THIS IS GOING to be a frustrating week to be an Eagles fan.
There have been several of those this season, yes. But now that the team is eliminated from playoff contention, everybody wants to look ahead, wants answers on what's going to happen. And until the season is officially over and team president Joe Banner and/or chairman Jeffrey Lurie break their silence about the direction of the franchise, those answers don't exist. Everybody's guessing.
Until we find out what management thinks, the endless rehashing of fatal flaws isn't going to tell you much you didn't already know. Here's betting you were already painfully aware this team missed the playoffs because it blew five fourth-quarter leads into losses with an abysmal red-zone defense, because it turned the ball over an NFL-high 36 times, because Michael Vick hasn't played up to expectations and tends to get hurt.
With a game left on the docket Sunday against the Redskins, nobody on the inside is even going to want to entertain questions this week about what needs to happen in the offseason.
Maybe you got a hint of that dynamic yesterday, when coach Andy Reid addressed reporters for the first time since the postgame locker room Saturday night in Dallas, when the Birds defeated the Cowboys, 20-7, but already had been eliminated by the Giants' beating the Jets. Reid said he hasn't spoken to Lurie about his future.
"Jeffrey's a competitive man, wants to win every game. I'm a competitive guy, want to win every game. That's kind of where our focus is. We haven't talked about anything other than that," said Reid, whose team is 7-8 going into the finale.
Asked if he has any doubt that he will be asked back, Reid, who has 2 years left on his contract, said: "I haven't even thought about that. My mind doesn't go in those directions. I control what I can control, and that's getting better as a football team. So that's what we're going to do, throughout this week."
Asked if he definitely wants to be back, Reid made a joke about how much he'd miss the press conferences.
Reid was asked if Juan Castillo will continue as defensive coordinator, assuming Reid continues as coach.
"You guys are in a different place than I'm at right now," Reid said. "I've got another game left to coach and get ready for. My mind doesn't go in any of those places. You guys know what I think of Juan. I know you have to ask that question, but we are focused completely on the Washington Redskins."
Maybe it means something that Reid, given several opportunities in recent weeks, hasn't said definitely that Castillo is his defensive coordinator going forward. Defensive end Jason Babin, asked yesterday on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" if he thinks Castillo should be back, said: "That's obviously not my call. Those guys upstairs, that's what they get paid the big bucks for, to make those decisions."
Maybe it means something that yesterday, when Reid was asked about wideout DeSean Jackson's comment Saturday that Jackson would return to the Eagles if it were up to him, Reid said only that Jackson is "playing good football right now. I'm proud of him for that," and not that he wants or expects to sign Jackson, a pending free agent.
But maybe all that was just Andy being Andy. We don't know.
As is his habit in all losing situations, Reid said he took "full responsibility" for the team not making the playoffs, but reporters were unable to pin down whether Reid thinks taking responsibility means he ought to be fired, or just that he ought to do better next season.
"I'll never sit up here and make excuses, that's not how I operate, so I'm not going to start now," he said. "I'll take full responsibility for that. I think we all expected - players and coaches - to have a better record than we have today. So that's my responsibility, and to say anything less, I'd be wrong saying that."
There seems to be a growing consensus that the Eagles' three-game win streak since they dropped to 4-8 on the first evening of December in Seattle means Reid will return, even though a franchise that insists it shoots for the Super Bowl every year hasn't won a playoff game since Donovan McNabb was calling signals, 3 years ago.
"That part's a disappointment," Reid allowed yesterday. "However, you get older as a team, so you put new players in. And listen, I've appreciated the growth that's taken place in some of the things I've seen. I have to do a better job at getting our guys to finish a game, win the game, and so on. And these are things we can work on, and I think we have. Those are important things we can take into the offseason, some of the things we've accomplished down the stretch here."
Some fans - and media members - don't like it that some players talked after the Dallas game about hope, about stringing together three victories in a row for the first time all season, instead of how upset they were to be eliminated. It's true that talk about how dangerous a playoff foe the Birds would be if they only had made it is pointless, and silly. But the players do have to line up again this week, and play a very physical, demanding game. Their season is not over. They ought to be allowed to grab ahold of whatever motivation they can muster.
It's also true that the crushing disappointment some fans felt Saturday was felt a while ago by many of the players. Guys who have been around a while know that you don't start out 1-4 and make the playoffs, you don't head home from Seattle in early December 4-8 and somehow find yourself skipping merrily into in the postseason a month later. Yes, it was fun to talk about how the stars seemed to be lining up for a few weeks there, but you don't blow as many chances as these Eagles blew and survive. The Giants dispatching the imploding Jets didn't shock anybody in the Eagles' locker room. The Birds' season died long before Saturday.
But the autopsy results are going to take a while.
Pro Bowl rosters will be announced today . . . Andy Reid said he plans to play his starters against the Redskins. He said a report implying that running back LeSean McCoy might not play because of the ankle sprain he suffered against the Cowboys was incorrect . . . Safety Kurt Coleman will finally get that biceps-tear MRI today. No hurry at this point.