PHILADELPHIA — There were a lot of empty parking spaces outside Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night and quite a few empty seats inside the stadium.
Normally, both places are packed when the Eagles play. But the Eagles’ game against Carolina was not a very sexy matchup.
Both teams entered the game at the bottom of their respective divisions. The Eagles were missing their two top players in running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick.
Carolina won 30-22, leaving both teams 3-8.
Eagles fans have become disgruntled with the way the team has been playing under coach Andy Reid.
Former Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent, who was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame at halftime Monday, wasn’t surprised. He experienced a similar environment in 1998, when the Eagles stumbled to a 3-13 record under coach Ray Rhodes.
“It’s not a good time to walk out there before that kickoff when people are booing and the (paper) bags are out,” Vincent said Monday before the game. “The fans knocked down my mailbox when we were living in Yardley (Pa.). They must have vandalized my house every single day until we had to put up a brick mailbox. But once change was made, we won some football games and the city embraced us.”
Vincent was part of the foundation that paved the way for an impressive streak of Eagles’ success under Reid, however. Vincent and cornerback Bobby Taylor formed a terrific tandem that helped the Eagles make the playoffs for four straight seasons from 2000-2003 and reach three straight NFC championship games from 2001-03.
Vincent arrived in town as a free agent in 1996 after starting his NFL career in Miami. During his eight seasons in Philadelphia, he recorded 28 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and earned five Pro Bowl berths.
More importantly, he joined players such as safety Brian Dawkins, running back Duce Staley, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas in providing leadership for younger players such as quarterback Donovan McNabb, cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard and running back Brian Westbrook.
“Troy Vincent epitomizes the concept of high character,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said before the game. “Whether it’s on the field, in the locker room, his post-football career that’s been incredibly successful, he always carries himself with class.
“When we acquired Troy from the Miami Dolphins in 1996, I felt pretty certain we were getting a top-notch cornerback. I think we were absolutely true on that, but what I had no idea of, or no real appreciation of, was we were getting an incredible leader.”
One of the knocks on this season’s team is a lack of leadership.
The Eagles have a lot of talent but don’t have any take-charge players.
“I think it begins with production,” Vincent said. “You have quiet leaders, you have vocal leaders, but if you don’t produce, it’s hard to lead in any locker room. Just looking from afar, again, I’m a Sunday morning couch coach or whatever you want to call me now, so I see it from afar. I just see a lack of leadership. It’s a want, it’s a will, it’s a desire. You have to hold each other accountable in the locker room.”
Vincent, who currently works for the NFL, is hoping the Eagles continue to play hard for Reid, even though his 14-year tenure is likely to end after the season.
Vincen remembered going through the same scenario in that 1998 season, when Rhodes was dismissed after the year.
“I think his legacy speaks for itself,” Vincent said. “He’s the winningest coach in the history of the franchise. He gave us some exciting years. He never (won the Super Bowl), but he gave us quality football. I think he brought some respectability back to South Philly.”
Vincent and longtime Eagles ticket manager Leo Carlin became the 35th and 36th members of the Eagles Hall of Fame. The Hall also includes the 1948 and 1949 NFL championship teams.
Carlin, who still works in the Eagles’ ticket office, started working for the Eagles in 1960.