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Stan Hochman: There's no dancing around it, coach Reid deserves credit for Eagles' resurgence

PREHEAT THE OVEN to 350. Then stick your head in it if you think you need to apologize to Andy Reid for anything you thought or said or wrote when the Eagles were 5-5-1 and their playoff hopes were on life support.

PREHEAT THE OVEN to 350. Then stick your head in it if you think you need to apologize to Andy Reid for anything you thought or said or wrote when the Eagles were 5-5-1 and their playoff hopes were on life support.

Just kidding. This recipe serves six, so invite five other guys who feel the way you do.

Brown six crow breasts in a skillet. Place them on an inch-and-a-half layer of sauerkraut in a casserole dish. Cover each breast with a strip of bacon and some chopped onion. Then add another layer of sauerkraut and bake for 2 hours.

The Eagles didn't just back into the playoffs, they moonwalked in. And then Reid outcoached Brad Childress from here to Minnetonka and the Eagles whipped the Vikings. Now they've got a shot, you should excuse the expression, at the Giants and a chance to move on to the conference championship where Reid's teams gagged for so many years.

Whose side am I on, anyway? You don't usually have to wait to the fifth paragraph to find out. Reid is a very good coach. He has to be, when you analyze the roster the personnel guy hands him each year.

You loved Buddy Ryan because he swaggered onto the scene, growling, "You've got a winner in town." You loved him more when he described his boss, Norman Braman as "the guy in France."

But Buddy didn't win a playoff game. Not one. And now Reid has won nine in 10 years and you still can't wrap your arms around him. Is that his fault, or yours?

Reid hasn't heard a Monday question he can't stonewall. He has been known to call for a pass on 16 consecutive plays, which ought to be an NFL record if it isn't. You're a blue-collar guy in a blue-collar town and you want to see smash-mouth football because it gets colder than a witch's snit in December. And there is Big Red throwing the football hither and yon to receivers who are stealing money.

Get over it. Remember when the Eagles started winning again and Reid seemed downright giddy at one of those Monday seances? My guess is that his agent called him that morning and read aloud the paragraph in his contract that says he has final say over all personnel decisions.

Reid wasn't going anywhere or having his powers diminished. The owner doesn't have the stomach for that kind of stuff. I just wish they'd schedule Jeff Lurie's press conferences at the Helium Club, which is where they belong.

In 14 years Lurie has learned where the good restaurants are, and very little about the rest of the town. His public-relations skills could fit in a thimble. Tells his hometown paper, the Boston Globe, that he wants Donovan McNabb back even though the quarterback has had his "ups and downs."

Forgive me while I gag at the negotiating gambit as McNabb campaigns vigorously for a new, richer contract. Reid says he likes the way Donovan is "managing" the game, which is the sort of faint praise you use on ancient guys like Kerry Collins or rookies like Joe Flacco.

Meanwhile, McNabb says he's played "great" this season. In hockey, they'd be checking him for concussion symptoms. He's been dancing on the sideline lately, in case you hadn't noticed.

Tell me, do you prefer that herky-jerky mashed potato to the politically incorrect Michael Jackson moonwalk he used to do. Is this a great city, or what, writers critiquing choreography, fans grumbling if McNabb smiles, if he scowls.

McNabb could have squelched the debate by quoting Muhammad Ali, telling us all, "I don't have to be what you want me to be."

Instead, we got Hamlet, in a town that doesn't dig Shakespeare. There he is, the Melancholy Dane in the euphoric aftermath of the Dallas game, moaning about how "they've thrown me out, they ran over me, spit on me, but I just continue to prevail."

Closest thing I've ever heard to the Prince of Denmark whining about "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Wanna see the scars? Just ask him. Man has a thinner skin than a Vidalia onion.

Then again, don't ask him. The man has been on fire since The Benching in Baltimore, playing his eyebrows off, aided by Brian Dawkins, a 35-year-old football-seeking missile, surrounded by hustling teammates who might have thought he got scapegoated against Baltimore. Buckle your seatbelts, grab your popcorn. I forget who said that, some cockamamie wide receiver who plays for a team in Texas. *

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