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September 08, 2017

Lurie outlines his expectations for Pederson, Wentz and the Eagles

Perhaps the best moment of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s impromptu press conference came shortly after he stepped down from the podium when he told the reporters who stuck around to chat – and it was pretty much all of them – a story about longtime coach Andy Reid. Specifically, it was about the first time Lurie took Reid out to dinner, and Big Red ordered not one, not two, but three steaks – and acted like that was business as usual because it was.

Any guesses who was picking up the tab that night? (Yes, the owner.)

And while that’s a nice reminder of a time since passed, it’s also a reminder that the Eagles have made the postseason just once – their lone playoff appearance came in Chip Kelly’s first year – and have yet to win a playoff game since Reid was let go following the 2012 season.

That, however, doesn’t seem to worry Lurie too much, as he gave both GM Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson ringing endorsements on Thursday during his nearly half hour session with the media.

“The future is in front of him, and it's there for the taking,” Lurie said of his coach, after admitting that there were some growing pains last season, just as there have been with any other first-year coach he’s ever had.

He also outlined some expectations for Year Two of the Pederson Era.

“The expectation this year is that we have improved the team,” Lurie said. “Who knows how the season's going to go in terms of injuries, whether chemistry comes together. Every season's a marathon. It's not determined until you really look back on it and what happened and how successful were you. 

“But I think I love the blueprint we have. I think that we are headed in a terrific direction ... The key is that we have the opportunity to compete strongly now, and that's what I expect. I expect us to compete strongly. We're in the second year of a very potentially special, young quarterback. We don't even know that yet.”

Potentially special?

Don’t take the wrong way. Lurie thinks the world of Wentz. In fact, half of his pro-Roseman endorsement came on the back of how his GM was able to move up and acquire the young quarterback without sacrificing the product on the field.

What Lurie is really saying there is that there’s a relatively small sample size available for Wentz, given that he has just 16 NFL games under his belt. And just like his head coach – and his team overall, for that matter – Lurie wants to see improvement out of Wentz.

“So you look around the league – like all of us, we look around – we see the good, young quarterbacks, how they do in their second year, how the teams do in their second year,” Lurie said. “It's not so much these young quarterbacks don't evolve. I think there's a similarity to the way [Titans QB] Marcus Mariota, [Raiders QB] Derek Carr, [Buccaneers QB] Jameis Winston, you name it, the ones that are successful, you can see Year One, Year Two, Year Three. My expectation with Carson is he'll be better in Year Two than Year One, he’ll significantly be better in Year Three than Year Two, and he’ll be significantly better in Year Four than Year Three.

“That's where we're at. The difference in records of the teams with all those, you can research it yourself, but it typically, I think, is how terrific do you surround him. You have young quarterbacks that join teams and take them to the Super Bowl. But those are teams basically that have top two, top three defenses. We hope to be there. We hope to be there. But that's the rarity.

“I see us as a team with an excellent blueprint, great opportunity, terrific direction, but we're in Year Two of the plan.”

And that’s important – the fact that the Eagles are only in the second year of their plan, the Carson Wentz Plan.

Previously, Lurie’s said that it will likely take multiple years (and draft classes) to get his team where he wants it to be. But after a 7-9 season in Year One, and an offseason full of additions at key positions, does the owner think they could make the jump to being a playoff team?

“Oh, I think so much happens in a given season that you can never say that,” Lurie said. “I mean, I've never in 23 years, even coming off all those multiple NFC Championship games, and NFC East titles and all that, I've never come and said, ‘We're obviously a playoff team.’ It just doesn't work that way in the NFL.

“Look at last year. What was Atlanta's record going into the season and what was Dallas' record going into the season last year? I think Dallas became the No. 1 seed. What was Atlanta, 6-10, going into last year? And with Matty Ice [Falcons QB Matt Ryan], who is a very good quarterback?

“We'd be sitting here talking about, ‘How can you have Matty Ice and be 6-10?’ [Then] they developed one hell of a team.

“It's sort of foolhardy to make any predictions, whatsoever.”

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