I DON'T KNOW about you, but I prefer my crow medium rare. Feathers on the side.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. If that aphorism is indeed true, by the time the Eagles line up against the Giants Sunday with a trip to the NFC title game on the line, Andy Reid will have served the most cold meals since the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.

We did it again . . .

We fired a coach before his players fired him. And that's how it always works. When

putsch comes to shove, only the players matter.

No matter how many thousand Greenshirts decided it was time for Big Red to hit the road, it wasn't going to happen until guys named Dawkins, McNabb, Runyan, Thomas and Westbrook provided the body language and body actions that invariably point a coach toward the door.

It would be inaccurate to say that Reid has weathered the storm. Because the storm has weathered him. It was spawned in the Inter-Topical Conversation Zone, in newspapers, on call-in radio shows, in blogs, in sports bars, chat rooms, forums, all the places where Eagles talk is 24/7. It came ashore at the

NovaCare Complex headquarters as a Category 3-and-out, but it did not spawn there.

Oh, there might have been murmurs of discontent over the playcalling during the dreadful patch of football that threatened to doom the season, the Bengal tie that began a crisis measured in goal-line inches and red-zone feet, in call after call that seemed to defy football logic. Nobody could quite figure Andy's unwillingness to endorse a McNabb sneak on fourth-and-a-short-1 when the quarterback had looked like a tackling dummy all afternoon. And why so few running plays against the AFC's worst run defense?

But there was nothing I heard or read from the athletes that remotely could be construed as mutiny or even lukewarm sedition. Mainly, the athletes were saying quite honestly, "It's on us, all of us." And if that implicated the coaching staff, it was an honest assessment that caused even Reid to alter his own maddening modus of accepting 100 percent of the blame. No matter how many Eagles deserved singling out, special mentions and the kind of disdain Bill Parcells - the anti-Reid - seemed to delight in dishing out.

After the debacle in Baltimore against a Ravens team more than a million of us apparently took just a little too lightly, Reid said the coaches, particularly him, had to do a better job and - this was a breath of rare air - the players had to play better.

Of course, his second-half benching of McNabb had such a high reading on the Sunday sensation meter, even Gov. Rendell hyperventilated through the panicked postmortems.

A lot of people wrote and said - or shouted - it was time to blow up the longest running coach/quarterback success story in Eagles history. I was part of the mob ready to march on owner Jeffrey Lurie's upholstered South Philly Bastille, although I was torn at the time over whether to brandish a pitchfork or scythe.

Anyway, it was off-with-their-heads time.

But a funny thing happened on the ox-cart parade to the guillotine. The Eagles put a fearful physical whipping on the NFC West champion Cardinals. Then they physically mauled the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on a brutally cold day in the Meadowlands. The game was not as close as the 20-14 score. The dreadful Browns weren't even a passable speed bump.

The Birds' next victim was, well, them. The brutal loss to the Redskins in another one of those inches, yards and strange playcall nightmares wrested control of their playoff destiny from the Eagles' clutches, leaving them dependent on the kindness - or ineptness - of strangers.

You'll be rehashing what happened during the Brokedown Cowboy massacre as long as you draw breath, along with all the things that had to happen to make meaningful the annihilation of a Dallas team that came into the Linc holding hands with destiny.

But even if everything had collapsed like Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme and the Eagles had cleaned out their lockers a week ago, all the columns, blogs, callers on hold and the mighty voice of Eagle Nation was not going to move Lurie.

The Wal-Mart Board doesn't fire the CEO after a bad quarter. And Lurie is astride the Wal-Mart of the NFL. The Eagles might not be the gold standard, but they remain the brand most owners want to emulate. If 67,000 season ticketholders walked on Joe Banner, there would be a stampede by the 100,000 who would give up their first-born to take their place.

If the Pentagon wants to rapidly deploy a large force of men in uniform to a distant hot spot, just announce there is an Eagles game in Kabul. The Big Green One will be on the move.

Meanwhile, we need to lengthen our memories. We need to remember how earnestly thousands of us tried to run Charlie Manuel back to the hills of western Virginia. How did that turn out? Elmer BeFuddled became Elmer BeLoved.

Coach was unusually effusive during yesterday's Andy Twenty, ladling praise by the tablespoonful.

At 12:19 p.m., my wife said, "It looks like Andy is going to run a little longer today."

"Nope," I replied. "One more minute."

Sure enough, the voice of the PR monitor gave the Two More Warning. It was over at 12:20.

Damn, just when Andy was on a roll . . . *

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

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