The (Real) Story of the Week

Yeah, the Eagles owners probably talked to Gruden. Sort of.

Reporters hate it when it is made public that they missed on a story that flows from a rumor. They hate it because a.) it shows they may have actually missed something; and b.) they have to do some work to backtrack it and find out if it’s really true—and reporters really don’t like to have to do that kind of extra work.

The story of the week? That the Eagles may have talked to Jon Gruden about becoming a possible replacement for Andy Reid.

With the details  leaking out all over the omnipresent Internet and the various Facebook accounts of at least one person who played in the NFL (and also for the Eagles), the team was forced to address the alleged story with a statement, which read:

“Early this morning, we received several inquiries regarding the rumors regarding Andy Reid and Jon Gruden. This was simply a rumor and there is no basis to it at all. It is simply not true.”

What was not true? It doesn’t really specify.

Did the Eagles talk to Gruden? Was Gruden in town? Were there any meetings are all between the two parties? Are the Eagles possibly just putting their ducks in a row by feeling out Gruden to see whether he’d be interested in coaching their franchise in the future? Those questions are still not answered.

Reporters, beaten on a possible blockbuster story, were quick to pile on the “ludicrous rumor.” Now, I don’t even cover the team on an everyday basis, but information came readily to me on this issue, like a cashier giving me change at the grocery store. And here is the backdrop:

Not many people know that the Eagles have about six minority owners. If you recall, many years ago, when Jeffrey Lurie first bought the team—and the price for the Eagles franchise back then was considered astronomical—Lurie solicited financial help from anyone who wanted to pony up. He took a million here, a couple of million there. Fresh cash, just to reduce the burden of his debt service. One of the most prominent minority owners is the CEO of First Trust Bank. Google him if you really want to know his identity. It is not important for the purpose of this discussion. Now, these minority owners really don’t have the power to make policy, but occasionally, they can be a pain in the ass with suggestions that result from the frustration of not winning a Super Bowl under the Andy Reid regime.

My information is that a couple of these minority owners are currently discontented and stirring around, investigating a few things on their own. Gruden, who was in town last week and staying at a center city hotel for some other Philadelphia-type business, just may have been the dinner guest of a minority owner or two—and maybe in the context of feeling out the former NFL coach and current Monday Night Football analyst, for a return to the sidelines where he would coach a team that wears green. Some people say that a rumor dies on the vine unless it is fed some water to make it grow. Somebody last week was doing some sprinkling.

Now, there is no way that Andy Reid would have been replaced this year. Gruden has said that he wouldn’t return to coaching this year because he like the MNF gig and it will give him some time to watch his son play football this year as a high school senior. He makes no declarative statements for the following year. The fact that so many people were willing to believe the Gruden connect indicates a certain dissatisfaction with the way this franchise is proceeding and in essence are putting Eagles management on notice that if things don’t change soon … well, you put it together.

What is soon? Here’s my view: if the Birds don’t play in the NFC title game next year, I believe that Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner and Howie Roseman, prodded by a few minority owners—but who may not need any prodding at all—will turn the page on Big Red just like they did with Donovan McNabb.

Enjoy the opening of Phillies Spring Training.