If Chip Kelly had met with representatives of Southern Cal in Philadelphia on Friday, he either would have had to get permission from Jeffrey Lurie or he would have had to go behind the Eagles owner's back.
The first scenario would presume that the traditionally patient Lurie, who has never fired a head coach in-season, was willing to expedite Kelly's ouster less than three years into a five-year contract and only 11 games into his first season also as general manager.
And the second scenario would suggest that Kelly was willing to risk getting fired - and, yes, talking with another potential employer would be viewed by Lurie as a breach - and forfeit the remaining $13 million on his deal.
But Footballscoop.com reported on Twitter that the meeting took place - "believe it was Friday," whoever runs the website wrote - and because Footballscoop.com has successfully reported some college news before, there was an obligation to ask Kelly about it on Monday.
"I wasn't in Philly on Friday, so that's wrong," Kelly said. "I haven't met with them. I haven't talked to them. I haven't had a conversation with anybody from USC."
This was the second time this season and the third time since he came to the Eagles that Kelly had to respond to questions about the Southern Cal opening. Two years ago, there was a report about Texas' supposed interest. Last year, it was Florida.
"I can't control what's written, but I guess there are no rules that people can write, tweet or whatever," Kelly said. "I don't know the rules. They can say whatever they want. But I've never discussed another college job since I came here."
There might not be a soul in Philly that feels sorry for Kelly, but his lament about the state of sports media is a fair one. There is a vacuum and an increasing number willing to fill it with the flimsiest bit of information. But it isn't just the media. The public is increasingly cynical.
So what if he said he didn't meet Southern Cal in Philly - he must have met them in Haddonfield.
Kelly said that he was in New Hampshire on Friday. His family lives there and he owns a home in Manchester.
He may not have met or spoke to them, but what about his agent?
Kelly gave the same denial in reference to his agent, David Dunn. He said Dunn hadn't talked to Southern Cal, either. It should be noted that Dunn's ties to the school run deep. He has represented nearly every Southern Cal quarterback in the NFL over the last decade or so.
Despite Kelly's pleas, however, skepticism is warranted. He routinely contradicts himself. He said one thing and did the other on two occasions when NFL teams came calling. But in this case, there appeared to be nothing more than cursory interest from Southern Cal, which made interim Clay Helton its head coach on Monday.
What is certain is that the speculation isn't going away and there is uncertainty in the locker room - at least until Kelly's Eagles stop losing and until after the season when Lurie will assess and decide on whether he wants his coach to remain.
After the Eagles were humiliated by the Lions, 45-14, on Thursday, one veteran player wanted to know if Kelly would survive before the end of the season. Another player said Monday that he and other teammates felt responsible for putting Kelly's future in jeopardy.
Kelly, though, said he felt no need to reassure his players about his intentions.
"I really don't," he said, "because there are so many things that are written and said nowadays that it's ridiculous. A lot of times we just chuckle and laugh, to be honest with you, that I had a meeting in Philadelphia with USC on Friday."
Losing breeds doubt. But it hasn't just been the three straight defeats. It's how the Eagles have lost - each time by a larger margin, each time with more carelessness. How does a coach really "lose a locker room?" It's nearly impossible to prove.
But the players said they had Kelly's back and would play hard for him after the 45-17 embarrassment to the Buccaneers, and yet they performed so poorly against a Lions team that entered with just three wins.
Kelly said he spoke with Lurie by phone on Monday. It's safe to assume the words Southern and Cal came up in the conversation, if only to get on the same page about the reports.
They speak regularly, according to Kelly. But their conversations aren't big-picture ones, but rather specifically about an upcoming opponent. The Eagles work on a week-to-week basis, so why shouldn't the owner, too?
"I'm not looking for any assurances or anything," Kelly said. "But we've never had any conversations other than the next goal."
And that has always been Lurie's approach. He hasn't meddled in his 21 years as owner. Why would he now? He can't be happy with the product. He may even have some suggestions for Kelly in the offseason. But he never forced Ray Rhodes or Andy Reid - two coaches who had personnel control - to make changes.
Kelly, of course, is a wild card. He doesn't confide in anyone from the media. It is partly why he has nebulously been linked to so many openings. The next five games could alter the landscape, but at long as he wants to stay, there has been little to suggest Lurie won't continue to want him.
"I've been totally committed since the day I got here on Jan. 16, 2013, and that hasn't changed," Kelly said. "I'm here."
And the odds overwhelmingly remain that he will be here next season, too.