Dana Pennett O'Neil | Family, not Eagles, are important.

So: Where's Andy?

THEY BURIED Eddie Griffin yesterday, his life cut short by a deadly cocktail of fame, fortune and alcohol.

His life screamed out for help at every turn, from the fight with a teammate at Roman Catholic High School to another fight with another teammate at Seton Hall, all the way up to his most recent dismissal from the NBA. Some people offered help; some looked the other way. Sadly, no one could reach him before his SUV crashed into a freight train and his body lingered in a morgue unidentified for four days.

As a parent, you can't help but feel for Queen Griffin-Bowen, Eddie's mother.

Or for Andy Reid.

On Aug. 13, Britt Reid stood before a judge and admitted he had pulled a gun on a man and had drugs in his car.

Ten days later, he was arrested again, allegedly under the influence at 4 in the afternoon.

The victim this time was a shopping cart.

The next time he might not be so lucky.

It could be he.

It could be someone else.

This is everyone's worst nightmare, your children falling apart in front of your eyes and, in his case, in front of the news media. I don't purport to know how he must feel, what he must be thinking, and, God willing, I'll never have to know.

What I don't understand is why, when his son was entering a plea agreement, he was going to an exhibition game in Baltimore - why, when that same son was in jail for another arrest, he was at an exhibition game in Pittsburgh.

At last check, those games don't count.

Donovan McNabb was barely there, spending more time guffawing on the sideline than playing. Surely, the Eagles could have survived had their coach chosen to stay home to be with his son.

Heck, they lost both games with him there.

No, Reid wouldn't have fixed anything had he stayed home. What is going on with Garrett and Britt Reid isn't their father's fault. Garrett Reid, 24, has pleaded guilty to DUI charges arising from a crash on the same January day as his brother got into trouble and awaits sentening.

Garrett is 24, Britt 22, adults fully schooled in what is right and wrong, legal and illegal.

They are, however, his responsibility, and they need his help more than Omar Gaither does. If that help consists of driving them to rehab and making sure they stay, of locking the doors to the house and throwing away the car keys, or of just being in the house all day, every day - if that's what it takes, they need it.

Addiction is not a game. It is a battle, and anyone who has watched a loved one spiral out of control knows how frustrating, painful and never-ending it can be. No doubt, Reid might want to throw up his hands and give up. No doubt, the people who heard Eddie Griffin say over and over and over again that he was going to get his life together grew tired of hearing the same lie.

But Andy Reid's football team will go on without him. No coach is irreplaceable. Reid can yell down to Marty Mornhinweg's office and find out about that.

Reid's sons might not go on without him.

And at the end of the day, Reid is a football coach. He sits at the podium at the practice facility like some sort of pigskin Oz, intimidating everyone with his glare, imparting only as much information as he sees fit. But he has no real sway over any of us, no power.

He's a football coach. His job is to win, and, as much as we in this city like to believe otherwise, the Eagles are not a matter of life and death. A matter of life and death is going on in the Reid household, and it has nothing to do with the season opener.

Should Reid take another leave of absence, or leave the team altogether, the worst thing that could happen is that the Eagles lose a few games, that a season of promise maybe becomes a little less certain.

And for those of you who like to paint your faces green, that's a bummer, but kickoff will still happen, even if Mornhinweg wears the headset.

The potential consequences for Britt and Garrett Reid are far more serious.

Just ask Queen Griffin-Bowen about the dangers of unchecked addiction.

Her son was supposed to be a superstar.

Yesterday, she buried him. *

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