Jeffrey Lurie is not happy, and the object of his scorn is his boyhood best friend.
Lurie, owner of the Eagles, said former Eagles executive Joe Banner, his boyhood friend, top adviser for nearly two decades and now CEO of the Browns, appears to be the source of anonymous comments sharply critical of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman that appeared recently in a story on a national sports web site.
Im very supportive of Howie, and if theres any criticism coming from afar about Howie, its just off-base, and so I will support Howie completely, because thats not right, Lurie said.
And, you know, if there are league sources that are really based in Cleveland, thats not right. We see through it all.
In a Jan. 14 story that appeared on CBSsports.com, NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, quoting an anonymous source, wrote that Roseman was drunk with power and woefully out of his depth and was a detriment to the Eagles search for a head coach.
Banner released a statement through Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis denying in the strongest terms that he was the source of the comments in La Canforas story.
It is always difficult to comment on a quote that may or may not be accurate or in context. In this case, from the comments which Jeffrey made that were communicated to me, it is necessary for me to make this clear, unambiguous statement. Any implication that I had anything to do with Jason La Canforas story is completely false, outrageous and borders on being libelous.
I had absolutely no conversation with Jason La Canfora. Having demonstrated my character over the last 44 years to Jeffrey and the last 14 to Howie, it is beyond disappointing that they would suggest such a thing. As tempting as it is to go further, other than defending myself, I will continue to take the high road on all such matters as I have since the day I left the Eagles.
The Eagles and Browns both targeted coveted Oregon head coach Chip Kelly for their head coaching openings, pitting Lurie and Roseman against Banner in a very public, high-stakes battle among former friends for one of the most successful college coaches of the past decade.
In the middle of all this, La Canforas story compared the Browns coaching search favorably to the Eagles search and suggested that the Eagles search, led by Lurie, Roseman and team president Don Smolenski, was meandering and bizarre.
When the Eagles hired Kelly as head coach on Wednesday, it was widely seen as a strong measure of vindication for Roseman and evidence that the anonymous source who told La Canfora that Roseman would prevent the Eagles from landing a prominent coach was off-base.
Kelly said in Philadelphia on Thursday that the Browns were never in the mix, that he knew all along he would either return to Oregon or take the Eagles job.
It was evident to me that I was either going to go to Philadelphia or stay in Oregon, Kelly said. When I met with Jeffrey and Howie and Donald right there, I knew obviously I thought that this was the best spot.
Although the La Canfora story successfully fueled strong anti-Roseman sentiment in Philadelphia, it apparently had no effect on the Eagles search to replace long-time coach Andy Reid.
Lurie said he, Roseman and Smolenski were aware of the story and aware of mounting anti-Roseman sentiment but tried to ignore it.
For these two weeks during the search, we werent going to pay much attention to anything, Lurie said. But if Howie did, he just completely was able to deal with it.
He was annoyed by the unprofessional aspect. He was really annoyed. And hurt by it. But he wouldnt let that get in the way here. He was not going to deal with these people.
In a group interview with reporters on Thursday, Lurie said the three-man search committee was determined not to be distracted or discouraged by the growing hostility toward Roseman.
They knew eventually they would hire either Kelly or Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, their second choice, so they knew eventually the negativity would end.
We knew strategically what was going on with league sources and stuff like that, Lurie said. This was such erroneous reporting it was insane.
The people we interviewed and the people who called the people we interviewed were so positive that I think it dwarfed any of the individual agendas of anybody that was quoted as league sources. It was a joke to us, really.
Lurie said he and Banner have maintained a cordial relationship since their working relationship fractured.
He said he and Banner exchanged texts on Thursday, with each congratulating the other on their head coaching hires Kelly in Philadelphia and Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland.
He also said he believes the relationship between him and Banner can be salvaged.
Im intending to have an excellent relationship with him moving forward, he said.
Lurie said he hasnt spoken to Banner recently to discuss his suspicion that Banner was the one who planted negative quotes about Roseman in La Canforas story.
I havent done that, he said. But if I have to do it I will.
To put the depth of the bitterness between Lurie and Banner in perspective, its important to understand how close they once were.
On May 7, 1994, one day after Lurie officially became owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, he hired Banner as his top adviser.
For 19 years, they worked together to carry out a shared vision of the Eagles franchise. They got a state-of-the-art stadium built. They got a world-class practice facility built. They transformed the Eagles into the second-winningest franchise in the NFC from 1995 through 2010.
But Banner left the Eagles in June after losing a bitter power struggle with Roseman, his one-time protg. A few months later he joined Jimmy Haslams ownership group in Cleveland, soon becoming CEO of the Browns.
Reid alluded to the Lurie-Banner fracture earlier this month when he was asked in an interview with Philadelphia media about the Eagles decline in recent years, a decline that ultimately cost Reid his job.
I would tell you the most important thing is that everybodys got to be pulling in the same direction, Reid said after accepting the Chiefs head coaching position.
When that gets out of whack, bad things happen. Thats how this league works. If you get a little bit out of whack, youre not going to be successful.
As for Roseman, Lurie said the third-year general manager actually had outstanding relationships with all the coaching candidates.
One of the things I learned -- as an owner you learn as you go -- was the really great respect that Howie had across the league, Lurie said. People were calling our candidates to say, This is a young GM, but he is a very, very sharp guy.
Andy Reid also called some of the candidates and told them what Roseman is like to work with.
The benefit we had here, and I cant underestimate it, and it wasnt even our doing, but some of the real iconic names in the sport were telling our candidates before they came in that this was by far the best organization to come in and work for.
Roseman refused to call the Kelly hiring vindication. He said he tried to stay positive throughout the search process and stay focused on the ultimate goal.
Finding a coach who could restore the Eagles winning tradition.
I dont want to make this about me, Roseman said. I think its about our organization, our team and giving the fans back the kind of team theyre used to. That would be vindication for me.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org