The NFL coach who has done more with less is the Philadelphia Eagles' Dick Vermeil. In his third season, Vermeil has built a competitive team despite the Eagles not having anything higher than a third-round draft choice for five years.

Even worse, the Eagles got almost nothing in return for several of those high draft picks. For Roman Gabriel, who gave them one exceptional season, they gave up receiver Harold Jackson and first-round choices who became fullback John Coppelleti and standout guard Dennis Harrah with Los Angeles.

Also, the Rams used an Eagles' third-round choice for guard Dan Nugent, now a starter for the Redskins against the Eagles Sunday in RFK Stadium.

Linebacker Bill Bergey probably was worth what the Eagles paid the Bengals four years ago, two first-round draft choices and a second-round selection. In return, Cincinnati was able to draft two defensive standouts, Wilson Whitley and Ross Browner.

But quarterback Mike Boryla cost a No. 1 in 1976, who became Bengal wide receiver Billy Brooks. Then an administrative error allowed Boryla to jump to Tampa Bay as a free agent. The No. 3 choice used to acquire ancient John Niland became Cowboy starter Tony Hill.

Vermeil said the Ram team that beat the Eagles by two points on a 46-yard field goal in the final moments Sunday had 30 players who had been drafted on the first three rounds. There was added irony because Vermeil helped recruit the kicker beat him, Frank Corral, when he was head coach at UCLA.

The future-is-now policy Mike McCormack borrowed from George Allen but failed to deliver in Philadelphia is what Vermeil has tried to overcome. Some of us believed the Eagles would be much worse than their 9-19 record under Vermeil.

"You can only patch that dike so often," former Redskin Coach Bill McPeak had said. "Then it's all patches - and it crumbles."

But the patches still hold for the Eagles. They lost by more than 10 points only once last season. The defense during that 5-9 season allowed only 18 more points than the defense of the 9-5 Redskins.

It is possible Vermeil's Eagles will be similar to Washington's Caps, that when they improve the opposition simply will try a bit harder and still win.But Vermeil has nothing but high-round choices ahead - and the Eagle management that has watched him make chicken salad from chicken feathers insists a feast is not many years ahead.