Eagles Wake-Up Call: Lurie’s Hands-On Approach
“DeMarco Murray had zero to do with it.”
Jeffrey Lurie delivered the response you’d expect, and when asked, he denied that his $40 million running back had any influence over his decision to fire Chip Kelly. The answer wasn’t surprising, but as he looked back at the hoopla made over his plane ride chat with Murray, Lurie also gave a glimpse of what may come in the future.
“I talk to players on airplanes all the time,” Lurie said. “In the building, I talk to them all the time. I’m not someone who is hands-off. I try to get a sense of players and their concerns in the locker room at all times, all year round.”
Considering the “53 Angry Men” t-shirts Lurie gave players before the Bills win, and his pre-game talks before the Patriots victory, his hands-on approach explanation fits. It also explains his philosophy as he searches for the Eagles’ next head coach.
Lurie said the curious timing for firing Kelly was because of three reasons. The first — he wanted more time to conduct a search — made sense; the second — he wanted to give Kelly more time to find his next job — sounded like political correctness; the third — he wanted to do so before the season ended to gather input from his players — seemed to be the most important, and it’s what he spent, by far, the most time discussing.
“Most importantly, however, was the opportunity to spend a lot of time with our players and I’ve already started that process,” Lurie said. “I had a players-only meeting with them this morning. There’s going to be more this afternoon with certain players. I’m going to meet again with them on Monday. I think, you know, that was the defining decision. When you make a decision the Monday after the last regular-season game or a playoff loss or something like that, the players really go for some physicals and disperse. They are anxious to go home.
“In today’s world, at least the way I like to run things, I want to hear from the players. I want to engage them and have them understand. What they felt was lacking, I need to understand; have them understand and take accountability and also at the same time, be a sponge for what is leadership like in today’s football world. You’re dealing with 22-to-35-or-more-aged people, and people who are elite athletes, trying to perform at the very peak of their profession, and there’s a lot of issues.
“And what is leadership like in today’s world? It’s very, very different than it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago. I would like to think that we’re always going to try to be on the progressive end of how to lead and that’s top down, but it’s also through the head coach and people the head coach surrounds himself with. It’s a real opportunity and if I waited until Monday, there would be so much less of that opportunity.”
It’s possible something we don’t know about happened in the days prior to Lurie’s decision and that he’s simply saying things he thinks fans want to hear, but him reaching out to players was a constant theme throughout his press conference, regardless of the question asked.
The Eagles owner also mentioned how unhappy he was with the trajectory of the franchise, and in explaining why he only gave Kelly three years, he referenced a fact that casts some doubt on one element of his reputation.
Before firing Kelly, Lurie was known around the NFL as a patient owner. However, since Lurie purchased the team in 1994, an Eagles’ head coach failed to make the playoffs in back-to-back years just three times. On each occasion, the head coach was fired immediately afterward.
“The few times that we ever did not have a winning season and we were, let’s say, 8-8, [Andy Reid] always came back the next year with a 10-win-or-more season and we were in the playoffs,” Lurie said. “We didn’t have that history here [with Kelly]. There’s nothing to basically base that on. So that was a situation with Andy that I just had a lot of faith that the following year would create a double-digit win season and it usually did until the very last time.”
The point? Although the Eagles haven’t won a Super Bowl, it isn’t as if Lurie has patiently endured losing season after losing season, which makes his decision to fire Kelly after just one bad record — plus personnel problems — more understandable.
Before concluding, Lurie shed light on one more topic that provides insight on how he’ll think during the coaching search. He explained how he took a risk by hiring Kelly, but he added that his decision backfiring won’t make him hesitant to take another one.
“I’d hate to ever be risk-averse,” Lurie said. “I don’t ever want to operate that way, whether it’s acquiring a player or picking a head coach or whatever. It’s much better to go for it than to just, you know, say, ‘Okay, well, other teams are doing it that way’ or something like that. That’s not the way we’ve ever operated. So I think one of the things is when you make a bold choice, there’s increased risk and sometimes it just doesn’t work out when you take risks.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“There are many sides to a locker room story.” The difference between perception and reality.
Zach Ertz said he doesn’t need his head coach to also be his best friend.
“I think Lane reads too many articles.” Malcolm Jenkins touched on his teammate’s comments.
DeMarco Murray said Chip Kelly‘s firing can be a fresh start.
Pat Shurmur discussed a busy Tuesday, and what his plans are for Sunday’s season finale.
“I would say it’s actually disappointing.” Bill Belichick commented on Kelly’s firing.
“I count this as one of the truly great missed opportunities in my 32 seasons covering the NFL.” What they’re saying.
Tim opens up the head coaching hunt with a breakdown of some likely candidates.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Andrew Kulp writes there was no argument to be made for keeping Chip Kelly after this disaster of a season.
Right up until the moment he was fired, it seemed there was a chance Chip Kelly could return for another year as head coach of the Eagles. After all, it was only 12 months ago when Kelly was coming off of back-to-back 10-win seasons and Jeffrey Lurie awarded him full control over personnel decisions. The case could certainly be made his sudden dismissal was rash.
Then Lurie spoke. What became crystal clear about Kelly during the owner’s 22-minute address on Wednesday is the decision at its heart comes down to his not being a very good leader. We can argue X’s and O’s, transactions, the staff, tempo, play-calling, practices and sports science all day long, but this wasn’t about Kelly the coach or Kelly the general manager.
It was about Kelly the human, and there was no way the Eagles were going to rebound, much less excel amidst the environment he was creating.
Bob Brookover believes Pat Shurmur is the perfect man to succeed Kelly as head coach of the Eagles.
Shurmur, 50, would not be a popular choice outside of the locker room. His only head-coaching experience came with Cleveland during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He was fired by former Eagles president Joe Banner after going 9-23 with the Browns. Given the history of head coaches in Cleveland, this should not be held against him. The Browns have had three winning seasons since 1990. Bill Belichick had one winning season in five years with Cleveland.
Look at the rest of Shurmur’s resume and match it with the criteria Lurie laid out for his latest coaching search and the man who has been the Eagles offensive coordinator the last three seasons makes perfect sense.
We’ll have position-by-position breakdowns of what the next head coach will inherit on both sides of the ball.