March 28, 2016
Jeffrey Lurie and Chip Kelly clearly didn’t like each other during their three years together, but they do share an appreciation for brazenly and shamelessly lying to Eagles fans. They proved it last week with dueling insults to our intelligence.
Lurie, who should know better after owning Philadelphia’s most beloved sports team for 22 years, started the barrage of BS at the NFL owners meetings when he finally addressed the decision to hand all personnel power to Kelly last year, and then the coach topped his old boss with an hour of insulting revisionist history.
When the assault had ended, some questions lingered: What did these two men hope to accomplish by mangling the truth? Did they think the fans would suddenly look upon them more favorably? Or are both of them unwilling and/or unable to admit their own mistakes?
In his first media availability since naming Doug Pederson as the new Eagles coach on Jan. 19, Lurie finally acknowledged ex-GM Howie Roseman’s ascension back into control of personnel, but the owner accepted no responsibility for the disastrous 2015 season when Kelly was making the roster decisions.
"I think it was a necessary way to go to find out if Chip was the right guy, let him be responsible for all the decisions he wanted to inject and make," Lurie said. "No question I have it was the right way to dissect whether Chip was going to be the right guy going forward or not.”
In what world does a billion-dollar corporation promote someone just to see if he can do the job? Everybody knows Lurie gave Kelly the GM title because the coach demanded it. Has anyone forgotten how shocked Lurie acted when reporters questioned Roseman’s job status – five days before the owner suddenly demoted him?
No one expected Lurie to slam himself for the Kelly fiasco, but fans deserved better than the lame effort the owner made to cover his tracks. Kelly was another matter entirely. He embarked on a paranoid, premeditated journey into fabrication with a series of laughable untruths.
For example, Kelly still contends that he never sought personnel power with the Eagles, even claiming he never actually served as GM. He also said last week that he had no input on contracts, had relationship issues only with a “vocal minority” of players and oversaw an offense in serious decline only because of injuries.
What made this exercise in delusion especially interesting was the revelation that Kelly took pains before the NFL breakfast in Boca Raton, Fla., to determine how many Philadelphia writers were attending the event. His original intention was to limit questions just to his new team, the 49ers.
Instead, he strung fib after fib together, for no apparent reason. It’s not as if he has ever really cared how the fans felt. He has never been one to protect his legacy, either, Let’s not forget that he left Oregon while facing serious NCAA sanctions and Philadelphia amid even greater turmoil. Why lie now – or ever, for that matter?
It’s really very simple. Lurie and Kelly have never had any respect for the fans. Lurie speaks a handful of times per year, mostly pontificating about his leadership philosophies. Kelly talks only when required to by the NFL, often in wisecracks and riddles.
Neither Lurie nor Kelly has ever won a championship, but last week they both took their places among the elite in one dubious area – lying to the people who matter most in sports, the fans.
Everybody in Philadelphia – I mean everybody – needs to cheer in unison for Villanova as the Wildcats try to replicate their magical NCAA championship run of 31 years ago. They deserve their city’s full support.
Now, you wouldn’t think anyone would have to remind fans to get behind a team that is two victories away from a parade, especially in a city filled with putrid professional teams like the Sixers and Phillies. Unfortunately, Villanova is a unique entity. Even now, there are many people in their own city rooting against the Wildcats.
Days before the thrilling win over Kansas that put Villanova into the Final Four, I took call after call on my WIP radio show from fans saying they would never root for the Wildcats. Obviously, inter-city rivalries are a major reason for the snub, but clearly not the only reason.
Believe it or not, many fans won’t support the Wildcats because of an elitist image that swept the city when Rollie Massimino was coach. Despite his championship in 1985, Massimino is remembered as a smug ingrate who turned his back on the Big Five a quarter of a century ago.
Remember, it was Massimino who refused to schedule all of the Big Five teams from 1991 to 1999 because there was more money to be made in national games, more honor in facing Big East teams. To this day, even though Villanova recommitted itself to the Big Five 16 years ago, college-hoop fans here have never forgotten the snub.
The fact that none of the current Wildcats were alive when these seeds of discontent were sown has no bearing on the way some people still feel today. Not even the welcoming presence of Jay Wright – one of the most likeable people in the history of Philadelphia sports – has repaired the damage, apparently.
Well, it’s time for these grumps to get over it. Our city has a chance to win a major championship. These resilient kids and their classy coach have earned more than just a trip to the Final Four. They have earned our deepest hopes and our loudest cheers.
In this final season before they are actually a good team, the Flyers have become a puzzle, an enigma. They are fighting the good fight for a playoff spot, but they keep stumbling just when it appears they may be ready to exceed expectations.
Last week was a perfect case in point. Behind captain Claude Giroux, rookie Shayne Gostisbehere and born-again Radko Gudas, the Flyers grinded their way into the final playoff spot over Detroit with a series of improbable wins, only to revert to form at the worst times.
They lost a game to Columbus last Tuesday that will become a reference point for the rest of the season. Up 2-0 with 64 seconds left, they blew the lead and then lost (of course) in a shootout. After an amazing comeback victory over Colorado two days later, they suffered a crucial loss to the hideous Arizona Coyotes.
It’s easy to lament the stupid decision by Wayne Simmonds to shoot at the empty net in Columbus or the game-winning goal Steve Mason gave up in Arizona because his chin guard blocked his vision, but no one moment will define this season. The Flyers are not a bad team now, but they are not good enough. Yet.
The best news is that Giroux is finally acting like a captain, a tidal wave of new talent is about to arrive, and Mason has proven he can raise his game under pressure. Meanwhile, rookie coach Dave Hakstol seems not just to be learning on the job, but also growing with it.
Interest in the Flyers has grown dramatically this season, the first sign of a rebirth of hockey in Philadelphia. It would be amazing for this rebuilding team to make the playoffs this season, but fans should take solace in the fact that this is the last year, for a long while, when making the post-season will even be a concern.
And finally ...
• Am I the only one who cheered when Emmanuel Mudiay hit that prayer from just inside mid-court to deny the Sixers their 10th win of the season last week in Denver? This pitiful team deserves to tie the 1972-73 Sixers as the worst club in NBA history. I hope they lose every game the rest of the season.
• It’s looking more and more as if the District Attorney’s office will file no charges against LeSean McCoy for the bar incident on Feb. 7 that left two off-duty Philadelphia officers severely injured. After seven weeks, is it asking too much for DA Seth Williams to tell people exactly what happened that night?
• Andy Reid actually said last week that he knew Doug Pederson was ready to be a head coach by watching his offensive coordinator handle the media in Kansas City. And if there’s one thing Andy Reid knows a lot about, it’s handling the media.
• T. J. Ward was asked on the NFL Network last week to assess the Denver quarterback situation now that the champs have lost both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. The Broncos safety mentioned new acquisition Mark Sanchez and then burst into laughter, along with everybody else in the studio. It’s official. Sanchez is a punch line.
• Pete Mackanin is fining each player on the Phillies 50 cents for every bonehead play during spring-training games. Three weeks into the experiment, the Phillies manager had already raised close to $1,000. In other words, the Phils are going to be really, really awful again this season.