January 15, 2021
On Monday, after the Philadelphia Eagles fired Doug Pederson, Jeffrey Lurie spoke for the first time in a long time, and you know things are bad when nobody asked him about Kelly green jerseys. Lurie's presser only added to the concerns surrounding this team, and the owner's accountability for some, but not others.
And so, since a lot of ground was covered (even if I'm a little late on this), let's hand out 10 awards.
The only real positive to come out of Lurie's press conference was the recognition that the Eagles can no longer think in terms of the short-term, which they did after they won a Super Bowl, hoping to win another one, and must focus on the long-term, and as Lurie put it, "the medium-term." So let's get that out of the way up front, and then we'll get to the alarming stuff.
"I would say we changed our balance as a franchise between short, mid and long term. The way we've created the success and been able to have the success we've had has been thinking mainly in the mid term and long term and making unpopular short-term decisions at times. And we got away from that, understandably, because when you have competed to win a Super Bowl and you want to retain emotionally and physically the people that helped bring us all there, and if you remember, there were a lot of people injured that year and we very much wanted to bring them all back to be able to participate the following year in trying to win another one...
"We haven't had that balance. We have much more erred towards giving up a draft pick for an immediate infusion at a position or drafting for a specific position because we thought it was our biggest weakness, or a trait that we thought was our biggest weakness. I don't regret any of that, but I know where we're at."
The Eagles don't have much of a choice. If you can't see at this point that the core of the Super Bowl team has eroded away, due to age, decline, free agency departures, etc., you're blind. And now that the roster is old, bad, expensive, and will be very difficult to improve in ways other than the draft as a result of a lack of cap space, any recourse other than to transition to long-term thinking would be insanity.
Of course, Lurie has said that the Eagles need to always consider the long-term pretty much every year, so in a sense it was the same old story, but perhaps delivered a little more genuinely (and obviously) this time.
The most glaring theme from Lurie's press conference was the complete lack of accountability for Howie Roseman, who was phenomenal in 2017, but has undeniably had three consecutive bad offseasons since as the team's general manager.
Lurie not only didn't acknowledge the overwhelmingly bad roster decisions over that time, but he also gave extraordinarily weak defenses of Roseman. Lurie started by noting that the Eagles have smart people around Roseman that the rest of the league covets.
"So I think that there's several reasons I have confidence in our football operations. First of all, it's the people that he surrounds himself with. We're only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It's easy to talk about the quarterback and the head coach and the GM, but honestly, we're a product of those that surround us.
"I see the people that Howie has attracted to our organization. I think the last two major GM searches have all been raiding our organizations, for whether it's Joe Douglas or Andrew Barry. We have about five people in our organization that right now I could project that will be general managers in this league, and he continually replenishes, whether it's a John Dorsey or Jeremiah Washburn, or the list goes on. I don't want to leave anybody out.
"But we have a real strong nucleus with Andy Weidl, Ian Cunningham, Catherine Raîche, Brandon Brown. One of the jobs of the general manager is to attract really good people and executives around him because it's not meant for one person."
To begin, the idea that Douglas or Berry were staples of the Eagles' organization is false, even if not stated that way by Lurie, and maybe only sort of implied. Douglas made his bones in Baltimore, under Ozzie Newsome, and he was hired away from the Eagles after being in Philadelphia for only three years. Meanwhile, Berry was with the Browns for three years as their vice president of player personnel before the Eagles hired him. He barely even had a chance to set up his office in Philly before the Browns hired him back to be their GM.
But more importantly, WHO CARES?!? Fans of the team couldn't care less about front office credentials. They want the front office to pick good players in the draft, and sign good players in free agency.
Unmoved by Lurie's answer about all the amazing folks in the Eagles' front office, Les Bowen of the Inquirer asked a very difficult follow-up question.
"I think we all understand the things that were done to win the Super Bowl and to try to be competitive in the next couple of years, but nonetheless, the draft picks you have had during that time and some of the free-agent signings you have made during that time have not been very good. The drafts, in particular, there have been some really notable failures. If you do have all these great people and personnel and if Howie Roseman really is doing such a great job, then why is that?"
"I think you've really got to look at the big picture of have you analyzed every single draft pick and street free agent and everybody? Have you compared it to other teams? Have you compared it to other successful teams and do they have two-, three-year drop-offs with less volume? Are the picks that you're talking about seen in the long run or just in a one-year period? There's a lot to look at. I'm not disagreeing with anything. I'm just saying you've got to really look at it.
"Seattle … you take whichever organization you want and look at it over a multi-year period, you're going to see highs and lows of drafting, you're going to see highs and lows of free-agent acquisition, and you’re going to have to make your own determination of do they have the right people in the building? Is that two years of not having good first-round picks, is that related to people in the building or is that because the two players that they actually were going to draft got taken just before and they are All-Pro players in the league? I have to be much more in-depth and complex about the analysis."
Lol, we've analyzed. The drafts have objectively stunk no matter how you slice it.
And Seattle? Isn't that the team that took DK Metcalf because the Eagles didn't? Is that really the best team to single out?
Another defense of the Eagles' poor drafting was that players they like often get taken before the Eagles pick theirs.
"There's been mistakes. There's mistakes, but what I have to look at is the process and I have to look at the performance over time but most importantly I have to look at the process. If we are not identifying the best players leading up to a selection in the draft, then that's a problem. If we are identifying the best players but they get taken two, three, four, five picks ahead of us, that's also part of the evaluation. That's part of understanding the process. Understanding the details.
"And so I always have to make the tough decision of: are we getting it right? Where are we getting it wrong? Where are the decisions being made that may cause us to – once we didn't get the three players that we really wanted right there, they just got taken, what's caused that next selection that may not have been maximized?"
Gaslighting? Romanticizing? Whatever you want to call it, the Eagles are consistently going back to this idea that he 2018 and 2019 seasons were successes. Lurie said:
"We were probably, without focusing on one person, an Alshon reception from getting back to the [NFC] Championship Game [in 2018]; 2019 back in the playoffs and our quarterback got hurt."
Oh my God, just stop it already with that. A week prior, Roseman said that before the 4-11-1 season, the Eagles "had won 35 games" in the three years prior, and that they were "15 yards from the Championship Game." That feels a lot like a coordinated messaging point. Whatever it is, it's delusion.
The reality is that the 2018 and 2019 Eagles were just OK generally speaking, and certainly disappointing for a team coming off a Super Bowl win.
• In 2018, at varying points, the Eagles were 3-4, 4-6, and 6-7. A three-game winning streak to close the season earned the team a playoff berth, which was only made possible because the Vikings lost to a Bears team with nothing to play for, and the Eagles backdoored their way into the 6 seed. They beat a Mitchell Trubisky-led Chicago team in the first round, and then lost to the Saints.
As for being "an Alshon reception" away, that of course assumes the Eagles would have scored, had Jeffery not had a ball go through his hands and into the waiting arms of Marshon Lattimore. Also, it was more like 27 yards, and the Eagles still had plenty of work to do even if Jeffery had caught that pass. Also also, it ignores the possibility of the Saints kicking a field goal on their ensuing possession for the win even if the Eagles had scored.
Assuming the Eagles would have won that game if Jeffery caught that pass is like the belief that the Sixers would have beaten the Raptors in OT, and then the Bucks, and then the Warriors, if Kawhi Leonard's quadruple doink hadn't fallen through. But Jeffery did drop the pass, as he was prone to do that season, because the Eagles didn't have very good receivers.
• In 2019, the Eagles were sitting at 5-7, before feasting on the dreck in their division for four games to close the season once again at 9-7. The rest of the teams in the division had a combined record of 15-33. If they played in any other division in the NFC, based on their record, they would not have made the playoffs.
The Eagles' point differential in 2018 was +19. They were 16th in DVOA. Their point differential in 2019 was +31, and their DVOA was 11th.
They were a slightly above average team. So please, enough with that nonsense.
New talking point alert!
"If you look at the final – I do this because I like to study this stuff and it informs me – if you look at the final four teams from the year we won the Super Bowl, they are all going through the exact same thing. If you look at Atlanta, the year before, they weren’t in the final four but they were in the final two the year before, and then we played them obviously in our Super Bowl year, it’s where they are. If you look at the history of the final groupings, unless you have a Hall of Fame quarterback that can sustain it, teams tend to go for patching up, they tend to change their balance. It's not what made us successful. I don't regret it because I really was hoping we could pull off another one and I owed it to the players that brought us one to be able to lean in that direction."
The three other teams in the final four the year the Eagles won it all were the Vikings, Patriots, and Jaguars. While it is true that each of those teams had losing seasons, they are decidedly not in the same position as the Eagles.
• The Vikings won a playoff game in 2019, and they had a great draft in 2020. They were also wise enough to see that their core was aging, and did not dole out a bunch of silly restructures to declining players. Instead they went with a youth movement, and while they had to endure one bad-but-not-horrendous 7-9 season, they have a good, emerging young nucleus to build around.
• The Patriots of course took a huge dip with Tom Brady departing, but they have almost $60 million in cap space in 2021, while the Eagles are projected to be more than $51 million over the cap.
• The Jaguars stunk again pretty quickly after their "final four" appearance. But they fired their GM. And they have even more cap space than the Patriots.
• Lurie also mentioned the Falcons, who I believe are actually a great comparison for the Eagles' steady fall. They fired their GM, too.
In regard to whether Carson Wentz would be back on the team in 2021, Lurie said, "I don't think any owner should decide that."
One of the things Lurie mentioned when asked about the Eagles' appeal to prospective head coaching hires was that, "Cap room is a one-year phenomena in this league. Anybody who really understands the cap knows that you can transition away from a difficult cap situation in about 12 months."
The Eagles' unhealthy cap situation isn't just going to end after 2021. They have the third-most money in the NFL committed to the cap in 2022 (just shy of $179 million, according to OverTheCap.com), and that number is only going to grow after they kick the can down the road this offseason with several players.
For example, it appears that the Eagles will use June 1 designations on Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson, which will help the team get under the cap in 2021, but will add over $14 million in dead money to the cap in 2022. And there are more to come. Like, don't be surprised when the Eagles restructure contracts of guys like Brandon Graham and Darius Slay this offseason.
It's going to be a multi-year process of getting cap healthy. At a minimum, the Eagles are not going to have anywhere near the same level of cap flexibility as most of the rest of the teams in the league.
When asked if he had any input on the decision to pull Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld in the Week 17 game against the Football Team, Lurie delivered an answer for the ages.
"I heard that Doug wanted to give Nate some time. And I understand the circumstances, but Nate, I think he holds the record for his debut in the NFL against Dallas for the best completion percentage. He was awesome. What is it, 19-out-of-22, you know, unstoppable."
First of all, "I heard that Doug wanted to give Nate some time" is such a funny phrasing, lol, as if he's some fan of the team that happened to catch a report on Twitter about it or something.
And yes, Nate did have a high completion percentage that day of 82.6 percent (he was actually 19 of 23). Of course, he only threw for 134 yards, or 5.8 yards per attempt, and the Eagles lost 6-0. Unstoppable!
When asked what makes the Eagles' a quality destination for prospective head coaches, Lurie offered the following:
First of all I would think it's a very, very attractive job because if I'm a coach, first thing you want to know is if you're going to have as much resources as possible to create a successful team; are the facilities good; what's the organization's track record over the last ten, 20 years, are they a team that rarely makes the playoffs, are they a team that's satisfied to occasionally make the playoffs, how many division titles do they have, do they ever get as far in the playoffs in the way they build their roster or is it just one-and-done or did they get to championship games and Super Bowls and things like that. That's what I'm looking for...
On the quarterback situation, we've got two really interesting assets. They are both young. They are both hungry. They are terrific people, very different and terrific people. A coach is going to have options. A coach is going to have an ability to fix what he feels is necessary in our offense and have a potential star in [QB] Carson [Wentz] and a potential star in [QB] Jalen [Hurts]. That gives us an asset, also, so that if we end up deciding on one some day, the other is a really good asset.
Lurie's point about the team's track record is clearly important, and Lurie is both a good person, and even though we have gone a long way in criticizing him here, he is someone who wants to win. So all of that is valid.
But obviously, the Eagles have one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL, and, uh, the facilities? Their practice bubble is only 80 yards (60 if you don't count the end zones)!
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports
Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader