By Mary Cunningham
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie addressed the media for the first time in a year last night at the owners meetings in Arizona.
Here’s the transcript:
Opening Remarks: “First of all, I want to thank our fans. Lincoln Financial Field this past season was awesome, electric welcoming in a new quarterback, a new coach. You’re never satisfied first year with a new coach and new quarterback at 7-9, but I am more than excited about the direction of the franchise. It’s great to walk around here having the feeling that I do surrounded by a terrific young quarterback, a coach that really captured the locker room. Howie (Roseman) did one heck of a job to acquire Carson (Wentz) and some of the moves leading up to it and after.
“The hiring of Joe Douglas, I thought, was the pivotal moment of the last year as well because the whole thing was keyed to, ‘Can we, at some point without tanking, which you don’t do in football, acquire or have any access to getting a franchise quarterback?’ They don’t come around very often. You hope you pick well when they do, but how do you even get to that because usually a team that finished with the worst record or worst two records in the league, their basic problem is that they have no quarterback.
“We looked at the quarterbacks in that class, but we also looked at the quarterbacks that were coming up in this class, and we even looked at 2018. I give our guys a tremendous amount of credit for identifying a very special person and player and athlete who has a lot of the ingredients we’re looking for. We made the move. The rest is history. We’ll all see how it all plays out over the years because you never know. You don’t fool yourself into thinking you have something until it all happens, when it all gets put together, but just as an owner, I couldn’t be more excited about the direction of the franchise.”
Q: What role do you play in personnel and coaching decisions, and has it changed during the course of your ownership?
A: “No, it has not changed. I always feel like it’s my responsibility to set the best atmosphere, the best environment possible to give us the resources to have as much success as we can. That goes into how you invest in scouting, player personnel, player development, every aspect, sports science, how do you support your coach, good public relations, every aspect that you can think of, smart talent evaluation. You want to give the resources and then let people make the decisions. I’ve always believed in that. Does that mean I don’t ask a lot of questions? I love football, and I’ve always, whether we were going to select Donovan McNabb or move up to take Carson, whatever we’re doing, my role is to provide the resources, but I ask a lot of questions to create the final strategy that our guys take.”
Q: What is the timetable to win now that you have a franchise quarterback?
A: “When you have that quarterback, and we hope we do, you can’t be overconfident. All of the ingredients are there with Carson. You’ve been around him, and I think you know what we have, but it all has to play itself out. But it takes, as it took with Donovan, and whenever you have a really good quarterback around the league if you watch, it takes a very patient, disciplined approach.
“Short-term solutions to get to 10-6 or whatever quickly with that quarterback are non-sustainable. You’ve got to draft well. You’ve got to have multiple drafts in a row, hopefully, where you’re surrounding that quarterback on all sides of the ball. That’s the formula. It’s not that complicated. It’s hard to accomplish, but it’s not that complicated. As an owner, I’ve got to be really patient and at the same time I’ve really competitive. We’ll make moves that make us better this year, however, we won’t make a move where it’s going to cost us flexibility or ability to use resources in future years because we’re in the mode where we’re not one player away. We have lots of holes. You’ve got to recognize that first. We have lots of holes and we have to draft really well over the next few years to accomplish what we want to accomplish early on in Carson’s career.”
Q: Do you feel like you have a plan in place with the current front office structure?
A: “Football operations today is multifaceted. It’s not just about scouting. There’s many, many areas that contribute to every decision. One of the first, one of the main things Howie and I discussed when he was going to be in the football operations role was he had to have a top-notch player personnel department or we were going to find somebody who could find a great player personnel department. That was his responsibility. He went out and recruited Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl, and they’ve put something together that I hope can be truly special. Really strong. In fact, when I’m talking to a lot of GMs here, I get a lot of congratulations about Carson, and I go, ‘Look, it’s just one year,’ but I get more talk about attracting Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl than almost anything else. The proof is in the pudding. We have to have several strong drafts. Joe will be leading the way there, and we’ll be really counting on their judgment to do a great job.”
Q: What did you see from Doug Pederson, and what are the expectations for him next season?
A: “With Doug, the most important things were: Could he assemble a great staff? Because without a great staff, I don’t know how you do well in this league. One of the great things of Andy Reid was go back to that first staff. Doug didn’t have the ego where he didn’t want to retain the best people that he did have, and he was very excited that we had Dave Fipp, he was very excited that we had Jeff Stoutland, Duce (Staley), of course, guys like that, Justin (Peelle). He wanted to attract a really good defensive coordinator. It didn’t have to be a buddy of his. It didn’t have to be somebody that he worked with. He analyzed it. He worked with Howie and they came up with Jim Schwartz as the top candidate. Jim did a great job. He’s helpful to everybody in terms of experience. He’s very smart, and I think Doug will increasingly rely on him because he’s just a great collaborator there. That’s number one. Can you create that staff as a new head coach? It’s not easy. He’s in the middle of the playoffs. It’s not easy to put that together under that timeframe. He was able to do that.
“Secondly, you inherit a team that was not in its best locker room atmosphere with the previous head coach. That’s normal in a franchise, probably, but he had the challenge of being a first-time head coach, a locker room that had gone through obstacles with the previous head coach at that point and time, and he got them together and they really loved playing for Doug. He’s genuine. He’s open to the players’ suggestions. He formed a leadership council. He has constant communication, and, as we learned early in the season, in terms of game-calling he’s not risk-averse. We’ve never wanted to be a team that’s risk-averse. We much rather err on the side of being aggressive. He’s that, and probably in the end, if we look back most importantly, and it was designed this way, but him, Frank Reich, John DeFilippo, were incredibly helpful in identifying that yes, this was the year there was a quarterback that was worth moving up in the draft for. And who was it? It was Carson Wentz. And it was a very detailed and involved process. Someday we can write a book about this if it all works out, but very detailed, multiple workouts, the testing was psychologically, medically, in every way you can imagine, in ways you’ve never even heard of. Eighty pages of reports. This is what we were hoping to do. We were lucky enough, we hope, that it was a year where that player was available. I don’t know what we would have done if we were picking 14 this year and we’re in the same situation.
“One other kudos I want to give here is because it’s not just about scouting. The key to the Sam Bradford trade was how the contract was structured. We basically bought a draft choice when you think about it. It wasn’t obviously the smartest move to give a second-year option to the contract which required paying more money to accomplish that, more of a guarantee. What we decided was, and Howie led the way here, if we had that option for a team, even if Sam played the whole year and was healthy and as good as we thought he would be, we would have real trade value. If it were a one-year-and-out contract, we’d have him play for us for a year and have no asset value. The key to that whole trade was the way Howie structured that contract. No, we didn’t know that Teddy (Bridgewater) would go down and have that all happen, but we were hopeful that Sam would play well for us, be healthy, and be able to develop and have Carson ready for Year 2. That was our plan.”
Q: Why are you confident that Carson Wentz gives you the best chance to be that franchise quarterback?
A: “I would say four or five factors. It starts with physical talent. Pretty obvious. Can he improve? Of course. Number two, it’s the personality and leadership ability. That this guy brings. It’s special. Number three, does he have the intelligence, the football intelligence, and the obsession to be really good. Does he have all that? Looking at it critically, he really does. Fourth, he’s got a way with his teammates that’s impressive. He’s a humble person, very talented young man, and humble and hard-working to the core. I think we’ve seen guys come into the league that have that, and you hope he’s one of those because the best quarterbacks in this league lead from hard work and being humble and they’re really smart. Obviously, you have to have the physical talent, and he’s got that. Can he stay healthy? Can he continue to grow? Can he perform as we go forward the way the curve should go? It’s a hope. That’s all it is, it’s a hope.”
Q: Will the Eagles be featured on the television show Hard Knocks?
A: “No, I don’t think so.”