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May 30, 2019

Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie says giving Chip Kelly too much power is one of his biggest regrets as owner

Lurie also discussed his relationship with his brother, and his view of the modern NFL, in a new interview

Eagles NFL
051116JeffreyLurie Michael Perez/AP

Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman hired some "football guys."

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie passed a big milestone earlier this month: He's owned the team for a quarter-century. Lurie purchased the team in early May of 1994, and has led the franchise to its first-ever Super Bowl after quite a few ups and downs.

In a new feature story at The Athletic on Thursday, Lurie opened up about quite a bit, including his brother's autism, and his takes on past failures and current successes.

One of the biggest takeaways from the rare Lurie interview: He definitely regrets his handling of Chip Kelly's power play in 2015.

Kelly, you'll remember, managed to convince Lurie he needed full control of player personnel after a second 10-win season, squeezing Howie Roseman to the organization's margins. Kelly famously flamed out in his tumultuous third year with the Eagles, then failed to revitalize the 49ers, and is now spinning his wheels with UCLA.

Lurie approached the Kelly decision with some tenderness in the story, but wasn't afraid to admit he regrets how things went down:

"Asked for his biggest regret as owner, Lurie says there are many, but he has trouble identifying just one. He admits that stripping Roseman of his power and giving Kelly full control is one of them. At the time, Kelly was coming off of back-to-back 10-win seasons. As Lurie has explained in the past, he felt like expanding Kelly’s reach was a necessary step to see what he had in the coach.

"'I don’t regret the hiring of him because it was done with a really good thought process,' Lurie says.

"'But, yes, I would say I regret giving him the kind of authority I gave him, yeah. That’s an easy one.'"

It's indeed hard to blame Lurie for the decision behind hiring Kelly, who was regarded in football circles at the time as a luminary who had the potential to revolutionize the game. 

Instead, when Lurie gave him the keys to the franchise, it turned out Kelly was a one-trick pony who didn't know how to adapt. Most Eagles fans also regret the decision, but they don't regret how things played out after Kelly left. So no harm, no foul, really.

The feature story also covers a bunch of interesting minutiae about the team's owner, like the time Lurie wanted to buy Arsenal, one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world:

"'I did look into buying other sports teams when I owned the Eagles, and I regret maybe one of them,' Lurie says. 'There was probably an opportunity to be a significant owner of Arsenal. I wasn’t able to convince enough of the people that were possibly interested in selling at the time. But I saw it similar to the Eagles where it’s kind of a difficult stadium situation. And what if you build a new stadium and it’s right in London? I saw it as a refresh (to) energize that franchise, that team.'"

The idea isn't novel: Philadelphia 76ers managing partner Josh Harris currently has ownership stakes in the Sixers and the NHL's New Jersey Devils, along with Premiere League soccer team Crystal Palace.

But it would be interesting to think about how Lurie would have been viewed by Eagles fans had he purchased Arsenal, then failed to win a Super Bowl for more than two decades, and made the same decisions with Kelly. 

I can only imagine diehard Eagles fans taking up pitchforks, furious at Lurie, the rich philanthropist who spends too much time tending to his European soccer team when he should be helping the Birds win a Lombardi trophy.

Instead, the Eagles have Lurie's full attention, and they also have one of those trophies he was chasing.

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