It could have been worse.

Andy Reid could have reverted to the ridiculous NFL Draft Day analysis that the Eagles were "in a situation where I feel like I have a pretty good football team coming back and I don't feel like there are a lot of holes where we'd have to force a pick."

That dubious deduction was the first giant step toward these low-flying Birds stumbling their way to the most disappointing and underachieving season of Reid's 9 years in Philadelphia.

With today's 17-9 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Eagles finished the year at 8-8, and they earned every mediocre moment of it.

But where Reid arrogantly entered the 2007 season proclaiming his squad was good enough, he didn't exit that way.

Not that Reid gave a full-fledged admission that the Eagles simply weren't talented enough to compare with legitimate Super Bowl contenders; he at least acknowledged that changes have to be made.

"Every season, we tweak it a little bit," Reid said of his thoughts on the Eagles' level of talent. "Right now, my hat goes off to the players we have now. I think they did a nice job.

"I know everyone won't be back because that's the nature of the NFL. We'll get on that as time goes on here, so tweaks will take place."

That won't be good enough.

This is not a "tweaking situation," not if the Eagles truly are interested in immediately bouncing back and getting into the upper-echelon mix of the NFC and the East Division.

Tweaking is for good teams like New England, Indianapolis, Dallas, Jacksonville or Green Bay, should they come up short in the playoffs.

When you finish 8-8, you are mediocre and mediocrity needs upgrading, not tweaking.

If Reid meant it when he said, "We're not satisfied by any means with not being in the playoffs," then he'll make the critical evaluation that he and general manager Tom Heckert grossly overestimated this team's ability.

The way this season played out, underachieving is the proper term for the Birds. Give or take a game, the Eagles were exactly what they were - mediocre at best.

Teams that "don't have a lot of holes" don't need to rally down the stretch just to finish .500.

So unless Reid is satisfied with again being midland, there should be no lingering irrationality remaining from that draft-day stance.

There are some lessons from history to be learned here.

When the Eagles, under Reid, have made serious upgrades -- naming Donovan McNabb the starting quarterback, drafting defensive tackle Corey Simon, signing Jon Runyan in 2000 and Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse in 2004 -- they stepped up to the next level.

When they've determined that they were good enough and only needed "tweaking," (see 2003, 2005 and 2007) they have either spun their wheels or stepped backward.

So, yes, it was a little frightening when Reid again alluded to the Eagles' mysterious string of devastating injuries as one of the reasons for failure.

There was no season-ending injury to quarterback Donovan McNabb to point to this year.

The Eagles had McNabb, the complete offensive line, superback Brian Westbrook, the wide receivers, defensive line and linebackers for the vast majority of the season.

The only extenuating injuries were those in the secondary, specifically safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Lito Sheppard. Tight end L.J. Smith also was hurt.

Maybe it's me, but I didn't see this "extreme" rash of injuries Reid's been harping on for much of the season.

They've gone a lot farther with worse injury situations in the past.

You don't want Reid to even contemplate walking down the "if we were only healthy" excuse road.

This team simply was not good enough.

Reid and Heckert must recognize that everything flows back to their predraft determination that they already had enough talent to make a strong challenge in 2007.

The shine from the miraculous 2006 finish kept them from seeing that they had collected fool's gold.

They have to recognize that this three-game winning streak to complete a mediocre campaign is an even bigger mirage.

Unquestionably, some of the younger players, particularly on defense, showed signs of high upsides, but the Eagles relying solely on the guys they have getting better won't catch a Dallas Cowboys team that has sprinted by them.

There are only two options - be aggressive and upgrade from what you have now or go to the rebuilding phase.

"Tweaking" didn't get done in 2007, and won't in 2008.

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Send e-mail to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/smallwood.