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February 01, 2016

Lyin’ Lurie still sees world through Roseman-colored glasses

When Jeffrey Lurie looked into the eyes of Eagles fans two weeks ago and urged them to trust him, he was orchestrating a charade that stands as the low point of his 22-year tenure as owner.

Now, more than ever, there is no reason for fans to trust him.

Although he gutlessly hid his intentions on the day he hired Doug Pederson as the new head coach, Lurie has restored full power over personnel to his most trusted lapdog, Howie Roseman. Forget the owner’s disingenuous new buzzword – collaboration. Roseman is back in charge.

Putting aside for a moment the idiocy of that decision, let’s consider why Lurie would refuse to tell the truth on Jan.18 when he was asked, repeatedly, what role Roseman would play in the post-Chip Kelly front office. Lurie had just announced that he was looking for a new head of personnel, and then he launched his deception.

In an Internet poll on my WIP radio show last week, I asked fans if they favored Roseman’s re-ascension to power, and 91 percent said no. There is virtually no issue involving the Eagles in which nine out of 10 fans agree. I know. I’ve been talking to them on the radio for 26 years.

"I cannot reveal [whether or not the new hire will report directly to Roseman]," Lurie said. "Because it would impact the ability we have to find the right people that we've designated in the search. . . . I don’t want to telegraph anything we’re doing."

When the questioning intensified over this hot-button issue, Lurie left open the possibility that the new hire would be the most powerful voice in the organization, other than the owner himself. Lurie implied that the hierarchy would depend on the credentials of the candidate.

What he was doing, we now know, is ducking the public-relations firestorm that Roseman’s official reinstatement would have created. There was no actual competitive advantage to hiding the nature of the new job; after all, Lurie would have to tell the applicants what the position was, wouldn’t he?

The only edge Lurie was actually seeking was one over his own fans, who blame Roseman for the first-round draft misses on Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith, among countless other blunders. Since Roseman assumed the personnel duties from Joe Banner, the Eagles have not won a single playoff game. He is a terrible GM.

In an Internet poll on my WIP radio show last week, I asked fans if they favored Roseman’s re-ascension to power, and 91 percent said no. There is virtually no issue involving the Eagles in which nine out of 10 fans agree. I know. I’ve been talking to them on the radio for 26 years.

The first sign that Lurie had deceived everyone came last week at the Senior Bowl, when suddenly Roseman was back out front, chirping about potential draft picks and yammering over the team’s future. Then word leaked out that the first candidate for the personnel job was Brandon Hunt, a Steelers executive who is younger and less experienced than Roseman.

The other names that have surfaced since then are equally unimpressive, a collection of nobodies from failed organizations like the Buccaneers and (ugh) the Browns. No top candidate would ever agree to work under Roseman, not after the ugly power struggle with Chip Kelly and not after Roseman’s office politicking became known.

Instead, Lurie has decided to go backward, to a personnel guy he can control, to an era when the owner was comfortably in charge of an organization that has failed to win a championship for 55 years.

“Trust me,” Lurie said. “As soon as we finish this search, accountability will be 100 percent.”

Well, at least we learned something during the depressing return to power of Howie Roseman. We learned that we should never again trust his boss, Jeffrey Lurie.


In this already turbulent and controversial off-season, the Eagles have gotten one thing right. They hired the ideal person to run their defense next season, a combative, thoughtful man named Jim Schwartz. Bravo to that.

I had the opportunity last Friday to talk to the defensive coordinator for 15 minutes on my WIP radio show, and I can never recall a reaction as positive as the hour after that revealing conversation. The fans don’t like Howie Roseman and aren’t sure about Doug Pederson, but they already love Jim Schwartz.

Most NFL fans remember Schwartz as the feisty Detroit Lions head coach who turned the ceremonial handshake between coaches after games into a near-donnybrook. Smaller and less distinguished than his nemesis, ex-Niners coach Jim Harbaugh, Schwartz still didn’t hesitate to confront his rival after an overly animated handshake.

What Eagles fans saw that day in 2011 is what they will see again in 2016, at least in the demeanor of the Eagles defense. Schwartz is a take-no-prisoners strategist, far more in keeping with the approach of beloved Jim Johnson than clueless Billy Davis.

When I asked him if his aggressive style was a perfect fit for blue-collar Philadelphia, he made it clear he wouldn’t be coaching for the approval of the fans. No matter where he has coached, his philosophy has been to attack the quarterback. His most recent stop in Buffalo two years ago produced the most sacks in the NFL.

Beyond his fan-friendly approach to defense, Schwartz is the kind of straight-talking coach the Eagles haven’t had since Dick Vermeil. He doesn’t crank out clichés like Andy Reid, or snap off one-liners like Chip Kelly. He can speak in depth about analytics, about schemes, about officials, and he even knows how to laugh at himself.

Schwartz said he recently was on the same flight as Jim Harbaugh, and they shared a chuckle over their infamous battle five years ago.

“Jim and I are actually good friends,” Schwartz said.

The new defensive coordinator is going to have a lot of friends in Philadelphia next season. In fact, he already is the most popular coach on the Eagles.


Troy Aikman is a Hall of Fame quarterback, so it made sense to ask him whether he would use the franchise tag on Sam Bradford.

“No,” he replied, without hesitation.


The top Fox analyst said on my WIP radio show last week that Bradford played well in the second half of the season, but not well enough to justify the $23-million or so it will take if the Eagles franchise him in 2016. It didn’t sound as if Aikman was sold on Bradford’s long-term health, or his leadership, or anything, really.

There is no more compelling drama involving the Eagles this off-season than the quandary over what to do with Bradford, but the real question in recent weeks has taken a new twist: What would the Eagles do without Bradford?

Mark Sanchez is a bad NFL quarterback. Seven seasons of interceptions, stupid decisions and butt-fumbles should eliminate him as a starting quarterback, here or elsewhere. And the idea of Sanchez grooming the next Eagles quarterback, the way new coach Doug Pederson did for Donovan McNabb, has no appeal to fans.

Equally worrisome are the comments emerging from the Senior Bowl last week by back-in-charge Howie Roseman, who apparently has fallen in love with North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz.

When Roseman starts gushing – “He has a lot of the things you’re looking for” -- beware. Disaster is ahead.

So what should the Eagles do? I still believe one more season of Bradford is the best option, though Aikman’s abrupt answer does provide something new to consider. If Aikman – who led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins – doesn’t see the potential in Bradford, maybe it is time to come up with a whole new plan.

And finally ...

Just when it seemed that Ruben Amaro’s legacy couldn’t get any worse, it did last week after Jesse Biddle – one of the ex-GM’s most valued prospects – was removed from the Phillies 40-man roster. Biddle was supposed to be the ace of the staff by now, but arm issues and hyped expectations foiled the plan. Thanks again, Ruben.

• Dave Hakstol has been the Flyers coach for only a few months, but already he has mastered a skill required by the organization – lying. Hakstol’s obvious deception over goalie Steve Mason’s groin injury last week was taken from the playbook of former GM Bob Clarke, right down to the bogus bluster with reporters. Hakstol may be a good coach, but he’s not exactly a charmer.

• Are the 76ers getting too good? After nearly shocking Golden State (44-4) Saturday night, the Sixers (7-41) need to remember that this season is all about Ben Simmons of LSU, not about a few extra meaningless wins. If the Sixers end up with something other than the worst record in the NBA, the odds of winning Simmons drop. So lose, Sixers. Please.

• Maybe it’s just me, but I have no rooting interest in Super Bowl 50 next Sunday. The Peyton Manning curtain call is already a tired story, and the whining over Cam Newton’s celebrations is downright annoying. The Super Bowl is just not as much fun without a villain like Bill Belichick to root against.

• Joe Banner was so thrilled with the below-market contract signed last week by Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, the former team president couldn’t resist expressing his joy. Ertz “will be sick when he finds out how much money he left on the table,” Banner Tweeted. You can almost hear his cackle of pride when he wrote it, can’t you?