Lurie: ‘I Think We’re Pretty Close’

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jeffrey Lurie believes that the overall state of the union is strong. He backed his general manager and head coach, and spoke optimistically about what lies ahead for this team despite the step backwards in Year 2 under Chip Kelly.

“I think we’re pretty close,” said the owner, addressing reporters in the MetLife Stadium visitors locker room moments after the Eagles season came to a close.  “I think we know exactly what we have to upgrade. You see certain teams, they go 8-8, 8-8 and then they break through. We’re at double-digits, double-digits, it doesn’t mean we’ll be double-digits next year but I think we’ve got a really good nucleus of young players, mostly under 27, a lot of players below 30, a lot of up-and-coming stars in this league. It’s all in front of us, but I don’t want to sound overly enthusiastic because we have to fix those three things.”

Those three things, which Lurie called the team’s “Achilles heels that really in the end were not solvable,” were turnovers, red zone offense, and big plays allowed on defense.

“Great, great front seven and outstanding improvement on ‘D’ all over except giving up the deep ball. You can’t do it,” he said.

When Lurie says he knows exactly where the upgrades need to be made, it’s fair to conclude that he is pointing right at the secondary for starters.

Who will be in charge of making the appropriate changes? Asked if Howie Roseman would be back as general manager, Lurie responded: “Is that a question? Yes.”

“I see two really valued executives: Chip, Howie, and add Don Smolenski to that. These are three obsessed-to-be-good executives. They have different roles. They cross over at different points. I think you know me, I like to surround myself not with ‘yes’ men but strong, opinionated people that are really dedicated to making us really good. That’s what those three do.”

As for Kelly, Lurie sounded as if his confidence has not waned when it comes to the head coach, even if the sentiment is slightly different amongst a portion of the fan base.

“He’s an excellent coach. He’s so dedicated to making us better and better. His life is all football and creating an outstanding football team. That’s what he’s all about. There are going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be bumps in the road,” he said, later adding: “I’m proud of having chosen Chip and the staff he has put together, and where that bodes well for the future.”

Lurie has been effusive in his praise of Nick Foles in the past. On Sunday, he stayed away from offering too much analysis, noting the evaluations that need to be done by the coaching staff, but pointed to Foles’ 14-4 record under Kelly and spoke of his character and work ethic.

Does he feel this team has the quarterback play it takes to be a Super Bowl contender?

“I think it remains to be seen,” said Lurie. “Very hard to answer that until you accomplish it. You can point to people that have accomplished it: Aaron [Rodgers] and Tom [Brady] and Peyton [Manning] and those guys, and that’s the elite of the NFL. Until you accomplish that, you can’t say you have it. You just always have to make that position the most important and do whatever you can to be the best at that position you can. There is a scarcity of quarterbacks, let’s face it. There are a lot of teams that really struggle at that position. So we always have to try to win big and focus on that position at all times.”

Overall, the Eagles’ owner feels good about where this franchise sits despite missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.

“The key thing for me is are we surrounding ourselves with the best possible people and bringing in the best possible players. I’m very enthused by where we’re sitting. Maybe I’m being overly enthusiastic. I don’t think so. These players deserve a lot of credit. And we’re crushed at the same time. It’s a dual feeling: you’re feeling really good about your young team…but at the same time emotionally crushed.”