Like the majority of his paying customers, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie didn't see the end of Sunday's game, preferring to turn from the field in his private box and take an early elevator to the lobby level and from there straight into the locker room.
He made it safely inside by the two-minute warning, which is a lot more than you can say for the team. They endured the 45-17 beating against Tampa Bay until the last tick, kept their heads down through a tunnel exit still rimmed by the vultures of defeat, and trudged up the concrete ramp toward whatever fresh hell the rest of the season might hold.
The Eagles are Lurie's billion-dollar baby and he will be the last to admit he put it in the hands of an unqualified nanny whose self-assured bluster was unmatched by an ability to provide proper care. That is how things look at the moment, though, and even an owner always deliberate with his decisions must be fast realizing that this era probably isn't going to end well.
The loss to the Buccaneers didn't reveal any new failings by the Eagles, but it did collect them together in one handy package. For those who thought the home loss to Miami the previous week might have been the worst of Chip Kelly's tenure, this one knocked that over the fence and into the bleachers. Losing is one thing. Being embarrassed - through some combination of a lack of talent, preparation, focus or motivation - is quite another. When a team avoids contact, squabbles at one another, and lacks the discipline to have exactly 11 players on the field, that's not a team on the verge of getting it all together. Quite the contrary.
"We lost two games," Kelly said Monday with his ubiquitous shrug. "I think sometimes people panic and throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think we have a really good football team, and I'm very confident in those football players."
Whether Luries agrees, disagrees or is undecided is unknown. Overall, he always gives the baby the benefit of the doubt, but it is definitely sitting in some nasty bathwater at the moment. I think we all know what the baby has put into that bathwater. The question isn't whether the bathwater has to be changed, but whether the nanny who prepared the bath should be tossed as well.
That answer won't be forthcoming until the season is over, if even then. Lurie is still smarting from his dismissive answer to the question about Howie Roseman remaining as general manager, which he gave immediately after the final game last season. Lurie had to walk that one back almost before the smirk left his face.
So don't expect the owner to suddenly grow wings and fly decisively above the organization, pointing out what he does and doesn't like. He'll sit patiently on the nest, knit his brows in true concern, and eventually issue the sort of statements that accompanied the last three years of the Andy Reid era. "Improvement will be demanded." "Moving forward is imperative." "Another step back will not be tolerated . . . unless, of course, it is."
The good news, at least from a business point of view, is that no matter what happens the billion-dollar baby won't depreciate. That's the beauty of owning an NFL team. You don't run out of money, but you can run out of time. Leon Hess, the late owner of the New York Jets, once said, "I'm 80 years old. I don't want to hear about a five-year plan."
Lurie is a long way from there, but he's midway through the contract of his third plan, and it seems likely that Kelly will exit without a championship, as did Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid before him. When he bought the team in May 1994, Lurie was 42 years old. He's 64 now. How many more plans will it take?
This one isn't done and gone yet. Kelly could still revive the dream, but he will need a quarterback he doesn't have and will have to curb his penchant for acquiring players who are always hurt. He will also have to lose a little faith in his own ability to fit square pegs in round holes. If you have a smallish offensive line built for getting out in space, for instance, maybe signing a between-the-tackles runner isn't a good fit. That kind of thing.
Those are the thoughts an owner might have on the elevator ride downstairs after another game in which the vision of success became even cloudier. All might not be lost yet, but that game sure was.
It really is Lurie's baby, this football team. All he wants is to hold the damn trophy and ride in the parade and walk into the owners' meeting and have everyone clap him on the shoulder. Is that too much to ask? But now the nanny is belligerent, the bathwater stinks and people are saying he made a big mistake.
Lobby, Mr. Lurie. This is the lobby.