ryan era. It was also the kind of comment that Redskins coach Joe Gibbs liked to seize on to motivate his troops.

Less than two months later, the Redskins returned to Philadelphia for a playoff game, beat the Eagles, 20-6, and cost dTC Ryan his job.

Kotite was installed as head coach and he has put a gentler face on the team. He even has a gag order in place to stop the bickering that used to be the Eagles' trademark.

"There doesn't seem to be all the infighting they used to have," said Redskins coach Richie Petitbon. "They seem to be more of a team."

At least, they seem to be after a 2-0 start that has stunned most NFL observers. After losing 11 players, including Reggie White, the Eagles were supposed to be on a slide.

Kotite even finds himself trying to dampen the enthusiasm, reminding everybody the team started 4-0 last year and didn't win the division title.

"We've only played two games. Let's not get too excited," h said.

Meanwhile, it's the Redskins who seem desperate. With Rypien out, they have to give Cary Conklin his first NFL start. They've got an unsettled situation at the critical left-tackle slot, where Jim Lachey is out for the season and Moe Elewonibi has been knocked out with a hamstring pull. Veteran Joe Jacoby, who lasted 21 snaps last week, is likely to start against Clyde Simmons.

The Redskins, coming off a disappointing loss to the Phoenix Cardinals, can't afford to drop to 1-2 going into their bye week.

"You certainly don't want to get into the position of losing two in a row in the division," said offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower. "That's the problem right there. You'd put yourself right behind the 8-ball."

Meanwhile, Petitbon is finding out why it's so tough to replace a legendary coach such as Gibbs.

Gibbs used to thrive on these situations when his team was an underdog. He'd play it like a violin, talking about how his team would have to pull together against all odds.

Take 1989, for example. The week after losing to a Cowboys team that would finish 1-15, Gibbs took the Redskins to Philadelphia with quarterback Doug Williams playing his second game after back surgery. Washington won, 10-3, with a conservative game plan that featured 38 carries by Jamie Morris.

Petitbon takes a different tact. He's more blunt than Gibbs. He talked so much about Conklin's inexperience last week that it was easy to get the idea he would much rather be defensing Conklin than starting him.

Petitbon even left the impression he might pull Conklin for veteran Rich Gannon even though Gannon didn't join the team until Aug. 19 and still is learning the offense.

When he was asked about pulling a starting quarterback, Petitbon said it's not his philosophy to bring in a new quarterback as if he were a relief pitcher.

"I believe your starting quarterback should be your quarterback until you decide to make a switch, and that's usually the next game or something like that unless the guy for some reason gets shook up or something like that," he said.

But until Petitbon sticks with Conklin in tough times, nobod knows what he's going to do. That's part of the uncertainty that comes with having a new head coach.

It all adds up to the first crisis of the Petitbon regime. How he handles it and how the team handles it may set the tone for his tenure as a head coach.

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