Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie is a steady and reasonable guy.
In press conference settings, he’ll typically pause, consider the question, and provide an honest answer. This is the same owner who gave us thoughtful explanations about “emotional intelligence” and culture building in recent years.
Monday, however, we were served with a large portion of word salad. That’s great if you’re a vegetarian, but the rest of us had to dig a bit to find the meat, to figure out exactly what he meant while explaining Doug Pederson’s firing. Lurie described the decision as stemming from a difference of opinion on franchise outlook, and was protective of General Manager Howie Roseman and his staff, almost to the point where it seemed like the front office could do no wrong and has done no wrong despite poor drafting and free agent signings over the past several years.
The obvious takeaway was that Lurie and Roseman are interested in a transitional rebuild type of period, with the championship window officially closing. Lurie pretty much said this straight up when he talked about the team’s strategy following the Super Bowl victory:
“I think where we’re at is we made a lot of decisions to try to accomplish bringing the first Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia, and that started in 2016 but it continued into 2017. And certainly afterwards, if there were significant, I would say strategic mistakes, they were made in the name of trying to hold the band together, kind of bring back the band together. There was a lot of short-term decision-making and allocation of resources that gave us probably a slightly better chance to go back to the Super Bowl in 2018 and 2019.
Without focusing on one person, (we were) an Alshon reception from getting back to the Championship Game the next season; 2019 back in the playoffs and our quarterback got hurt.
I think we gained from the short-term decision-making but there was no stage where we weren’t aware that a lot of those decisions and resource allocations and the lack of volume of draft picks wasn’t eventually going to create a real trough, a real transition period, and I think that’s what we’re in. We’re in a real transition period, and it’s not unlike 2016.
We have to retrench and rededicate and allocate resources to what can make us the best possible team in the mid-term, in the long term and hopefully compete in the short term because I think we can, but honestly, that’s really where we’re at.
I have real confidence that our football operations, led by Howie, can not only repeat the performance of 2016 until now, and once again, create a dominant football team that can really maximize every aspect of its potential. I think that’s the transition period we’re in.”
Translation: “We went for it and didn’t get it; now we’re going to rebuild and I trust Howie to do it.”
To me, all of this says that Jeffrey Lurie was perfectly fine with Roseman making short-term decisions that the front office typically would not make, in an effort to win another Super Bowl. He was doing a different job entirely. And when that second ring didn’t materialize, Lurie didn’t hold it against Roseman, but understood that this was a personnel strategy that was unique in its own right. As such, they exit this short term period now looking more at a mid-term and long-term outlook here, and Lurie is 100% fine with Howie being in charge of that transition.
Of course, it brings us to the issue of Howie and his drafting. How can you trust somebody to rebuild your franchise who consistently swings and misses in April? Regardless of whether the Eagles are in transition or trying to win right now, Howie Roseman hasn’t proven that he can draft for either strategy. Andre Dillard and Jalen Reagor may turn out to be great players one day, but one of the Eagles’ problems is the lack of talent identification that leads to guys like Justin Jefferson and DK Metcalf going elsewhere. And if the Eagles were trying to win this season, instead of kicking the can down the road, they wouldn’t have used pick #2 on a backup quarterback and pick #3 on a project linebacker.
Regardless, Lurie made it clear that the difference between himself and Doug Pederson was more about the macro-level outlook, and less about micro-topics like the coaching staff, or anything else that was disappointingly leaked to the media:
“I would say the difference in vision is much more about where we’re at as a franchise. As I said, we’re at that point. It’s a transition point and we’ve got to get younger and we have to have a lot more volume of draft picks and we have to accumulate as much talent as we possibly can that is going to work in the long run with a focus on the mid-term and the long term and not on how to maximize 2021. And it’s almost not fair to Doug, because his vision has to be: what can I do to fix this right away and what coaches can I have that can help me get to a smoother 2021?
My vision is much more: how can we get back to the success we’ve had and what we’re used to in the next two, three, four, five years? It’s not a difference of opinion. It’s a difference of where we’re both at, and I really feel it was in both of our interests to proceed on our own sort of paths that way.”
Lurie pretty much admits right there that 2021 doesn’t matter. They aren’t going to be good. They will have a new head coach working with one of Carson Wentz or Jalen Hurts as they try to untangle themselves from the salary cap mess Roseman created while trying for a second ring.
To Howie’s credit, he, along with Joe Douglas, did create the roster that won the Super Bowl, and that appears to be what Lurie is banking on here – a master stroke redux. Roseman may have failed in winning a second trophy, but maybe he can emulate the nearly flawless roster build that resulted in the Lombardi trophy a few years ago.
In a lot of ways, it’s similar to what we experienced with the Phillies about a decade ago. They went for that second title, and kept aging veterans on the roster while the farm system was placed on the back burner. Ruben Amaro Jr. gave us an enjoyable couple of seasons, but the Phils really dug themselves a hole that took years to climb out of. In Lurie’s case, he’s okay with Howie Roseman being Ruben Amaro Jr. for a few years, but now he wants him to be Howie Roseman again.
Let’s just hope the Eagles aren’t the Phillies, or else we’re in for some tough sledding.