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December 30, 2015

Full Transcript: Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on Kelly's dismissal

Eagles NFL
123015_Lurie-Media_AP Michael Perez/AP

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talks to reporters the day after announcing the release of head coach Chip Kelly.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie spoke at length Wednesday about the decision to release head coach Chip Kelly one game ahead of the conclusion of his third season with the team.

Here's the full transcript of Lurie's 20-minute session with the media less than 24 hours after announcing the move that caught many by surprise. 


JEFFREY LURIE: Happy to answer any questions.

Q. Where did it go wrong in your opinion and when did you come to this conclusion?

JEFFREY LURIE: You know, with a coach, and with almost any key executive, it's important to really carefully evaluate and analyze; not to be impatient; not to react to a series of games. So every season, I have to carefully look over everything, and this was really a three-year evaluation. A three-year evaluation of where we were heading, what is the trajectory, what is the progress or lack thereof and what did I anticipate for the foreseeable future. And that's why the decision was made.

Q. You spoke so enthusiastically a year ago about Chip’s vision and maximizing Chip and integrating scouting with coaching. How did you so quickly move on from that certainty that that was the right way to go?

JEFFREY LURIE: Well, last March, I think I spoke to many of you, and I said with Chip's vision, it was an opportunity that he wanted to lead the way to try to go from good to great. And, in fact, I remember saying to all of you that there are dangers in that in terms of having two 10-6 seasons in a row and whether making significant changes, you can easily achieve mediocrity. I think it would be a shame not to try, but the end result was mediocrity. As the owner of the team, I've got to look at the progress and the trajectory of where it's headed and it's disappointing to me. But that is the danger when you take a risk.

Q. Did you present an option to Chip to stay on as the coach, but not have complete personnel control? Or was that not talked about?

JEFFREY LURIE: No, I did not offer that. It was decided that it was best to go in a different direction.

Q. Did Chip at least make a play to try to keep his job?

JEFFREY LURIE: No, he did not. But the atmosphere was such that I think he knew he was being let go. So in fairness, that decision was made before Chip met with myself and [Eagles President] Don Smolenski.

Q. Why did you make the decision on the Tuesday night before Week 17? Why the timing last night?

JEFFREY LURIE: Three reasons for the early-ish timing, I suppose you could say. One, I wanted to get a jump start on our head coaching search and I knew already what we were going to do. I thought having six extra days was pretty important, because as you know, it's a chaotic, rushed schedule when you're looking for a head coach.
Secondly, I thought in fairness to Chip, it was a good way for him to also view the marketplace and see what's possible in terms of employers.
Most importantly, however, was the opportunity to spend a lot of time with our players and I've already started that process. 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.

Q. You said the players' opinions factored into your decision. Was it just football or was it how he acted or about how Chip went about his business, socially? Did it have anything to do with how he communicated with his players?

JEFFREY LURIE: You know, it's one of many factors. There are so many factors when you're evaluating any senior executive and certainly a head coach. There are so many job responsibilities. You know, in this case, it was just a plethora of variables that had to be looked at and the decision was made that it was important to move on.

Q. In your opinion and from all the research you've done, did Chip lose the locker room? How much of this had to do with his relationships inside the building and with the players as much as it had to do with only winning six games this year?

JEFFREY LURIE: It's never just one thing when you make a change. It really is not. It's so much a combination of so many factors from performance to -- you can come up with 10 different variables. So it was more the lack of progress and the trajectory we were going, and a full evaluation of every responsibility the head coach has and a determination how you would predict the next year would go.

Q. Did he lose the locker room, though, in your opinion?

JEFFREY LURIE: No, I would not say that.

Q. What's your vision of the front office? Will you hire a general manager now? And are you reluctant to ever give a head coach personnel control again?

JEFFREY LURIE: Yeah, those are all good questions. In terms of a reluctance to give a head coach that much control again, we've done it in the past to some degree with Andy Reid with a lot of success.
I think the best approach is a real collaborative approach. In this case with Chip, I think there were some very good reasons to be bold about what he wanted to be able to accomplish and do. However, going forward, I think a much more collaborative approach between player personnel and coaching is the way to go. And that's the direction we would go.
In terms of the front office and the executives and all that, Howie Roseman will remain as executive vice president in charge of football operations. [Senior Director of Player Personnel] Tom Donahoe will run the day-to-day player personnel department, which is a crucial hire in a crucial position in terms of player personnel. Howie will be responsible for making sure our player personnel department is as good as it gets in the NFL and be accountable for that, and that's pretty much the way it would go.
Our new head coach, executive vice president of football operations and a player personnel head, they are all partners to collaborate and that's the structure.

Q. Will Howie have a say in personnel?

JEFFREY LURIE: He will have a say in personnel as a collaborator, yes.

Q. You mentioned 18 years and two head coaches. There was a lot of leeway with former Eagles Head Coach Ray Rhodes, you gave him an extra year so to speak. Same thing with former Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid. Maybe more so. Why the difference in this scenario with Chip Kelly?

JEFFREY LURIE: I guess my memory is not that great, but with Andy, it's more recent. I would say, you know, going back to with Andy, every time, and the few times that we ever did not have a winning season and we were, let's say, 8-8, he always came back the next year with a 10-win-or-more season and we were in the playoffs. We didn't have that history here. 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.

Q. Doubling back on the players, not so much losing the locker room, but you talk about getting their feedback now as to what went wrong. How much did you get ahead of this decision? And so much was made of your conversation with RB DeMarco Murray on the flight home. Did that have a lot to do with is this? Did DeMarco have a lot of input on this?

JEFFREY LURIE: First, there's a couple questions within that. DeMarco Murray had zero to do with it. I talk to players on airplanes all the time. That made a lot of media coverage. 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.
So that's not it at all. You know, there's so many variables that go into it, it's important to -- I go back to peak performance. If you want to have peak performance, you have to have tremendous collaboration, trust, respect, smartness, agility. You've got to have a lot going for to you achieve peak performance and leadership.
And so, you know, that was the decision [that] was made to move on with a new leader as a head coach.

Q. I'm sure there was a lot of self-evaluation during the course of this process, coming to this decision. What was in your opinion your biggest misstep over the course of handling Chip?

JEFFREY LURIE: I go back to the original hiring of Chip. It was a bold choice. We knew what the potential pitfalls were. He was our first choice. It was a unanimous decision we all had in the hiring process that we should make that bold choice. I thought after 15 years of going in one direction, that there was a reason to do that.
And I think whenever you make a bold choice, I'd hate to ever be risk-averse. 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.

Q. Just to clarify Howie Roseman's role, will you guys be seeking out a traditional general manager to step into the front office and do you have any concern that the same search committee, yourself, Howie and Eagles President Don Smolenski, that led you to Chip Kelly is also leading this search?

JEFFREY LURIE: No, I am very confident that this search will be done very, very professionally, as the last one was. We uncovered several excellent candidates. You know, I guess Chip was probably No. 1 on a lot of teams' lists last time and we were no exception, for those that wanted to make that bold choice.
I'm very confident that what we are going to assemble in terms of that search will lead us and our fans to a really excellent choice. So no, I'm excited about starting that search. We've already started last night.

Q. Given Chip's background before you hired him, and given the two years you had to interact with him, evaluate him, get to know him a little bit, what made you think that giving him the power you gave him a year ago and keeping Howie in the organization, that that scenario would work?

JEFFREY LURIE: You know, I think that it was -- I wanted to make Chip accountable for everything he wanted to have happen. And one of the ways to make him accountable was to have him make those decisions, because that is what he insisted on decisively doing. So if you want to make those decisions, be accountable for them, and that's the direction it took.
There was a risk involved in allowing Chip to have that kind of say over player transactions. However, you know, risk-reward. Sometimes the risks don't work and this case, it didn't work.

Q. Going back to that moment where you did give him full control of the football operations, he had not had NFL experience prior to coming here. Did you feel if he didn't get that, that he would leave and you'd lose him and that was the only way you could keep him here by giving him that?

JEFFREY LURIE: No. I used the word maximizing last March, I think it was, when I spoke to most of you. There was really no choice in terms of maximizing Chip without him having the lever, so to speak, of making those decisions.
That's where it was at. I mean, I think you either were all-in or you should find a new coach in terms of the trust and so the choice was, let's see if that's going to work.
And in terms of, you know, the results, part of that is the reason we're here today.

Q. What are you looking for in a new coach? Do you want an NFL-style coach, a guy with NFL experience? And is anybody on this current staff a candidate?

JEFFREY LURIE: I think in terms of what we're looking for in a coach, it's several things, and it's No. 1, a smart strategic thinker. That's a given. You've got to be looking out for the short-term, mid-term and long-term interests of the franchise.
Looking for somebody who interacts very well and communicates clearly with everybody he works with and comes in touch with. Understands the passion of our fans and what it's like to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. It's a unique and incredibly passionate fan base that just wants to win, and you've got to incorporate that in your life and in your heart and you've got to be willing to do that.
And another thing is attention to detail. I think all good coaches have tremendous attention to detail in this league. Lastly is you've got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance. I would call it -- I would call it a style of leadership that values information, all the resources that are provided, and at the same time, values emotional intelligence.
I think in today's world of the way businesses are run and sports teams are run, that a combination, and it's not easy to have, a combination of all those factors creates the best chance to succeed.
In terms of the staff, no one is eliminated. Every member of the staff is under contract. Yes, it's possible that there will be some interviews of members of the staff.

Q. Obviously brought in a lot of the players who fit his system, and his system was obviously unique. Do you see the State of the organization, like you guys starting over, rebuilding? Where do you see things are right now?

JEFFREY LURIE: No, I don't see it as that anyway. The tempo was unique but the kinds of players, whether it's [Eagles RB] Darren Sproles, [Eagles RB] DeMarco Murray, [Eagles QB] Sam Bradford, [Eagles DE] Vinny Curry, you name it. These are players that can fit in any system. It remains to be seen if we run a high-tempo type of offense or not. That will be determined by the new head coach. I don't see any players on the roster that one would say are only a fit for a Chip Kelly team, not at all.
So we have to increase the talent level and increase the performance level of those we have, and you know, that's the key. It's not a fit system type of situation.

Q. So you don't see this as starting over?


Q. Will you be considering current college coaches or is that a path you would prefer not to go down again right now? And also, you've had kind of a bias towards offensive coaches in the past. Do you still want to go that direction?

JEFFREY LURIE: All good questions. You know, no category is diminished here. We're going to look at NFL coaches, NFL coordinators, college coaches, retired coaches, any category you can come up with if we think it's the best candidate.
No, there will be no change in categories. It's open to figuring that out.

Q. Will there be a focus on either an offensive-minded or defensive-minded head coach?

JEFFREY LURIE: No, we're looking for the best leader. I've looked carefully at coaches around the league and where they come from, and I don't think there's any clear evidence of offense over defense or defense over offense. It comes down to the leadership ability with today's athlete and today's world. It's different than it was a long time ago. I don't treat offense or defense differently.

Q. You mentioned the collaborative approach and that Tom Donahoe got promoted to senior director of player personnel. Why won't he be included in the head coaching search?

JEFFREY LURIE: Tom will be consulted for sure. When I say coaching search, it just means who’s leading it. There is a slew of valuable people who have already been contacted and who will be contacted that are a key part of the search and Tom is one of them.

Q. This season began with such massive expectations. What has been the most difficult part for you?

JEFFREY LURIE: This has been one of the most disappointing seasons I've ever endured. I didn't feel, as you probably remember when I spoke to the media in August, that our preseason success would have anything to do with our regular season. I've never believed that at all.
It was surprising because I thought we were on the verge of something that could be very, very special, but it wasn't -- it wasn't something where you could count on it based on preseason games. My expectations were confident and high, but not sky-high. And I'm realistic. It's a league that teams, talent-wise, are close together. Sometimes there's a culture within an organization with players that create a momentum and create energy and create a fluidity. We never achieved that. It was too inconsistent. The difference between winning the division and not might have been slight, but this was not a strong division and you've got to look at things outside of just winning the NFC East. I think it's a bigger situation than that.
Transcript courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.

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