In college, I had a great professor named Lynne Texter. Freshman year, she taught my interpersonal communication class. On the first day, we did icebreakers and other exercises, all of which were designed to help the students become comfortable with one another and build relationships.

The gist - and she'll probably kill me for the gross oversimplification - was this: Talk to people. Interact. Be human beings. It makes things easier. And she was right. (Also, she gave me an A, which makes those lessons seem especially brilliant in retrospect.)

Anyway, I don't think Andy Reid ever took Lynne's class.

When the season is over - whether it ends after the Dallas game or at some point following the new year - someone needs to sit Big Red down and have a long talk with him about communication. Because he's awful at it.

More proof on that front came last week. Lito Sheppard was standing at his locker not doing much. He's good at that these days. A bunch of reporters encircled him and asked what it was like to be well-paid furniture, and he regaled us with quotes for our notebooks.

But how had he gone from starter to afterthought? I asked Sheppard whether Reid had given him an explanation. Sheppard shook his head. What about Jim Johnson? Again, Sheppard shook his head.

A few days later, another Eagle spoke about being cast off. When Reggie Brown was asked why he had fallen so far on the depth chart, he said: "I don't know. That's a question you need to ask Reid, then you can come back down here and tell me, because I don't know. I don't get answers. I'm in the dark right now. I've tried to. I don't get answers."

To be clear, this has nothing to do with Reid's decision (or his motivation) to marginalize Sheppard and Brown. If he truly believes the Birds are better off without either of them playing significant roles, fine by me. It's hard to argue with the results the defense has had this year, even without Sheppard. And there's no one on the planet who thinks Brown should be running routes if the Birds can avoid it.

The issue here lies not with Reid's judgment, but rather with how he delivers (or fails to deliver) such important verdicts. Remember, before the start of the season, both Brown and Sheppard ostensibly factored into the Eagles' plans. Five months later, according to them, the head coach won't even explain why they've been demoted. Doesn't that strike you as terribly unusual? What kind of boss phases out employees without giving them the obligatory heads-up?

And if you think Reid pulls this passive-aggressive nonsense only on people he doesn't like, you're wrong. Remember, Donovan McNabb - the guy Reid drafted and built the franchise around - got benched in Baltimore by the quarterbacks coach because Reid was supposedly too busy to take 15 seconds to do it himself.

That's just weak. If you can't look your people in the eye and deliver bad news, how can you be expected to coach them, to lead them, to earn their respect?

Seems that the coach needs a coach for this stuff. I know a good professor who can help.

Alas, it appears my fantasy team is finished. While hoping you have better luck with your squad, here are some start/bench suggestions:

Start

QB: Matt Schaub, Brett Favre, Matt Cassel

RB: Steve Slaton, Thomas Jones, Kevin Smith

WR: Antonio Bryant, Wes Welker, Isaac Bruce

TE: Chris Cooley, John Carlson, Owen Daniels

Bench

QB: Eli Manning, Jason Campbell, Ben Roethlisberger

RB: Brandon Jacobs, Willie Parker, LenDale White

WR: Santana Moss, Mushin Muhammad, Santonio Holmes

TE: Bo Scaife, Heath Miller, L.J. Smith

Sunday Sixer

Last week: 4-1-1

Season: 45-31-7

Panthers +3 over GIANTS: If New York drops its third straight game, will Eli Manning's perpetually pouty face yield tears? My guess is yes.

| Jets -31/2 over SEAHAWKS: I don't know about Brett Favre making the Pro Bowl, but he's certainly good enough to whip up on Seattle.

TITANS +21/2 over Steelers: Two great defenses. Two great teams. I'll take the home boys getting points.

PATS -7.5 over Cardinals: When Arizona clinched the division, the Cardinals basically went home for the holidays. The Pats, meanwhile, still have something to play for.

Falcons +31/2 over VIKINGS: What are the chances that Tavaris Jackson has two good games in a row? I'm guessing not good.

Eagles -5 over 'SKINS: One team is on the upswing and continues to improve. The other is regressing at an alarming pace. Get ready for the final game against Dallas, Birds fans. It figures to be quite the clash.

According to Bodog, the odds that the Eagles win the Super Bowl have dropped to 18-1. Meanwhile, they're a 7-1 shot to win the NFC championship. Considering they were listed at 80-1 to win it all a little over a month ago, that's staggering. . . . I'm eagerly anticipating the Jan. 24 boxing match between

Danny Bonaduce

and

Jose Canseco

. Seriously. . . . Here's my favorite part about the downfall of Ponzi scam artist

Bernard L. Madoff

: Not only is he a Mets season-ticket holder, he's good buds with owner

Fred Wilpon

. They deserve each other, don't you think? . . .

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com