"Well I would tell you you're dealing with a guy that's a tremendous worker and is a very smart individual," Reid said, setting up the gag. "And so I look at it a little bit different than what you do in that I've seen him work with young guys. I've seen him work through injuries. I've seen him stay positive through those situations and still put us in a position to win football games and knowing that he's going to do nothing but improve as a coach, just like all of us, with experience. And so, I have a lot of respect for him and the way that he does business."
Just then, one of those troublesome hecklers in the crowd - there's always one - asked: "Will McDermott be back next year?"
"Yeah," Reid said.
The delayed punch line was finally delivered when, days later, the Eagles fired McDermott and then immediately scrubbed his name clean from the team website. Boom. No one does awkward office humor better than Big Red. Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell are hacks by comparison.
Reid's best material has always come courtesy of his causal relationship with candor, something he practically boasted about earlier in the season when he said that approach buys him time. True enough. A year ago, he said Donovan McNabb would return for the 2010 season - then he shipped his longtime quarterback off to the Redskins. This past season, he said Kevin Kolb was his starting quarterback - then he installed Michael Vick as the signal caller the very next day. Now comes the McDermott reversal.
It's a killer shtick - unless you work for Reid and he gives you his word. Then it's probably not so amusing.
For whatever reason, some people don't like when Reid lies. Wait, check that. The loyalists think "lies" is too harsh. Let's call it "massaging the truth" to keep everyone happy.
Some people don't like when Reid massages the truth. They think he could have avoided all this by giving an opaque answer when asked whether McDermott would return, something on the order of "after the season we take the time to evaluate everyone, including me."
But that's just silly. Reid has every right to massage the truth with the media and, by extension, the fans. It's fun. You ought to try it sometime when you're at a party or looking to have a good time on a random weeknight. Find a few unwitting participants, then spit in their faces and tell them it's raining. You'll be a huge hit. Humiliation fetishes are all the rage.
Not all of this is about Reid's dedication to his time-tested routine. From a damage control perspective, Reid probably needed someone to blame for another early exit from the postseason, someone to distract people and take the heat off him. McDermott was a convenient patsy, a man the fans fingered for various crimes - real and perceived - long ago.
McDermott failed to extinguish a season-long fire in the red zone - and all over the field, frankly - that ultimately engulfed the team and charred the Eagles' championship aspirations. But let's not forget who put the tinder down in the first place and then doused it with gasoline. Even a cut-rate Colombo could trace the origins of the inferno back to the front office - a group that, last we checked, includes Reid.
Just as the front office deserves applause for a stout offense with big talent, the brass shouldn't be absolved of the failures on defense. It was the front office, not McDermott, that drafted undersized Brandon Graham, passed on safety Earl Thomas, and traded for underproductive Ernie Sims. And it was the front office, not McDermott, that decided to ship Sheldon Brown off in favor of an Izell Jenkins-esque cornerback combination of Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hansen, Dimitri Patterson and, the best player of the bunch, Blind Hope.
But, hey, if McDermott had to be sacrificed, so be it. It's a reasonable price to pay to keep the masses entertained by the city's longest running reality-based sketch comedy. The best gags take time to develop. About 12 years and counting.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly