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December 05, 2016

Jeffrey Lurie is learning one thing about Doug Pederson: Nice guys finish last

When the Cincinnati Bengals moved ahead of the Eagles, 29-0, on Sunday afternoon, the reaction of only one man really mattered. He was sitting in a luxury box at Paul Brown Stadium, a sports owner for 22 years and still adorned with no championship rings on his well-manicured hands.

Of course, his name is Jeffrey Lurie, and the whole purpose of this reboot of his Eagles franchise after three awkward years with Chip Kelly was the comfort of the owner. No longer would Lurie have to endure the Christmas-party snubs, the constant reports of his head coach ignoring the staff, the relentless tug-of-war for power.

Except, you have to wonder now just how comfortable Lurie felt on Sunday when his new coach, the affable Doug Pederson, got undressed by a Cincinnati team that is horrible by all measurable standards. In fact, the Bengals are so bad this season, before the game every single Cincinnati writer picked the Eagles to beat them.

Was there even a fleeting a moment during that 32-14 loss when Lurie questioned his decision last year to consider only head coaches who would nod their heads in his presence, only head coaches with “emotional intelligence” – the ability to handle people with dexterity and respect?

There are many things wrong with the Eagles beyond their 5-7 record right now, but there is nothing quite as screwed up as their owner. More than ever, Lurie is neither seen nor heard unless there is a crisis he deems worthy of his public intervention. There are no visits in the locker room, no state-of-the-team addresses.

On those rare occasions when he does speak, Lurie is a platitude machine, spouting profound thoughts on success in business, on management of a sports franchise, even on – believe it or not – the secret to winning. Based on the recent exploits of his team, he will be unavailable for comment on all those topics in the immediate future.

The truth is, Lurie made another dubious choice for head coach last winter, and for all the wrong reasons. What Pederson has shown so far is an ability to get everyone to like him, but often at the cost of respect. His players, almost to a man, quit on him against Cincinnati. There is no other logical explanation for that lopsided defeat.

Pederson’s coaching was atrocious against the Bengals. Wentz had his worst game in the NFL. If the defensive players – especially $100-million man Fletcher Cox – cash their checks, they should be arrested for theft. I wouldn’t just give the entire team an F. I’d demand a meeting with their parents.

When Lurie was sitting in that luxury box, how could he ignore the fact that his team had no desire to compete? How could he rationalize another losing season, another failed bid for the playoffs, another bad team? And worse, how could he justify the stunning regression of his new franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz?

During his weekly appearance Monday on my WIP radio show, I asked Pederson if he received any negative feedback from Lurie or GM Howie Roseman after the debacle in Cincinnati. Basically, the coach said they were disappointed, but were far more interested in seeking solutions than placing blame.

OK, then. Please allow me to help. Pederson’s coaching was atrocious against the Bengals. Wentz had his worst game in the NFL. If the defensive players – especially $100-million man Fletcher Cox – cash their checks, they should be arrested for theft. I wouldn’t just give the entire team an F. I’d demand a meeting with their parents.

And I’d save my harshest criticism for the man whose comfort was the top priority in hiring a new coach this season. If Lurie was at all comfortable when the score was 29-0 on Sunday, he has left us with only one conclusion to draw about the future of his team.

The Eagles will never win a Super Bowl while Jeffrey Lurie is the owner.


Has Bryan Colangelo been abducted by aliens? Is the Sixers GM in a federal Witness Protection Program? Where the hell is the man who was going to change the culture of our basketball team?

Last week, the Sixers had yet another pratfall in their four-year comedy tour of the NBA, postponing a game against Sacramento because of moisture on the basketball court. The problem itself – caused by unusually humid conditions – was not their fault. The way the Sixers handled it, however, was an abomination.

First of all, the Kings knew there was a problem at their walk-through at 10 a.m. – nine hours before game time – and yet Sixers CEO Scott O’Neill said he didn’t hear anything until 4 p.m. Then the Sixers managed to keep news of the unplayable conditions a secret right up until the contest was scheduled to start.

Thousands of fans who were there to see the exciting matchup between young big men Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins had no official word on what was happening until PA announcer Matt Cord told the crowd at 7:45 that the game had not been postponed – 17 minutes after Comcast Sportsnet in Sacramento had reported that it was off. At 8:03, the Sixers made the official announcement.

Through all of this, the master of communication, Bryan Colangelo – the man who said when he took over for reclusive GM Sam Hinkie that he would build a new atmosphere based on his openness and accessibility – was nowhere to be found, just as he has been for months now on every other issue involving his organization.

The Sixers understand that they have a disconnect with their fans that must be addressed; that’s why they just hired UFC PR wizard Dave Sholler to take over the communications department. But Sholler isn’t going to make any progress unless Colangelo becomes the face of the organization – which was the original plan, wasn’t it?

With Embiid blossoming into a superstar and a slew of other kids on the way, the Sixers have a chance to get back some of that excitement from the Allen Iverson era. They have a real chance to become relevant in Philadelphia sports again.

But first, Bryan Colangelo is going to have to talk to the fans.


On the very same week when Colangelo was ducking out of the spotlight again, his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, consented to an epic article in Sports Illustrated about his life after the Sixers. That’s right. The guy who got fired for not communicating with the fans finally did so, while his successor chose the opposite path. Go figure.

If you missed the Hinkie piece, here are a few of the highlights:

     • He has shorn his head to a stubble, grown a beard, and spends much of his time meeting with computer geeks in Silicon Valley, where he now lives.

     • He has a Fitbit watch that vibrates at the top of every hour between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., reminding him to assess if he made good use of the previous 60 minutes.

     • He thinks there’s more to learn when you study basketball games from the end to the beginning, rather than the other way around.

     • He advises his fawning zealots to “calm down” because he cannot fulfill their “outsized expectations.”

There’s much, much more along these lines, typically obscure thoughts designed to muddle the fact that Hinkie was a spectacular fraud in his three seasons here. For example, he now says he doesn’t believe in defining people by their records, though he still seeks the wisdom to win championships.

I must admit, I’m guessing on that last sentence because it’s hard, even in the hands of a skilled SI writer, to know for sure what Hinkie is saying. He still speaks in the style of that 13-page resignation letter, with literary references that read more like footnotes in a term paper than actual communication.

But there’s one shocking twist in the article that demands the focus of even the most dedicated Hinkie fanatics. The ex-GM now admits that one of his biggest failings was not communicating better with everyone from fellow NBA executives to agents to – yes – the fans.

How ironic is that? Sam Hinkie has finally figured out what it takes to be a successful GM in professional sports – right around the same time when Bryan Colangelo forgot it.

And finally ...

     • Paul Turner received his first chance to catch passes for the Eagles in a regular-season game on Sunday in Cincinnati. The too-small, too-slow wide receiver managed six catches for 80 yards in an otherwise dreadful loss. Turner is only good at one thing – catching the football. On a team notorious for drops, isn’t that enough?

    • You can add Cody Asche to the long list of busted prospects developed during the regime of the worst GM in Phillies history, Ruben Amaro Jr. Set free last weekend, Asche excelled nowhere defensively and hit .240 in four nondescript seasons, including .213 last year. “He’s going to be a darn good major-league baseball player,” Amaro said in 2015. Yeah, sure. Just like Dom Brown, Jesse Biddle and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Congrats again, Ruben.

     • Chip Kelly made it very clear last week that he has no interest in a return to Oregon, which recently fired head coach Mark Helfrich. The former Eagles coach said he is committed to the NFL. Really? Kelly is 1-11 in San Francisco. The real question is not whether Kelly is interested in Oregon. It’s whether any team is interested in Kelly.

     • Claude Giroux had one of the best weeks in his 10-year Flyers career. He ended a nine-game scoring drought with a big goal against Boston, beat Ottawa with another in overtime and wedged a marriage proposal in between. Is it unreasonable to wonder why he doesn’t dominate like this more often? Yeah, I guess it is.

     • Some of the Flyers players are openly complaining about a new fan tradition of erupting into “Woooos” during home games, a tradition popularized decades ago by pro wrestler Ric Flair. “It’s really starting to piss me off,” said winger Jakub Voracek. “What are you, 10 years old?” Uh, hello? Those fans are paying a lot of money to watch you play, boys. They fill every seat for every game. Shut up and play.