LANDOVER, Md. - The Eagles went out and saved the coach's job yesterday.
Unfortunately, it was Jim Zorn's.
Maybe Andy Reid didn't need to endure the Eagles' horrendously bad 10-3 loss to the Redskins, but Zorn, whose team had dropped five of its previous six, sure was able to use it.
While the Redskins were leaving skid marks as they fell through the NFC East standings, Zorn declared himself the worst coach in the league. He must be getting better, though, because he wasn't even the worst coach at FedEx Field yesterday. And, amazingly enough, the fraying Redskins weren't the worst team on the field.
"They were the better team," Reid agreed.
In the space of an afternoon, the Eagles went from a team that had its playoff destiny in its own hands to a team grasping at air. Their hands are as empty as their previous promise that they understood the urgency of their situation.
The Redskins, who aren't going to the playoffs and know it, were able to shut down the Eagles' offense. They were able to put together one drive for a first-half field goal and then punch the ball in for a touchdown after a second-half fumble.
Washington didn't accomplish more but didn't need to. If the Redskins had a most valuable player, it was punter Ryan Plackemeier, who kept the Eagles in poor field position. Once back there, Donovan McNabb and the offense couldn't find a way out. They went from 5 minutes, 50 seconds of the third quarter to 2:47 of the fourth quarter without even getting a first down.
"The offensive performance was terrible," Reid said. "It's very, very disappointing."
Perhaps it's doubly disappointing if the coach and the players had begun to actually believe their own babble about coming together as a team, building momentum, developing great chemistry and understanding what was at stake.
Yesterday's performance was an unfortunate reminder that it takes more to win than having everyone grow a beard, or having everyone jump up and down in order to get fired up. Sometimes that stuff is just whistling past the graveyard.
"Nobody cares about momentum. You think some other team is going to care if you think you got momentum?" cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "Each week is different, and it comes down to how you play and how you execute week in and week out."
Reid said he was perplexed by the performance because he said he sensed all week that the team was ready to play. And, he added, the players were wired up and excited before the game.
"It just didn't work out," Reid said.
That doesn't mean he wasn't right about the team's attitude. Maybe the players did think they were ready to play. Maybe they were hopping around like maniacs before the game.
What it means is that none of that garbage matters. Great teams don't need histrionics. They just need the football. The emotion comes later - after the win.
"It was just straight-up football," linebacker Chris Gocong said about the game.
Beyond that, what can be said? The Redskins played better, even though they had nothing to play for, and the Eagles presumably still cared.
And this is where they have put themselves: If the Buccaneers beat Oakland in Tampa next week, the Eagles are out of the playoffs regardless of their final game against the Cowboys. After yesterday's game, after tying the Cincinnati Bengals, after losing at Chicago because they couldn't rush for a single stinking yard when they needed it, you can't say they don't deserve this fate. They do.
"I guess we're paying for the mistakes we made," McNabb said.
They will continue to pay for them through a long off-season in which they can sit around and try to figure out what happened. It is a team with talent, a lot of it in places, but not a team that could play as a team for more than brief stretches.
"It's been one of them years," Brown said. "We had three games that I can think of when there was a big play at the end of the half against us. We tied a game. When we look back at some point, it's going to be like a blooper reel."
As it always does, the focus will come back to Reid and McNabb, and not without reason. The defense did its job yesterday and has done its job well for the last month. The offense was awful and the offense is Reid and McNabb, in that order. Just a couple of weeks after supposedly finding the value of a rushing game, the Eagles called 14 runs and 48 passes yesterday. Just days after extolling the virtues of making second and third reads in the secondary, McNabb became Checkdown Donovan once again, dumping the ball off quickly when his first option wasn't available.
It was all so repetitive and familiar that the outcome wasn't even a surprise. Of course, they lost. They are the Eagles. They can do anything.
Break out the razors, guys. You can shave now, too.