I don't know how Jeffrey Lurie pulls it off in a sports city as rabidly passionate and curious as Philadelphia. But as his team fizzles like an aging miniature light on a Christmas tree, the Eagles owner has found a way to vanish.
Maybe he doesn't ever leave the Wynnewood mansion except when he goes to the game by limo and is escorted to his private box by the Secret Service. I've never actually seen Lurie out in public, much less at the local Wawa squeezing off a 32-ounce French roast and grabbing a quick jalapeno-stuffed pretzel, talking Eagles football with the commoners.
He probably shops online, or sends his servants to Kohl's for those holiday bargains. And I get that. But gee, wouldn't it be nice if he could share in the misery of his customers a little bit? Would it be so difficult for Lurie to share - with a news conference, or a sound bite, or a newspaper interview - that he too is disturbed by this Eagles situation and he's staying up nights trying to figure out how to correct it?
I've seen Lurie boast plenty over the years. I mean, he's downright giddy in his "state of the team" address every summer, speaking of the gold standard and how the Eagles are pedal to the metal, or how they're all in and such. But when things go bad, he abandons the fans like supporters of Herman Cain abandoned their candidate. You don't like the product? Yeah, well, take that up the street. I've got your ticket and parking and concession and merchandising revenue, and a waiting list 50,000 strong fueling my venture capitalism.
And therein lies a problem.
Lurie and team president Joe Banner are aghast at the notion that they don't generate an abundance of goodwill. They blanch at suggestions that the Phillies have taken over this town. I had Banner on my radio show one day and at the mere suggestion the Phillies were thought of more kindly in Philadelphia, he snapped off his preseason football TV ratings, which dwarfed what the Phillies were getting for regular-season games. On a later show, he revealed a bleeding heart, saying he couldn't imagine what more his organization could do to please the fans - that they have tried to put the best team possible on the field and have every year tried to win a Super Bowl. But he apparently doesn't understand there's more to running a team than that. Banner went to that awful Seattle game - which was one of the biggest debacles in team history - then made himself unavailable for comment afterward.
When disaster strikes, all people want is a little reassurance from the folks in charge that things are going to be fixed and everything is going to be fine. If a dam breaks or an educational system goes bankrupt or dolphins get snared in a tuna net, the CEO has a responsibility to be out front with an explanation. All right, in the overall scope of life, a losing Eagles season isn't as big as a defenseless dolphin ending up in a can of StarKist, but to the fans,it's serious enough.
At the start of the season, Eagle Nation expected the Eagles to be contenders for the Super Bowl. Instead, they've won four and lost eight. And speaking of Dolphins, the Eagles go into Sunday afternoon's tilt at Sun Life Stadium in Miami as underdogs. At the start of this season, looking ahead to this game, who would have thought that? The Dolphins began the year 0-7! And the hits just keep on coming. Of the remaining four games of this woeful regular season, the Eagles likely will be favored in just one - the final game of the season, at home against the equally woeful Washington Redskins.
What say you to that, Jeffrey and Joe?
I guess the final four games of this season will determine the fate of head coach Andy Reid. I'm already on the record that the coach should go, no matter what happens. It's been 13 years, and that's enough time without a championship. Let's give someone else a try. I don't think the organization will take one step backward just because a new coach is at the helm. In fact, I think you can find an even better coach than Reid. And that new coach, whoever it may be, might actually make the returning players play harder and better because they will now be forced to impress a coach who really doesn't know them all that well.
These Eagle players have expressed their love for Reid, and where has that gotten them? Complacency and comfort, as we have seen in all walks of professional sports, do not a champion make. And besides that, as the chief architect of this team, Andy Reid has clearly made a mess of it in several different areas. But it's Jeff and Joe's call. And if Reid somehow manages to win two or three of the remaining four games, he's probably going to stay, and another scapegoat will be shown the door.
Rumors swirl about the state of the Eagles. The hottest national blurb is that Reid has lost much of his power to the higher-ups, namely Banner and handpicked general manager Howie Roseman, a stat geek who got the job despite having no discernible football experience. I have a difficult time believing that Roseman or Banner has overruled Reid on anything regarding football operations. I think that maybe they could have encouraged Reid to find better coaches coming into this season - such as Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd - but was Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator a Roseman or Banner call? I don't think so.
Immediately after the first-round drafting of offensive lineman Danny Watkins this year, Reid said that "Howie really liked Danny." Perhaps that statement was cryptic - it's possible that Reid was passing that pick off on Roseman. But the year before, was it Roseman who picked defensive end Brandon Graham when safety Earl Thomas was available? We knew long before Roseman came onto the scene that Reid doesn't place much value in safeties or linebackers. And that notion has played itself out this year. A lack of good linebackers and safeties has helped shape one of the worst Eagles defenses we've seen in a while.
The only area where I think Reid could have been bulldozed was in the selection of Michael Vick as the franchise quarterback. Reid loved Kevin Kolb; he and former personnel adviser Tom Heckert couldn't stop talking about how great Kolb was in practice and how he was going to carry the franchise for the next several years as maestro of the West Coast offense. And then, wham! It took a Kolb injury and seven really good quarters of football from Vick against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions last year to scuttle that entire plan. Reid had looked to trade Vick before that. Now he's the franchise, rewarded with a $100 million contract?
I can buy Vick being a Banner call because the controversial but immensely talented quarterback was sure to make the franchise more viable. And now, whether Reid is back or not, the Eagles are going to have to live with a Vick who gets more brittle by the hour, hasn't really grown as a quarterback like they thought he would, and - oh, by the way - is 3-8 since last year's home loss to Minnesota.
We're owed an explanation for all of this, no?
Hey, Jeffrey Lurie, the fans are whaling on that big brass knocker on your five-inch-thick oak door. Can you please let them in for some coffee and chat?