By Harry Allison
It had been almost three months since Eagles owner Jeff Lurie (photo above) had publicly commented on his prize possession, so when he stood in the hot Arizona sun Tuesday to answer questions, there were two dozen reporters taking notes.
Lurie, who gave Chip Kelly final say on all personnel decisions over former general manager Howie Roseman this offseason, was quizzed on all things Eagles.
It was the first time he discussed the front office maneuvers, as well as sending star running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and starting quarterback Nick Foles to St. Louis.
”I’ve lived through a lot of division championships, a lot of playoff appearances, a lot of final four appearances,” Lurie said. ”But our goal is further than that. We want to deliver a Super Bowl.
”It’s very difficult to get from good to great. It’s a gamble to go from good to great because you could go from good to mediocre with changes. Chip had a vision of how we could get from good to great.”
That vision is what Kelly brought to Philadelphia from Oregon in 2013. He so trusts his system, particularly on offense, that Kelly believes it is essential to find players who fit it.
Despite two stellar seasons under Kelly, McCoy was not that guy. He’s also cut receiver DeSean Jackson last year, let wideout Jeremy Maclin leave as a free agent, and sent Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, but a real gamble because of his injury history.
Bradford didn’t play last season because of his second straight torn left ACL. And the linebacker acquired from Buffalo for McCoy, Kiko Alonso, also was out in 2014 with a left knee injury.
Of course, Lurie also opened the vaults for Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray to replace McCoy in the backfield.
Lurie clearly is all-in on Kelly and the maneuvering.
”LeSean McCoy is a great running back, the all-time franchise leader,” Lurie said. ”A great guy in every way. But for (Kelly) to maximize his power spread offense, he always admired the one-cut runners.”
Kelly, who will talk to the media today when NFC coaches are available, said after the McCoy trade that money was the biggest factor. Lurie indicated otherwise Tuesday.
”You’ve got to let a coach try to bring in the players that fit best what he’s all about, to maximize what he’s trying to accomplish,” Lurie said.
As for a power struggle between Kelly and Roseman, Lurie praised the former GM as a team player who is ”selfless” and only wants what is best for the organization.
When Kelly determined that having power over personnel needed to be in the coach’s repertoire, Lurie didn’t hesitate to provide it.
”After thinking about it, I just felt the best way to align ourselves was to try to do this in a relatively rational, seamless way, with Chip taking over scouting and integrating into every aspect of the operation,” Lurie said. ”There was a vision that I wanted to support. That was all my call. In order to maximize Chip, this was the best way to go.”
While the McCoy deal happened quickly – new Bills coach Rex Ryan said earlier in the day it took about 30 minutes to complete – Kelly had his eye on Bradford for a long while.
Indeed, Lurie and Kelly discussed acquiring the expensive (just under $13 million in 2015) and oft-injured quarterback for weeks.
Why take that risk? Because, Lurie said, the Eagles believe Bradford is that rarity you must have to win in today’s NFL.
”The only model that correlates with big success in the NFL is having a Hall of Fame franchise quarterback,” Lurie said. ”You can put any system around that quarterback and you can rationalize that structure whether it’s the structure the Patriots have, Seattle has.
”It’s so hard to get a franchise quarterback. It sets the ceiling on what you can be as a team. Do you want to take gambles or not?”
Obviously, Kelly and Lurie aren’t afraid of doing so.