March 29, 2023
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie spoke for about a half hour at the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday. Here are my eight biggest takeaways.
Lurie was asked how the team's upcoming financial commitment to Hurts differs from past franchise quarterbacks.
"Every quarterback is different," he said. "Donovan is different. Carson was a unique situation and suffered a lot of serious injuries right after the contract. And Jalen is very different than those two. The thing with Jalen that I am so optimistic about is he has this incredible — and I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here — but seeing him virtually everyday he has an incredible passion for being phenomenal. And you see that in the great ones. We all know in other sports, and with certain quarterbacks in this league, you can define them by obsession with detail and work ethic.
"We always knew Jalen was talented, had a very live arm that we felt was discounted in college because he was such a great runner, and his character was always considered great. But maybe the advantage we had was we really respected his ability to throw the football and that would improve based on tremendous work ethic. I think the future is so great for him.
"He is 24 years old. Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever met someone that mature at age 24. My son is 27 and he is very mature but, no. Jalen is the most mature 24-year old I’ve ever come across. So it is different. Each franchise quarterback is different. I’ve always said to you guys — quarterback, GM, coach, facility, stadium, scouting, those kind of things. Those are the keys. Once you can find that, that's when you are really excited. We’ll be working with Jalen I am sure for a long time.”
The team arguably held on too long to some older players after the team's 2017 Super Bowl season, which was something they considered when prioritizing who to try to re-sign this offseason. As it turned out, they once again retained a number of their older players.
"This year we thought about whether we should re-sign some of our older players," Lurie said. "What we really decided was, and this was more Nick and Howie than me, that they’re playing at such a high level that it was a smart thing to bring back Jason Kelce, and BG and Fletch at different levels. You don’t want to just take something that you’re worried about if actually they’ve been playing great. So that’s a good example. Try to retain key players and know when you think it’s not smart to spend the money that way and allocate resources.”
He added that the team is trying to balance the older players with youth, and that developing young players often involves a lot of unknown factors beyond whether they're just good at football or not.
“You need a mix of older players, younger players, draft choices, vets, up-and-coming players, players you’re developing from lesser known players from the practice squad or bottom of the roster," he said. "You need all that. I think the Chiefs were a good example. They had to let go of Tyreek Hill, but they were able to draft McDuffie and Karlaftis. They’re going through a transition. You have to do that when you have a franchise quarterback on a rookie deal.
"The teams that develop their players, draft well, use the resources in free agency selectively — there’s a lot of off-field things. You want the culture to be great, you want to have an outstanding program for injury prevention, which is multivariable. It involves nutrition, training, practice schedules, alternative modes of therapy, and things like that. Mental-health awareness, there’s so much that goes into that. When I say there’s so many unknowns of people in the building, I can give you 30 people that, without each of them performing really well, we’re not talking NFC championship.”
Lurie is also thankful to have players like Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, and Fletcher Cox, who want to retire as Eagles, and who have helped shape the culture of the team.
“I know what we have as a culture, I know how close we all are, whether it’s owner-coach, coach-player, GM-player, just the camaraderie of the players themselves, the people in the building with those players, they mean an awful lot. And it’s not always possible," he said.
Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and special teams coordinator Michael Clay are both African American. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai is of Indian descent.
“I don’t want to take credit for the fact that we have three minority coordinators," Lurie said. "They were the best each time they were being interviewed and the due diligence. It might not have worked out that way. Brian Johnson is someone we see as being very talented, Sean Desai the same, and Michael we have worked with before and he is a very young and developing coach. We’re open to it, we are colorblind, and we just want the best. It just worked out that way. I don’t want to have us take any credit for it.”
After the Eagles lost Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon to head coaching jobs, the Eagles interviewed over a dozen outside candidates for the vacant defensive coordinator position, but only one outside candidate interviewed for the open offensive coordinator job, and that was pretty much just to fulfill a league requirement to do so. It was very clear that the Eagles intended on promoting Johnson, which, of course, they did.
"[Nick Sirianni] had made it very clear during the season that we have an outstanding, outstanding quarterback coach in Brian Johnson," Lurie said. "And so he was going to go through an interview process but he was very, very hopeful that we wouldn’t lose Brian. Because there were several teams looking to sign Brian and we didn’t know if Shane was going to be a head coach. So we were plenty concerned, very concerned that we would not have Brian to both promote and sort of have the benefits of somebody who’s worked with Jalen and works great with him and has the respect of everybody in the building. On that level, that was sort of a planned succession so I was really happy for Shane that he got that job."
There's no salary cap on assistant coaches, so every team in the NFL really should be willing to pay talented assistants to retain them, but Lurie has consistently proven that he will do that.
"It's certainly an advantage," he said. "It's not an advantage to keep somebody that's going to get a head coaching job. That's tough to retain somebody. Those jobs are so scarce. They're very highly paid today. There's virtually no way to retain someone who gets one of those coveted positions. However, with Jeff Stoutland and others in the past – Jim Johnson, you know there's some great examples – we will go to terrific lengths, outstanding lengths and pay them just about the most in the league in order to retain them if we think they are incredibly talented at a very important position. And so obviously we've done that with Stout every year."
We covered that in a little more detail here.
The NFL Players Association recently published grades on the working conditions for each NFL team based on surveys completed by more than 1,300 players. Here were the Eagles' grades in each category:
• Treatment of families: B-
• Nutrition: A
• Weight room: A-
• Strength staff: A+
• Training room: C-
• Training staff: A+
• Locker room: C+
• Travel: D
The Eagles' personnel (strength staff, training staff, etc.) scored highly; their facilities (training room, locker room, etc.) did not. The Eagles' indoor practice facility is only 60 yards, and the locker room — relative to many other locker rooms around the league — is on the smaller side.
Lurie was aware of the NFLPA's grades, but he said he had not seen them.
“I didn't get a chance to see it," he said. "And we haven't really kind of got all the data behind it. We're very data oriented. And we're very hungry to know anything that we can do better, we want to do better. But it has to be based on real data. And so you've got to see who really got interviewed, sample size and all that. But we're always open. I was glad they did it. I encourage us to analyze it and to anything we can improve. You know, I'm there."
The Eagles have retired nine numbers — 5, 15, 20, 40, 44, 60, 70, 92, and 99. And then there are other numbers that aren't officially retired, but haven't been used in quite a while, like 9, 12, 25, and 87. And then there are some numbers that are maybe also being withheld, like 71, 79, and 86. And then whenever the guys who currently wear 55, 62, 65, and 91 retire, they'll probably be kept out of circulation, too.
So, uh, yeah, they're running out of usable numbers.
“What happened there was [Assistant GM] Jon Ferrari is very involved in this. In this case, [Vice President of Equipment Operations] Greg Delimitros," Lurie said. "They changed some of the numbering systems a few years ago. And we’re kind of running out of numbers for certain things. And so we wanted kickers, punters to have an added number – zero – or another player with zero. It just gives more flexibility. It gives a little more flexibility. If anyone brings up double zero next year, I’ll probably vote for it. It’s not that big of a deal, but I think Jon and Greg got together and said let’s introduce this, and I fully supported it."
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