Emotions will run high Sunday night when the Eagles line up against the Dallas Cowboys, as they always do in this bitter intra-division rivalry. But getting a win against the Cowboys is likely to mean a little bit more to one member of the Eagles organization.
Special assistant to the defense Brian Stewart, who has worked closely with the defensive backs in lieu of Sean McDermott taking over as defensive coordinator, was the Cowboys defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008. He was brought to Dallas from San Diego in 2007 by Wade Phillips, a man he considered a mentor, to run the defense. Stewart led the Cowboys to two straight years of top ten rankings in yardage allowed, but he was dismissed following the 2008 season, and was considered, by some, to have been made a scapegoat.
"He wants to win this one," said cornerback Sheldon Brown. "Obviously, we want to win them all, but this one means a little more.
"You'd be crazy not to think (this game means more for Stewart). I mean, it didn't work out there for him, probably feels like he was a fall-guy, one of the fall-guys. And I would feel that way too."
But what's even more important to the Eagles is the knowledge of the Cowboys scheme and personnel that Stewart brings with him. Having run the defense and worked closely with the players, Stewart has intimate knowledge of a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of the Cowboys' defense.
"All the coaches from the offensive side have talked to (Stewart) about the scheme," said head coach Andy Reid. Stewart "had been with (Cowboys head coach) Wade (Phillips) a long time. Wade has changed a couple of things up so we'll see. We'd be foolish not to utilize him. I know the defensive coaches have talked to him about the personnel on the offensive side."
"He was there for a few years, he wasn't there forever," said starting safety Quintin Mikell. "I'm sure there are certain things that he can help with, but I'm not going to throw those things out there. We obviously know that they know that he's here and the more that we keep up our sleeves we'll be fine."
Eagles fans will remember the effect that a coach with exhaustive knowledge of the opposition can have on the outcome of a game.
"You saw when (former Eagles assistant coach Steve Spagnuolo) went to the Giants it helped their offense tremendously," Brown said. "So I think if a guy really understands a system and what goes on, he can tell an offensive coordinator what the defense is trying to do."
In Spagnuolo's first game coaching against his former team as Giants defensive coordinator, the Eagles could only muster three points and Donovan McNabb was sacked 12 times.
"I don't know about a big advantage," said Brown, "but he knows the concepts and what struggles and what doesn't struggle within a defense. Now, with that being said, obviously they know what they're trying to match up against and do certain things, so he can't say, well they're trying to do this. But he understands the concept of the whole defense."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 11:40 a.m., November 6