Sielski: Eagles stumbled into right decision with Huff
Josh told us. That was the vital phrase. In explaining why the Eagles had released wide receiver Josh Huff, Howie Roseman wielded every last one of his rhetorical skills to bat away questions about what and when the Eagles had learned of Huff's gun and hi
Josh told us. That was the vital phrase. In explaining why the Eagles had released wide receiver Josh Huff, Howie Roseman wielded every last one of his rhetorical skills to bat away questions about what and when the Eagles had learned of Huff's gun and his marijuana and the circumstances of his Tuesday morning arrest. The franchise's power people had spent 48 hours gathering information, going through their process, and reaching the decision that was best for the Philadelphia Eagles, and early Thursday afternoon Roseman used those participles as shields to protect the secrecy of the Eagles' reasons for cutting Huff. It was like watching a ninja block punches from multiple attackers.
Still, there were those three words. Josh told us. That phrase was telling. It was the key, really, to understanding why - for all the mistakes that they made in handling this situation, for all the trouble they'd been courting this year in the player-personnel decisions they've made and the culture they've cultivated - the Eagles did the right thing Thursday by booting Huff from the building.
Delaware River Port Authority police, according to their report of the incident, had arrested Huff on the New Jersey side of the Walt Whitman Bridge at 11 a.m. Tuesday, and Huff had been at the NovaCare Complex earlier that morning. The NFL prohibits any player from having a gun on league facilities, even if he is legally permitted to carry one. And because they have outfitted the NovaCare campus with security cameras, the Eagles would have known exactly when Huff left and how much time had elapsed before his arrest, and they likely would have known those things when Roseman and coach Doug Pederson met with Huff on Thursday morning to tell him they were releasing him.
So Roseman was asked: Did Josh have a gun on the premises here before he left?
"Josh told us that he did not," Roseman said.
Josh told us. With that bit of attribution, Roseman made it clear that, unless Huff was keeping Carson Wentz-style hours in the film room, the Eagles believed they had cause to be skeptical of his story. Roseman is smart. As a lawyer, he's trained to maintain plausible deniability, to know exactly what he can say and what he can't. And if getting pulled over with some pot and a gun that Huff could legally carry in Pennsylvania didn't at first seem scandalous, the timing and ramifications of his actions were. The possibility that Huff had toted that weapon on to team property and violated NFL policy - and that the world now perceived that he had done so - was enough for the Eagles to deem Huff too dumb and dangerous to play for them anymore.
"I understand sometimes we can put the coaches and organization into tough spots," defensive end Brandon Graham said, "and that's probably one of these situations where they just had to make a choice."
That's the richest irony here: The Eagles made the right decision after months of making things so much harder on themselves than they had to. They had acquired several players with spotty pasts while at the same time turning the locker room over to Pederson, a head coach who, as a former player himself, has been inclined to let his men be men and hope they were mature enough to keep their noses clean. Yet Nelson Agholor had been accused and cleared of sexual assault, and Lane Johnson had been suspended 10 games for using a league-banned substance, and Nigel Bradham had been arrested twice - once on an assault charge, once on a gun possession charge. Those incidents are disparate in their natures and consequences, and the Eagles would surely be quick to argue that Pederson has everything under control. But when covering or following an NFL team, it's smart to apply the Iceberg Rule to off-the-field matters: Only one-eighth of what's really happening is visible.
Now, Huff. For too long as they deliberated over what to do, the Eagles kept their franchise leaders, Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie, silent and in hiding. More, they allowed Pederson to go full-father figure to reporters Wednesday, and they made certain everyone saw Lurie saunter up to Huff at practice and drape his arm around him - two acts that created the impression that the team would stand by Huff. Had Pederson been neutral in his comments - We're evaluating the situation, and I can't comment further - or if Roseman or Lurie had been out front first, it would have been easier for everyone to understand the decision and Roseman's all-important process. Instead, in justifiably releasing an expendable player, the Eagles managed to make their head coach look like a wet noodle.
Josh told us. It said everything about what the Eagles did. Hell, they could have avoided so much controversy, so many self-induced headaches, if it had been all they said.