So, here's what we have on this Philadelphia Eagles thing today.
We have a report, from the well respected Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, that paints coach Andy Reid in a power struggle with ownership and the front office and says that Reid wanted to pursue Peyton Manning when Manning became available:
Two NFL insiders, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid was ready to walk away from the Eagles if he didn't get more personnel control, and now he has it. We've seen a flurry of decisive moves by the Eagles in recent weeks, including finally cutting a blockbuster deal with receiver DeSean Jackson; extending two good soldiers, defensive end Trent Cole and right tackle Todd Herremans, outbidding the Ravens to keep guard Evan Mathis; and trading for Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
Something else about the Eagles: Reid wanted to jump in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, despite the signing of Michael Vick to a six-year, $100-million contract last season. Talks never got too serious, the insiders say, because Manning didn't like the idea of playing against his brother Eli, quarterback of the New York Giants, at least twice a season.
And we have a statement from Reid, released by the Eagles, that disputes pretty much everything Sam wrote:
"We look into everything, as all teams do. And I have the highest regard for Peyton Manning. But as I said publicly last month, that wasn't the direction we were heading in. Michael is our guy.
"As far as the personnel control, I have had final say on personnel matters for quite some time here and that's never been an issue or a point of contention.
"Our front office works very well together and that's one of our strengths."
So, couple of things on this:
I have no reason to doubt Sam's reporting, or the idea that people in the know told him exactly what he ended up reporting. But I question the conclusion, apparently reached by Sam's sources, that the Eagles' offseason moves reflect an assertion of greater control by Reid. Sure, the Eagles have acted less aggressively on the free-agent market this year than they did last year. But last year was the exception, and Reid has explained it many times by saying the team identified last year's offseason as a unique market with unique opportunities. The way the Eagles have acted this offseason is more in line with what they've done in the past, in a front-office structure that allows Reid final say in personnel decisions but in which he works closely with GM Howie Roseman and team president Joe Banner.
As for Manning, I don't think there's ever a situation in which a quarterback hits the market and Reid doesn't at least consider making a run at him. Remember, Vick didn't seem to make sense for the Eagles either when they got him. Reid believes strongly in the value of quarterbacks, in the importance of depth at the position and in his and his staff's ability to get the best out of any quarterback who enters their system. I'm certain that, once it became apparent that Manning was hitting the market, Reid and the Eagles' brass discussed the idea of pursuing him. I have no way of knowing how far such discussions progressed, but Reid seems intent on making sure everyone knows they never got serious.
The Eagles, like most high-profile professional sports teams these days, prefer to control the flow of information. They're generally pretty friendly about it, but they don't like it when their private plans or other business get aired in public. So while it seems odd to put out a statement denying Sam's report (because now, if they don't rush to deny the next such report, people will jump to the conclusion that it's true), it's in character for Reid and the Eagles to want to be out in front of this or any story about their team.
I'm not inclined to believe everything's hunky-dory between Reid, the front office and ownership in the wake of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. And I believe there's a lot of tension and pressure heading into this season, in which the pressure on Reid will be at an all-time high. But I don't believe Reid found himself, this offseason, in a position to demand greater control under threat of quitting. First of all, he already had a ton of control. And second of all, his job security's not at an all-time high to begin with. My sense is that there's a lot of behind-the-scenes chatter right now about the Eagles, who are one of the most intriguing teams and situations to watch in 2012, and that this isn't the last time some details are going to come to light and get shot down by people who'd like us to believe everything's peaceful and happy in Philly.