"He built the defense, and it's still running," said linebacker Derrick Brooks, the NFL defensive player of the year and inspiring leader of the top-ranked unit in the league. "His presence will always be here as long as the team's built on defense."
New Coach Jon Gruden inherited a team that qualified for the playoffs three consecutive seasons. That doesn't happen a lot in the NFL.
"This whole thing reflects nothing but positively for Tony," safety John Lynch said. "Over and over, people want to talk about the differences between Jon and Tony because their personalities are certainly opposite. But so many of the lessons they teach us, the values and how you win football games and the way you go about that, are similar."
Eagle Coach Andy Reid and Gruden were assistants together on Mike Holmgren's staff in Green Bay from 1992 to '94.
"We were very ambitious," Gruden recalled. "We used to try to outwork each other and get a play in front of Mike Holmgren that he would approve and would put in a game plan. When it got called and it worked, we were like peacocks. Our wings were spread pretty good. We competed with each other in some ways for approval by Mike Holmgren."
Philadelphia lost in the NFC title game in St. Louis last season, 29-24, driving for the potential winning touchdown when a Donovan McNabb pass was intercepted by Aeneas Williams.
The year before, the Eagles lost in the second round to the New York Giants, who went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
That natural progression should put the Eagles in San Diego next week for their first Super Bowl trip in 22 years.
"I stood there and watched the celebration for a while last year after we lost in St. Louis," safety Brian Dawkins said. "It hurt. It hurt badly. I saw the way the fans were so happy for them. We want to do the same for our fans."
Tampa Bay wide receiver Joe Jurevicius rejoined the Buccaneers after going to Ohio for a day to be with his wife, who gave birth a month prematurely. Gruden said he expects Jurevicius to play today.
The Eagles have played only one other NFC championship game at Veterans Stadium, beating the Cowboys, 20-7, in 1981.
Former running back Wilbert Montgomery will be an honorary captain for the game. But before he goes out for the coin toss, Montgomery and former quarterback Ron Jaworski will reenact Montgomery's 42-yard touchdown run that ignited the win over Dallas.
"The place is going to be wild," Montgomery said.