Eagles are failing … but quitters?

You’ll never convince me Michael Vick — or the team he is leading — is a quitter. If Vick were a quitter, he would’ve laid down a long time ago, maybe when he was in prison, maybe when he was a misguided child in a city everyone called "Bad Newz," maybe when people justifiably upset with his involvement in dogfighting bombarded him with hate mail and taunts and vows to never let him move beyond his horrific mistake.

You’ll have a tough time convincing me Andy Reid and Trent Cole and the rest of the Eagles are quitters, either. If you know football and the background of the players who play the game at its highest level, you know they’re not quitters by personality or resume. They’re survivors and thrivers.

So let’s stop piling on the so-called Dream Team, the biggest disappointment since LeBron James shrunk for three games against the Mavericks.

Over the past week, the word “quitters” has been tossed around too lightly in conjunction with the Philadelphia Eagles. San Franciscso’s Frank Gore accused Philly players of “quitting.” An anonymous Buffalo player opined Philadelphia has a lot of “quit in them."

I watched chunks of the game the Eagles lost to the 49ers and Bills and saw Eagle after Eagle doing variations of stupid — botched field goals, missed tackles, an offside penalty at the worst time, an eviscerated secondary, poor clock management and all sorts of mindboggling, what-the-hell moments. No doubt, the Eagles are a mess. They have failed their talent to this point; not to mention their swagger. They are 1-4 and on the brink of an epic fail. All of this is worthy of the giant dog pile going on right now.

None of this makes them quitters. Just because you fail does not mean you quit.

It’s more likely the Eagles have cracked. They have succumbed to the self-inflicted pressure and media-driven hype and a Philly fan base ready to be disappointed. Sure, call the Eagles chokers or panicked or distracted. But let’s pump the brakes on quitters.

The Eagles “didn’t want to play no more,” Gore said. Strange, considering the Eagles were in position to score three times in the fourth quarter of their 24-23 loss to the 49ers two weeks ago, only to miss two field-goal attempts and fumble a ball at San Francisco’s 32-yard line with just over two minutes to go. And the anonymous Mr. Bill told Yahoo’s Michael Silver that some Eagles “flat-out give up if things aren’t going their way.” Also strange, considering the Eagles roared back from a 28-7 deficit in that game last week and were 25 yards from a tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter before a tipped pass from Vick was intercepted.

The anonymous Bill is a coward. He should attach his name to his comment. Gore’s comment is clueless and classless.

"Quitting" is the most egregious sin a player can be accused of, worse than cheating or struggling or being a jerk. Quitting suggests you have no honor, you beat yourself, you handed adversity a "W" because you were too lazy to fight. Almost every triumph has included a moment of fail and then doing whatever the opposite of quitting is in that instance — digging in, trying, persevering. Doing so requires incredible lower guts.

So I am left wondering if media and players understand what exactly they are saying when they accuse the Eagles of "quitting." Or is an easy swipe at a beaten “Dream Team” just too easy to pass up?

Be careful, Frank. Double ditto for you, anonymous Bills dude.

Writing off Philly is dangerous. Maybe, Vick and Co. struggle to find the resolve to dig out from their unexpected hole. Maybe, though, they retrench and fight harder. Maybe they’re Rocky Balboa, a celebrated fighter from their shared city of brotherly love. Yeah — mostly because of Vick and the odds he’s overcome — I think the Eagles are fighters.

Learning to fight is a lesson learned only in dark moments, when something or everything has gone wrong, when success seems unlikely if not impossible, when “quitting” seems like a justified response. This is where the Eagles are now — 1-4 and playing the Redskins in DC this weekend.

This is where we find out if the Eagles are fighters.

Fighting has nothing to do with a pregame speech or the final scoreboard. Fighting is signing up for the full 60, no matter what comes. "I think all the guys are in." Reid said this week. As we like to say in Texas, he’s a-fixin’ to find out. If he is right, we will know quickly because quitting has distinct qualities and so does fighting.

Fighters protect their quarterback: Everybody looks like a quitter when the leader of your team is lying on the ground in a crumpled ball. The more Vick gets hit and knocked down, the more heads hang. Fighting is saying, “Nobody is getting to our guy on my watch.” This attitude has to come from the offensive line (feel free to show up any time, boys), as well as Reid and Vick himself. They are all responsible for keeping Vick upright, not the refs Vick foolishly criticized earlier this year. I do not know if the guy is any good or not, but I know he is getting killed because his coach has not put value on protection.

Fighters lead: This is really for Vick. A lot of people have gambled on him, mostly Reid. Again, I do not know if Vick is a good quarterback or not. But Reid’s job is on the line, there is some thought he might be losing the locker room and Vick should have his back. Absolutely Reid has a big bag of ugly on his 2011 resume, promoting an O-line coach to defensive coordinator, game plans from hell and having faith in Vick immediately spring to mind. So the QB kind of really owes him. This is not a speech. This is how Vick plays; like it is not just Reid’s job on the line — even though technically it is just him.

Fighters play their position. And well: Teams on the verge of quitting almost always have players talking about what another player is doing wrong. The secondary can’t cover because the front seven are not getting enough pressure, the quarterback is killing the defense with the turnovers, the kicker ruined everything. Do your job, do it well then and only then talk about others.

Fighters don’t apologize. They learn: The genesis of The Dream Team moniker no longer matters. Yes, it was weak to saddle them with it since it a) came from backup quarterback Vince Young and b) he did not exactly say that in the way it blew up. Who cares now? They have become the Miami Heat of The NFL, only much sooner. What they need to do, instead of backing away from the moniker, is embrace it. Be the arrogant SOBs who got theirs, but, this time, let that arrogance be evident in your play.

Fighters ball in the fourth: They are the anti-LeBrons. The game does not get too big for them. They do not beat themselves. They force the other teams to keep making plays. They force the other team to make a mistake. This is Rex Grossman and the bleeping Redskins. The Eagles destroy them on paper and should beat them on the field.

And if they don’t, I quit. I’m done defending them.