The Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are playing Sunday for more than their fast-fading playoff hopes. This game has the potential to effect drastic change, especially for the losing team.

Eagles coach Andy Reid and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett are under immense pressure from their owners to turn around their teams' fortunes this season. Both teams are 3-5 and on the brink of slipping into irrelevance in terms of the playoffs.

Stories are surfacing about the Eagles pursuing Jon Gruden as a replacement for Reid and the Cowboys making a run at suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

Two people close to Gruden said he is itching to get back into coaching, but only if he can find a team with a top-notch quarterback and an owner who will let him have a strong hand in all football-related decisions, something he didn't have during his four seasons with the Raiders.

At this rate, it is conceivable that Reid and Garrett could be ousted at season's end.

Reid was put on notice by owner Jeffrey Lurie before the season after Lurie deemed last season's 8-8 finish "unacceptable." And Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has a history of being impatient when it comes to his coaches.

Gruden was the Eagles' offensive coordinator from 1995-97 before he joined the Raiders in 1998. He hasn't coached since 2008, when he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


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He has said that he envisions coaching in the NFL again. For now, he is content raking in millions from ESPN as an in-studio and "Monday Night Football" analyst.

You can bet Gruden would love a chance to inherit a talent-laden roster and see if he can help the Eagles go from playing "fantasy football," as former Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samuel termed the team's current approach, to realizing their vast potential.

In light of recent news that Payton's contract might be voided, there is speculation that he could wind up in Dallas.

This makes sense, on many levels. Payton's family lives in Dallas, and he coached there before taking over the Saints' top spot. Also, Jones is one of the few owners with the gumption to pay the kind of money Payton could command.

Lurie also might make a play for Payton, who once coached for the Eagles, as a means of ditching Reid, the league's longest-tenured head coach, and preventing Payton from landing with Philadelphia's NFC East rival.

  • Oakland native Doug Martin is making quite a name for himself after only eight games as an NFL player.

    Martin, who attended Saint Mary's High in Stockton, rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders last Sunday, joining Mike Anderson as the only players in league history with 250 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a game.

    Also, Martin -- a k a the "Muscle Hamster" -- is the first player in league history with touchdown runs of at least 45, 65 and 70 yards in the same game and the fourth rookie (along with Eric Dickerson, Billy Sims and Anderson) with 200 yards or more from scrimmage in back-to-back games.

  • Coaches and players talk all the time about working on causing fumbles. Here is a bit of advice: Stop talking and start watching Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.

    Tillman has 36 forced fumbles during his 10-year NFL career. Four of those came last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, with four players victimized by Tillman's ultra-effective method of punching the ball in a violent manner.

  • Most teams are only halfway through their seasons, yet four have matched or surpassed their victory total last season.

    The Indianapolis Colts are 6-3 (2-14 in 2011), the Minnesota Vikings are 5-4 (3-13), the St. Louis Rams are 3-5 (2-14), and the Buccaneers are 4-4 (4-12).

  • Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan caught a lot of flak for saying after last Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers that the rest of the season, in essence, was about evaluating players "for years to come."

    Shanahan, of course, backtracked on his comments. But, hey, what's another year without success for the man once regarded as the league's best coach?

    The Redskins are 3-6 this season, dropping Shanahan-coached teams to 106-100 -- including 1-4 in the playoffs -- since quarterback John Elway retired after the 1998 season.

    Worse, in Shanahan's final three seasons with the Denver Broncos and his first three with the Redskins, his record is 38-51 without any playoff appearances, this season pending this season. The Broncos won seven consecutive postseason games and back-to-back Super Bowl titles in Elway's final two seasons as Shanahan's quarterback.