Before long, social networks like Twitter and Facebook - which, according to the backlash over all this by bloated, self-righteous mainstream members, will be the ruin of our once-great Republic - turned the wild speculation into full-blown hysteria.
Local and national journalists scrambled to confirm or rebut the "report." The situation deteriorated quickly, and the Eagles issued a statement:
"We have 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."
And with that, The Inquirer, Daily News, CSNPhilly.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com and other media outlets pivoted to quiet the buzz and out the scoundrel responsible for the unrest. Some said former Eagle Kyle Eckel started the dustup on his Facebook page. Others blamed it on a radio reporter in Missouri. Page 2 thinks it might have begun with that guy who's always at the corner of Washington and Columbus, the one who implores motorists to repent before the rapture.
Regardless of who was responsible, the mainstream media seemed to agree that the Internet is a dangerous place and you shouldn't believe anything you read on it because it's the domain of deranged, basement-dwelling, sweatpants-wearing bloggers. In an ironic twist, many reporters used the Internet to point that out. (ESPN's Adam Schefter took to Twitter to cite sources that called the report "ridiculous" and "impossible.")
Someone snarky might remind you that ESPN and other media entities frequently float all sorts of rumors that don't end up being true. How many different teams was Cliff Lee supposed to sign with before he returned to Philadelphia? How many organizations supposedly traded for Donovan McNabb before he finally landed in Washington? How many different defensive coordinators were the Eagles allegedly considering before they shocked everyone and elevated Juan Castillo?
Hell, before Gruden was rumored to be the Eagles' next head coach, he was rumored to be the next head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Tomorrow, he'll be headed somewhere else. And on it goes, without end.
It's tough to mock one particular Internet rumor - as implausible as it might have initially seemed - when there are countless others disseminated by ostensibly reputable organizations. The current media climate not only allows for that sort of thing, it essentially condones it with a tacit be-first breaking-news policy.
There was something else that contributed to Monday's folly. If the speculation had been about Gruden replacing Bill Belichick or Mike Tomlin or just about anyone else in any other hamlet, it would have been dismissed as stupid and baseless. Everyone would have immediately sniffed it out. But because the Eagles were involved and they've shoveled so much manure over the years, it's tough for people to trust their senses.
Just consider all the crazy things that have happened with the Birds over the last 12 months. Donovan McNabb was going to be the quarterback in 2010 - until he was traded to the Washington Redskins. Kevin Kolb was going to be quarterback in 2010 - until he was benched for Michael Vick. Sean McDermott was going to be the defensive coordinator in 2011 - until he was fired a few days later. And, in a move that's arguably weirder and harder to believe than the Gruden/Reid nonsense, Juan Castillo was going to be the offensive-line coach in 2011 - until he was promoted to defensive coordinator.
But none of that matters. Monday's madness couldn't be the Eagles' fault, despite all their wild reversals and unorthodox decisions. And it couldn't be the mainstream media's fault, despite how it regularly trades in the same rumor mongering it pretends to abhor. No, this is the clearly Internet's fault - which, if you trace it back far enough, means Al Gore is to blame. No wonder his wife left him.
Betus.com has the Eagles at 15/1 to win next year's Super Bowl; Bodog.com puts the Birds at 16/1. . . . An Idiot Abroad is excellent. Ricky Gervais can't be stopped. . . . According to ESPN, hair band rocker/musical terrorist/former Philadelphia Soul owner Jon Bon Jovi is trying to buy part of the Falcons. Note to Atlanta: Promises of free concerts should be met with the same skepticism as unsolicited e-mails from deposed Nigerian princes looking for loans.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly