The Philadelphia Eagles need leaders to get them out of their current hole. Eagles fans like myself remember how great leaders like Reggie White, Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins could inspire the team to get out of anything. But these days, the best Philadelphia can do is have Jason Avant call out its undisciplined play, although it needs a lot more than that to get fired up - and Juan Castillo's firing can't do it either.
After the Eagles blew a certain win over the Detroit Lions on Oct. 14, Avant made his frustration perfectly clear. He blasted Philadelphia for its lack of discipline and protection, which most of us fans have been doing for the last six weeks. But he added that there is an attitude in "certain instances" of a "me before the team" mentality.
One can only guess at what and who those instances are - and we have two weeks to do so before the next game. But aside from who is causing this kind of attitude, the bigger question is who is going to get the Eagles out of it.
Andy Reid should be able to stop these problems before they fester, but he is doing a rather poor job of it in recent years. When Philadelphia had all its problems last season, it just kept boiling over until it looked like Reid had lost total control. A late four-game winning streak got it back and saved Reid's job, yet letting a second straight Eagles team collapse on his watch wouldn't help him save his job again.
If Reid can't get the Eagles under control, can any of his players? Avant may have called them out, but doing it this way might have been hurt Philadelphia more than helped it. In any case, the Eagles need one of their major leaders to answer Avant's call and lift the team back up. However, one has to wonder if they have players and leaders who can do that.
Vick has been more of the problem than the solution, so he can't be counted on to save the Eagles until he can save himself from getting benched. DeSean Jackson has been criticized as being a "me before the team" guy before, so he might not be an option either. And while Philadelphia has other stars like LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Nnamdi Asomugha, we don't tend to think of them as the reincarnation of leaders like Dawkins.
Someone such as Dawkins would have squashed this attitude before it started, or at least kept it from being this toxic - or so we would think. But there hasn't been that kind of leader in the Eagles locker room for some time. If there is one now, he is either keeping pretty quiet or hasn't been listened to - which wouldn't make him much of a leader to start with.
We don't know just how accurate Avant was in diagnosing the Eagles' mindset. If he was close enough, then Philadelphia is in trouble, since no one comes to mind that can help it right the ship. But someone like that needs to emerge or show up very soon, before comments like Avant's - and losses such as the one that triggered them - become much more commonplace.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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