Dick Vermeil goes along with the currently popular slogan in the business community: if something works, don't fix it.

He conditioned the Philadelphia Eagles to the blessings of the American work ethic three years ago and it brought the first playoff visit since the 1960 championship season. "We don't overpower anybody," he says.

Now Tom Landry is stamping the Eagles as the major challengers to his Dallas Cowboys in the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference.

The Eagles finished second last year to the Cowboys, with a 9-7 record, but Vermeil's enthusiasm to begin training camp was tempered by what he termed "the drug thing."

He was referring to the arrests of fullbacks Mike Hogan and James Betterson on June 29.

Hogan was charged with conspiracy to distribute concaine; Betterson was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Vermeil was reluctant to discuss the cases, except to say he did not expect them in camp although they have been released on bail.

Vermeil's espousal of hard work and long practices is not at all synonymous with glamour so those trying to get a handle on the coach's personality welcome General Manager Jim Murray's encapsulation.

"He looks like Audie Murphy and coaches like John Wayne," Murray says. "He's right off a cornflakes box."

Since Vermeil once worked for and esteems George Allen, attempts have been made to liken him to Allen, but Vermeil insists "I am myself; I don't try to be anyone else. I don't hold much back. What they see is what they get."

General Manager Murray says, "Dick is very American and old-fashioned, but he is also space age. He uses computers."

Murray recalled Vermeil being honored at a Marine Corps affair after being voted coach of the year. "He said to a Marine general, "I have only one regret - not having been old enough to serve in a Marine combat unit in World War II."" (Vermeil will be 43 in October.)

Vermeil knew what he was getting into before he joined the Eagles. "When we went after him at UCLA," the general manager recalls, "he said, "Why should I leave the best job in football? We have just won the Rose Bowl, I have just finished the last week of recruiting, and we're going to win the Rose Bowl again. Why should I go to Philly, with those fans?"

"He didn't know those fans were so hungry for a winner that they would give him a standing ovation if he won a coin toss. And they actually did.

"The standing ovations before games became routine after three straight victories - over New Orleans, Miami and Baltimore. This town was on fire. Our fans are critics but they're loyal. They hadn't had a winning record in 12 years."

Vermeil's first contract with the Eagles paid him $185,000 annually, $60,000 more than the $125,000 his former boss Allen was then making with the Redskins.

Two months ago, five years were added to two remaining on Vermeil's old contract and Murray says, "It would be easier to get the Liberty Bell out of Philly now." CAPTION: Picture, Dick Vermeil