Owning up: Eagles coaching search in inexperienced hands

In the chaotic week following the ouster of Andy Reid, one major problem has emerged for the Eagles. It has a name. Jeff Lurie.

First, the owner gushed his way through an embarrassing news conference that seemed more like an induction ceremony for Reid than a firing, and then the real trouble began. Flanked by his clueless GM Howie Roseman, Lurie embarked on a coaching search that is confirming our worst fears.

If fans were put off by Lurie’s gee-whiz style, can you imagine the reaction of a coaching candidate after hours and hours of his mindless prattle in an interview? Lurie’s top two choices, Bill O’Brien of Penn State and Chip Kelly of Oregon, decided to stay in college after marathon sessions with the owner. What a surprise.

Kelly’s decision was especially revealing, since he had Lurie and his former best pal, Joe Banner, in a bidding war for his totally unproven NFL services. After a combined 16 hours of talks with Lurie, Roseman and Banner — representing his new team, Cleveland — Kelly walked away from at least $25 million.

Although the Eagles will never admit it, the loss of Kelly was a major blow. Just go back to Lurie’s original description of his ideal coach: “I’m looking for someone that’s innovative. Somebody that is not afraid to take risks.” No one filled those mandates better than Kelly.

Even worse, the misfire proved that the Eagles lack someone with football gravitas, someone who can speak the special language of the game — and someone who would make a five-year contract seem like a great opportunity, not a prison sentence.

The first time Lurie conducted a coaching search was 1995, when his top choice was Dick Vermeil, a Philly icon pondering a return after a 12-year hiatus. Vermeil rejected the offer because he was worried about the lack of football experience in the front office. Eighteen years later, nothing has changed.

So the big question is, who will look past Lurie’s shortcomings and replace Reid? Mike McCoy seems like the most promising choice, if for no other reason than what he could do to develop Nick Foles into a top quarterback. Bruce Arians is the most interesting name, because of his Temple connection and his exceptional work in Indianapolis.

Sadly, it is already becoming clear that the Eagles will need more than a new head coach in the seasons ahead. They will need a miracle worker who can overcome not just the 31 other NFL teams, but also the court jester looking down from his ivory tower, Jeff Lurie.

Reid provides final insult to Eagles fans

In the end, Andy Reid didn’t even bother to say goodbye. After 14 years of pretending he cared about Philadelphia, the former Eagles coach abruptly called off his parting news conference last week and launched his four-day campaign for another job. It was one final middle finger to a city that supported his team with their money and their hearts.

When he resurfaced in Kansas City, lucrative new contract in hand, he actually had the audacity to praise the Eagles and their fans during his introductory news conference yesterday — 1,128 miles away. He called Philadelphia “tremendous” and then held a conference call with the local media. Sorry, Andy. Far too little, far too late.

People who believe Reid gave everything required of a head coach during his 14-year run here have very low standards. Given the choice between honesty and blind allegiance to his players, Reid always chose the latter. That really wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that he never made any effort to inform the same fan base that he praised so lavishly.

Need an example of a coach who does both? How about a man who worked for Reid, John Harbaugh? Somehow he answers questions without lapsing into mantras like “gotta do a better job” and “take full responsibility.” Harbaugh actually respects the people paying his salary. Reid never did.

Reid’s final snub was especially revealing because it represented his one true opportunity to communicate honestly with the fans. Even a dolt like Rich Kotite attended his goodbye news conference, and Ray Rhodes actually took calls from the fans on his radio show the day he was fired. Unlike Reid, Rhodes knew he would never get another head-coaching job, and still he showed up.

Bettman needs to leave hockey

The long nightmare is over for hockey fans. The NHL will return later this month after the most ridiculous lockout in history. Faced with a crisis entirely of his own making, Commissioner Gary Bettman finally released the hostages Sunday morning.

If you’re waiting for some expression of joy, sorry. I am thrilled for the incredibly loyal hockey fans of our city – less than 200 cancelled season tickets — but my celebration will begin only when Bettman takes his sourpuss and leaves the sport.

The most amazing part of this four-month shutdown is how few people thought it was a good idea. Players made major concessions, a majority of the owners were ready to sign on the dotted line before the leaves turned color and fans were starved for their favorite pastime. There was no philosophical dispute. It was all about money.

Bettman orchestrated this fiasco when he got the owners to agree that all he needed to impose his will was eight votes. As a result, the small-market clubs formed a bloc behind Bettman and did whatever he told them to do.

The best news is that the deal is for 10 years. Bettman will be 70 when it expires — too old for the worst despot in sports to shut down the NHL for a fourth time? We can only hope.

Idle thoughts from Cataldi …

1. Staff infection. The make-up of Andy Reid’s new staff will be fascinating. Will he choose his most recent offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, or his first, Brad Childress? Will he bring his back his former bobo, GM Tom Heckert? Two you can cross off: Jim Washburn, Howard Mudd.

2. Duck you. Chip Kelly was the most exciting choice to replace Reid, but the Oregon coach wasn’t worth the risk. With no NFL experience, a funky offense and prickly personality, he was more likely to be a disaster than the next Bill Walsh. It sure would have been fun.

3. Just say no. If Juan Castillo takes the job Reid is offering to coach the Chiefs’ offensive line, he’s dumber than we thought. Reid turned Castillo into a laughingstock, and now he wants a do-over? Castillo should tell Reid where to go — and it’s not Kansas City.

4. Numbers don’t lie. Before Jeff Lurie schedules the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, here are a couple of stats to consider. Reid was 26-51 vs. playoff teams in his 14 years here, and 34-54 vs. teams above .500. Read those numbers again. They aren’t misprints.

5. What legacy? Former players had a lot to say after Reid’s firing. Jeremiah Trotter said the Eagles were outcoached against better teams. Hollis Thomas said Reid should have left two years ago. And Donovan McNabb urged us to recall Reid fondly. Guess which one is looking for a job.

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