Phil Sheridan: For Eagles, home is where the boobirds nest
It used to be the other way around with the Eagles. During his first six seasons, Andy Reid was often asked to explain why his team was so successful on the road. His answer, in a nutshell, was that a good football team was a good football team no matter where it was playing.
It used to be the other way around with the Eagles.
During his first six seasons, Andy Reid was often asked to explain why his team was so successful on the road. His answer, in a nutshell, was that a good football team was a good football team no matter where it was playing.
So the Eagles who went 7-1 on the road in 2001 and 2003, that went 6-1 when their starters played in 2004? Those were simply very good teams. In fact, they were so good on the road, they were able to overcome relatively mediocre home records.
The 2001 team was 11-5, but just 4-4 at the Vet. In 2003, their first season at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles lost their first two home games in ugly fashion. They went 5-3 overall at the Linc but won the NFC East with a 12-4 overall record. In 2004, the Super Bowl season, they were 13-1 when Reid decided to rest his starters for the final two games. The only real loss was at Pittsburgh.
This year, the Eagles are a respectable 4-3 on the road, but no one is asking Reid for the secrets to his success. The questions are all about why the team has been so awful at home.
When Reid praised fans who traveled to Miami on Sunday – "It felt like a home game," he said – the easy joke was: Except for the part where the Eagles won!
Once they earned praised as road warriors. Now they earn puzzlement as home worriers. The Eagles are 1-5 at the Linc going into Sunday's must-must-must-win home game against the New York Jets. Throw in the three losses that ended last season and the Eagles have gone 1-8 at home over the last 55 weeks.
Apply Reid's own logic and the only conclusion is that a bad football team is a bad football team no matter where it is playing.
"We've just been playing terrible at home," tight end Brent Celek said. "It's something we've got to turn around, plain and simple. Especially when you play at a place like the Linc, with the fans that we have – it's got to be an advantage. We've got to use it as an advantage. We've just got to switch it around this week."
If this team was even .500 at home, it would be tied for the NFC East lead with a 7-6 record. Instead, to cling to slim hope for sneaking into the playoffs, the Eagles must win twice as many homes games over the last three weeks as they've won over the first 14. Of course, that translates to only two wins.
Celek didn't buy it, but there may be something to the theory that there is more pressure on this team at home than on the road. In Miami or Washington or the Meadowlands, the team can feed off the hostility of the fans.
The late Bill Walsh used to preach that. As he told the Daily News a decade ago, "We used to say it was 60 vs. 60,000. We exhilarated in the fact that we were all by ourselves, surrounded by the enemy. It was a matter of survival. We played up the fact that everyone was rooting against us. It made it like combat."
What the players face at home can be more like friendly fire. There are several multiplier effects at work here. That passion Reid and others praise is double-edged. It is just as powerful when it turns negative, maybe even more so. There is simply more pressure on players in sports-mad Philadelphia than in Seattle and Miami, the last two cities the Eagles played in.
But these Eagles face a unique set of circumstances beyond that. When fans at the Linc get riled, they are reacting not just to what is happening in the moment. They are reacting to 51 years without a championship and to Reid's 13-year contribution to that. So players who have been here for a few months or a few years are feeling the force of a half-century's worth of frustration.
When these fans boo a futile play call, they are booing 13 years' worth of Reid's play calling. When they boo Casey Matthews, they are booing Barry Gardner and Levon Kirkland and Matt McCoy and Dhani Jones and Mark Simoneau. When they boo a bad throw, they are booing generations of quarterbacks.
It is a large burden to place on players who are, for the most part, ignorant of all this frustrating history.
Of course, this year the fans are also booing a defense that has played soft and a team that has fallen miles short of expectations. These players have earned those boos honestly.
"We've got to prove to this city that we're a legitimate team," Celek said.
They have three more chances, two of them at home.