WASHINGTON -- Buddy Ryan is gone, but he left the swagger behind.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who play the Washington Redskins today at RFK Stadium, still have the same boisterous, rambunctious image that Ryan gave them before he was sacked at the end of the 1990 season.
That's why today's pivotal game against the Redskins is such a fascinating matchup. It's more than a football game. It's a contrast of philosophies and styles.
The Redskins are defending champions and have won three Super Bowls since the Eagles last won a playoff game in 1980.
It's the Eagles, though, that are the swaggering team that speaks its mind. Even though Rich Kotite replaced Ryan a year ago, the Eagles still have an attitude.
The Redskins, by contrast, were molded by coach Joe Gibbs. They are a self-effacing team and act as if they're surprised every time they land in the Super Bowl.
When the Eagles got off to a 4-0 start despite the off-season death of Jerome Brown, they were comparing themselves to the 1985 Chicago Bears. Then they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-17, last week, and they responded by publicly second-guessing Kotite's strategy.
"We didn't play smart, and that's from the top on down . . . from Richie to the last guy on the roster," running back Keith Byars said.
Byars wasn't pleased that Kotite tried to run a hurry-up offense when the Eagles got the ball on their 18-yard line with 55 seconds left in the first half. Kansas City had three timeouts, and the Eagles took just 15 seconds to try three pass plays (two resulted in sacks) and punted. The Chiefs had time to score what turned out to be the deciding touchdown.
"The smart thing to do is sit on it," Byars said.
When Kotite was asked what he thought about being publicly second-guessed by his players, he said, "I don't worry about it. From time to time on this team, there have been persons who say things. The most important thing for me is to stay focused and do everything right. Those things don't bother me. If they did, I wouldn't be here in Philadelphia."
The brash Philadelphia attitude was displayed this week by defensive end Clyde Simmons. He has the enviable task of going against Mo Elewonibi, who makes his first start today in place of ailing Jim Lachey.
No platitudes from Simmons about how the youngster looks on film. Instead, he made fun of Elewonibi's name. "I don't know much about Mo . . . uh, E, uh . . . Elowopi, oh, I don't know how to pronounce his name," he said.
Meanwhile, Gibbs brushed off the Redskins' record against the Eagles. Washington is 10-4 in its past 14 games and 9-2 in the past 11 games at RFK Stadium.
When asked the key to the team's success against Philadelphia, he sounded shocked that someone would suggest the Redskins have had success against the Eagles. "Philadelphia killed us," he said. "They mauled us. They took our teeth out. There was an ambulance safari coming by me. That's what I remember."
He was talking about the 1990 "Body Bag" game when the Eagles knocked out several players, including two quarterbacks, a 28-14 victory that is part of the lore of the rivalry. During the game, one of the Eagles asked if the Redskins had brought enough body bags for all their injured players.
Gibbs skips over the Redskins' winning the rematch in the playoffs, 20-6, that year, a loss that cost Ryan his job. "We've had some good battles," Gibbs said. "We've eked out a few, and they've eked out a few, but they've run over us. I think everybody in the league thinks they're the premier team, at least on this side [NFC]. I think they've got to be the favorites, aren't they."
Gibbs cries wolf so often that it's easy to laugh at his poor mouthing, but, even though the Redskins are slightly favored this week, they have some real problems.
They'll be blocking one of the best defensive lines with a makeshift offensive line. They're missing both Lachey and Jeff Bostic, and Ed Simmons had back spasms on Thursday and the Redskins are keeping their fingers crossed that he'll be ready.
The Redskins can't give Elewonibi a lot of help against Simmons, either, because they have to worry about Reggie White on the other side.
On offense, the Eagles have quarterback Randall Cunningham and running back Herschel Walker. Cunningham, who's made a remarkable comeback from knee surgery last year, needs 31 yards in scrambling to eclipse Fran Tarkenton's record of 3,674 yards rushing for a quarterback.
The Redskins have had fairly good success containing Cunningham in the pocket. But now he has Walker as a running threat.