The Eagles went on a four game winning streak at the end of the season to finish the year at 8-8. The players all seem to have enjoyed winning and some have even talked about how it will be positive for them going forward. The owner doesn't buy that.
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie didn't make excuses nor did he take a lot of positives for the way his team started or ended the year. At his state of the team press conference today, he was as candid and pointed in his remarks that I've ever heard him.
There's a lot of goodwill and optimism and confidence going forward, but to think there is any legitimate excuses to take that long to come together I think is misplaced. I think that there is a lot of good that has happened in the last month, and a lot of realism has to be looked at as well. I sit back as the owner and like any of you as fans and people in the media or whatever, you do have your full range of emotions. There are times where you are just angry and frustrated and other times, you're trying to convert that anger and frustration, which I try to do, into cool analysis: where are you and what can you expect? What is to be expected?
There's a lot of things you have to like and I like about the last month of the season, but in reality and it's the way the NFL schedule was, we weren't playing Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and some of the best teams in the league. There was no opportunity to prove - we proved we could dominate against teams the last half of the year who weren't that competitive. There's a lot to be said for the players coming together and the coaching staff holding this group together in a way that was impressive.
To hold onto that as the reason to be completely optimistic is, I think, fool's gold.
After the jump is transcript of Lurie's full remarks.
"First of all, Happy New Year and thank you for coming today. I know it’s a little unusual for me to hold a postseason press conference, and I didn’t want to make very much of it, but it’s been a very, very unusual season and that’s really the reason. I have spoken to many of you after games in the locker room and just said, ‘You know, I don’t think it’s my role to talk after games or during the season.’ I’ve stuck with that for years because I feel that during the season, the attention really should be on the coaches and players, and don’t become part of the story. It’s a long season, and the NFL is really a marathon. It’s not about each individual game where the emotions are riding high. I just think that’s the approach that I’ve always taken. I do feel that because it was both such a frustrating and disappointing season and also the timing of the season coming right after the lockout and going right into free agency and preseason games and all that. I wanted to speak at times, but held myself back, so here we are.
This season was without question the most disappointing season since I’ve owned the team. You’re only human and you go through all the range of emotions during the season, but the primary emotions I think are anger and frustration. You think you have – you’re coming off an NFC East championship last year, [playoffs] the year before, going to the NFC Championship Game the year before, so you’re not in any way thinking that if you’re aggressive in free agency, make a trade for a Pro Bowl cornerback, continue to implement and improve the team with good, young players, and [QB] Michael Vick coming off a season where he was second to Tom Brady as MVP of the league, there is no way that I don’t think anybody in this room or certainly myself that we’d be sitting here with the season already ended. It’s not only unacceptable, it’s very, very disappointing and anyone who in my mind both doesn’t feel the disappointment and anger is just not getting what we’re all about. We’re a team, and Andy [Reid] is a coach who has been in the playoffs nine out of the last 12 years, and it’s just completely unacceptable to be 8-8 and watching these other teams play starting next week. Incredibly, incredibly disappointing.
That being said, I think when you’re going through the first half of the season – I think I told most of you in August that I viewed us not as many of the media and national press had as co-favorites or favorites to be in the Super Bowl. I thought we had a very good team, but I regarded, as I said to all of you in August, that Green Bay and New Orleans were the teams holding the last two trophies and I thought they were the most formidable teams in the NFC. I still believe that. What I was hoping was that by making most of the player moves and changing some schemes and doing some things that we did in the offseason, although it was a very short offseason, would bring us closer. We were looking at a team in Green Bay that had 17 players injured when they just got into the playoffs and edged us in a very competitive game and went on to win the Super Bowl. I felt with them getting all those players back, I thought they were a considerable step ahead of us and I thought New Orleans was, too. I thought the first half of the season for us - the only word I could use is maybe dismal. Just unfathomable that we could have the record we have the first half of the season. Not only was it ludicrous to think that we were gaining ground on Green Bay and New Orleans, but we were losing ground to many other teams in the league. It was terrible. At some point I guess, we had some games that we played awfully well. You all saw what we hoped we could be. Looking back on the Dallas game in particular and looking back on a few others in the middle of the season, you just thought that maybe the team had gotten it together early enough and now the team would play ball the way we originally expected. That didn’t happen. It happened in different football games but there was no sustainment of that excellence whatsoever. Yes, the team clearly gelled and came together in the last month, but that’s too late. There are no legitimate excuses in my mind for this team to take that long to gel and come together. I think there is a lot of optimism to be gotten from that gelling, from the scheme finally working, from the players being utilized and reaching some of their potential.
There’s a lot of goodwill and optimism and confidence going forward, but to think there is any legitimate excuses to take that long to come together I think is misplaced. I think that there is a lot of good that has happened in the last month, and a lot of realism has to be looked at as well. I sit back as the owner and like any of you as fans and people in the media or whatever, you do have your full range of emotions. There are times where you are just angry and frustrated and other times, you’re trying to convert that anger and frustration, which I try to do, into cool analysis: where are you and what can you expect? What is to be expected? There’s a lot of things you have to like and I like about the last month of the season, but in reality and it’s the way the NFL schedule was, we weren’t playing Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and some of the best teams in the league. There was no opportunity to prove – we proved we could dominate against teams the last half of the year who weren’t that competitive. There’s a lot to be said for the players coming together and the coaching staff holding this group together in a way that was impressive.
To hold onto that as the reason to be completely optimistic is, I think, fool’s gold. You have take it in real steps and say, ‘What was taking place?’ That was sort of the role of taking a real, hard look at the season. With this one, I thought, was the most complicated one to analyze of any season in memory. The differential between the expectation and the result was dramatic. The big decision was what to do with the head coach and the coaching staff. I think that was number one on the agenda as soon as the season ends. To that matter, I’ve spent weeks trying to analyze that and meeting with some people internally and externally with some of the best minds of the business really trying to evaluate the football team, players, coaches, the whole gamut. The things that I look at in that analysis are, I think, three-fold: one is the track record of the coach. The second is taking a look at the more shorter term history of the coach in terms of the last three, four, five years. The last, and probably the most important, is the intangibles. My job is to try and figure out, amidst feeling all the anger and frustration as a fan which I experience daily, and try to come to the best conclusion of that analysis. On a track-record basis, it’s easy to look at and it’s easy to come to a conclusion just on track record that we’ve been to the playoffs nine out of the last 12 years. Does Andy Reid bounce back when a team, which it doesn’t do very often, doesn’t make the playoffs? It’s only happened three [other] times. Three times, [two] double-digit win seasons the next year and [one] appearance in the NFC Championship Game. That’s what you’re looking at in terms of what you hope would continue in terms of this year missing the playoffs when you look at Andy Reid’s track record. When you look at the track record of trying to be more recent about it and not just back loading it with all those championship game experiences, what has happened the last three, four, or five years? I think that’s very important to look at. Taking a perspective on that in terms of 2008, there has only been one team that has made the playoffs more than the Philadelphia Eagles and that’s the Ravens. You go back to 2006, and no team has made the playoffs more than the Eagles. You have to be in the tournament to be in the Super Bowl, and that’s the ultimate goal. It’s hard enough to get into the playoffs, and this coach and his staff have a superb track record of getting to the tournament. The intangibles, though, are the overriding factor for me. I look at the players, number one, how do they gel and how do they feel about this coach? What I don’t look for is the players coach and when the players are very happy to have a coach. I want a coach who coaches and coaches hard, and how do the players respond to hard coaching. This group – as some of you know, I’m at practice every day during the season – this was contrary to the 8-8 record, one of the best groups in terms of energy and motivation at practice that I’ve ever seen. There was always this odd dynamic of having a practice that was terrific and daily practices that were outstanding with the motivation, focus, attention to detail, and adjustments going in. In the games, we might have the lead for two or three quarters but the consistent losing of games in the fourth quarter was bitter for me and bitter for all of us. With the coaches, you have to look at the head coach. Does he have the fire in his belly, and does he have what it takes to take a team far into the playoffs and have a shot at the Super Bowl? It’s a grueling profession as we all know, and Andy Reid not only has the love of the players and their respect, but he also has the fire in his belly to be the best. That’s another intangible. The third intangible is the view of Andy Reid as far as players around the league and coaches around the league. Do players want to come here and play for Andy? That very intense free agency period was somewhat of an eye-opener in that we would have the choice of players that you wouldn’t have dreamed one franchise wouldn’t have the chance to acquire, and the main reason was that the coach had a reputation around the league as almost always taking a team the tournament, having a shot at the Super Bowl, and having a coach that doesn’t respect the players in a soft way but in a hard way. Tremendous respect around the league whenever you ask some of the top football minds in the country and other teams personnel as well. Those are some of the intangibles, and there are many more that I will get into when I answer your questions. Attracting talent, having the energy to succeed and motivation in a huge way, having the anger to move forward – do our players and coaches have that anger? You have to have the anger, motivation, dedication, the focus and the talent. My answer to all those questions is yes. That’s why I want to see our team coached by Andy Reid next year, and I can’t wait to see that team play. I wish it was next week, I wish the season started in May or April and that we can do that, but there is no doubt in my mind that if our focus is to win a championship next year, the best coach for that is Andy. We owe as a franchise to Philadelphia the singular pursuit of winning a championship and that’s why I want Andy back. Amidst all the anger and frustration, I’m really excited about this team. I’ve been around the players every year and this is a special group. It’s a talented group and it’s a group where we brought in a lot of good, talented players. The pay off wasn’t this year, but the pay off has a chance to come soon and be really great. Thank you again for coming."
On whether he anticipates Reid’s staff remaining the same:
"That’s up to Andy. We’ve had long discussions about player personnel staff and everything. That’s Andy’s area, and I think he’ll make the best judgment of that. I think he’ll be addressing you guys soon on that. I have full confidence that he will make the right decisions there."
On how much winning playoff games has factored into Lurie’s analysis:
"I think it is a factor in the analysis and I think you have to factor everything in. We’re not as successful the past few years after being in the championship game four straight years and there isn’t a question about that. There’s plenty of teams that go from 8-8 and being in the edge of the playoffs or not in the playoffs, and the next year winning the Super Bowl. I don’t see that it’s a road blockage there. If you look at what happened to New Orleans after their 8-8 season, the Patriots a couple times, and Green Bay sneaking in last year, it’s a question of getting hot and getting right at the right time. I feel bad this year not being able to have that shot because we don’t know how good we were. We don’t know."
On whether he was more conflicted about bringing Andy Reid back then he ever was before:
"This was the most disappointing season in years and I would say in Andy’s tenure. Extremely disappointing. You go through an intense analysis. I do it every year. Unlike most franchises, it’s not enough just to make the playoffs. That is not my goal and not our fans goal. It’s a precursor to winning the Super Bowl because you just can’t just jump to the Super Bowl. This year was the biggest disappointment for me. Maybe it was the most intense analysis, yes, but it doesn’t mean that when there are seasons when we were in the playoffs that I didn’t go through this very same analysis. The goal is to win Super Bowls, not just be in the playoffs."
On what he thinks the reasons were for being 8-8:
"I think there’s – you guys are the experts and the analysts, but I think there are so many reasons and none of them are legitimate excuses. When I come up with reasons that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse not to be better. But I think maybe there was a miscalculation in terms of implementing big-scheme changes in a lockout situation. To me I don’t know why, I would have thought we would have been able to during the abbreviated training camp and preseason to adapt to some of those schematic changes, they were bold changes. But clearly the team was not gelling and maximizing those scheme changes in the first half of the year. That’s one that comes to mind right away. So I would hold everybody accountable that’s responsible for the scheme changes, yet there’s a payoff once it takes effect and you gel and have it. So I think we saw tremendous benefits in the two lines, offensive and defensive as the season went on and we will benefit from that as we go forward. But the first half of the season, it’s just ridiculously unacceptable to have a fourth quarter lead and blow all of those games. And if we just blew one less game we’d be playing Atlanta next week. So that’s where it’s at."
On whether he supports coach Reid’s decision to hire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo:
"You know, the process was very different in reality. What Andy did is he made – and I can’t speak for him, but I know in our discussions that he made a list of all of the top people that he was looking at to replace [former defensive coordinator] Sean McDermott as defensive coordinator. And things happen, circumstances happen, and if changes don’t happen on other teams than certain coaches aren’t available and he became very, very interested in Juan because he knew what he could accomplish; whether he could accomplish it fast enough is an interesting question and he didn’t, the whole team didn’t, in terms of early in the season. The second half of the season, you know what was it a [5-2] record and regardless of the competition you’re playing. So I think when you analyze any decision of who’s going to coach that there’s a lot of hidden background in terms of where did that decision come from, the reason for it, what was the search process, who was truly available, and then move forward. And look, with Juan Castillo I will just say anyone who’s known this man for 17, 18 years as we all have, incredibly impressive man, incredible family, incredible coach. And was he put into a situation where he couldn’t succeed early in the season? That’s for us all to have answers to; it was a difficult process. So that’s a long-winded answer to say I have a lot of respect for Juan but it’s a complicated process when you’re going through that."
On whether he anticipates coach Reid will keep Castillo as defensive coordinator:
"Those are decisions for Andy. Those are completely Andy’s decisions. We’ve had lots of talks about every aspect of the organization and now it’s up to Andy to make those final decisions. He has the final say on that."
On whether the fan fatigue surrounding coach Reid and the team factored into his decision:
"I think you do factor that in. You’re a football team that has lots of incredible fans, passionate fan base and I think you do factor that in, that there’s sometimes disenchantment with a coach over a long period of time. I think you factor it in, but you have to put it in the right perspective. One of the very sort of disconnected aspects of Andy Reid and he’s a, as you all know, a pretty interesting guy, but when you’re trying to communicate the way Andy does where the first priority is protecting the players, managing their egos, trying to get ready for a football game the next Sunday and replying to questions from a game that just happened, you’re not really getting the Andy Reid that I’m evaluating. And unfortunately, that’s a disconnect because the fans are getting the Andy Reid that is communicating in a press conference. They’re getting the Andy Reid who’s whole priority is to defend and keep a very close circle in terms of what he does managing his players and his coaches, it’s one of the reasons he’s loved so much around the league and by his team. It’s a tough media market, it’s a big market; when you can sacrifice your own popularity for your players, believe me it wins a locker room for a long, long time. And that’s what he accomplishes, but he loses his ability to communicate the way he does with all of us; he may one-on-one with you guys. But that’s what I face as the owner. I have a coach that handles press conferences and communicates with the media in a way that’s incredibly protective of his team and that creates a tremendous unselfishness on his part because he’s going to suffer in popularity, that’s the dynamic here. We all have to realize it. I think it’s one of the reasons why he’s been so successful, but it’s sometimes frustrating, and you know I can use a line of Andy’s and say Andy’s got to do a better job of that."
On whether general manager Howie Roseman will continue to be the GM:
"Yes he will. I’m not going into questions of the organization but absolutely."
On why he permits coach Reid to be arrogant and dismissive to media and fans:
"I think it’s a legitimate question, but to describe it as arrogant is completely wrong; it’s protective and there’s a difference how you interpret protectiveness. You can convert it to arrogance if you misjudge it. There’s no arrogance in this man. One of the analysis I do when I meet with Andy for multiple times in the last month and I do it every year is how humble he is and how self-critical he is and that goes into my analysis. So you’re dealing with a completely non-arrogant man who blames himself for a lot of the troubles with the team but at the same time can openly talk to me about each player and each strengths and weaknesses that you can’t talk to the press about. So that’s what our experience is. And I sometimes do feel bad as an organization that that gets presented in a way that never would be interpreted as arrogant because I don’t think you’re ever going to meet a head coach who’s any less arrogant than Andy Reid."
On what he tells fans who are frustrated about the current regime:
"Yeah, I think, and again in the last four years no team in the NFC has made the playoffs more often than the Eagles, so defending NFC East Champions until this year and three straight years going back have advanced the furthest. So it’s I think a proper analysis and a more rational analysis is to figure out where did it go wrong this year and is this the right coach next year to maximize the talent we have and the opportunity we have. And for our fans it’s really a very confident yes in my opinion. He has all of the ingredients to take the team to the playoffs and take them far. And the players love this guy. They’re absolutely ready to roll with him. And another aspect I’ll just say about Andy is he’s not afraid to make changes, and you know sometimes the changes work and sometimes they don’t. But very few coaches will change quarterbacks and succeed, change schemes and succeed, change GMs and succeed. So this is a man who’s open to change, there’s very little rigidity in the Andy Reid that we all work with. And that’s important because if I felt that there was too much rigidity, arrogance and a sense of separateness then I’d be changing coaches."
On whether coach Reid has to win a Super Bowl next year in order to keep his job:
"Every year, every year the goal is to win the Super Bowl. I think we’ll let the process play out. There’s no ultimatums, that’s our goal and every year that’s the plan. And only one team can do it, there will be 31 disappointed teams this year. But I have to tell you that nobody will lead this team or owner in anger and frustration because that’s where it’s coming from."
On whether he spoke to Andy and expressed his anger and frustration:
On how he expressed his anger and frustration to Andy:
"Very directly, we had a long and very trusting relationship in terms of…"
On what he said to coach Reid specifically to express his anger and frustration:
"I just said people can bring up excuses and stuff from the outside but there’s no legitimate excuse on my part. This team was too talented, this team was poised to really succeed in a big way and there’s just no excuse to be 8-8 when you’re an improved team on the field, theoretically from the team that was defending the NFC East last year. So there were just no legitimate excuses."
On whether he started his analysis thinking there was a possibility to dismiss coach Reid:
"You know, I’m open to any possibility. There’s no fear on my part with engaging in a change in a coaching search, that’s nothing that I’m afraid of. You know I like taking risks and it’s not out of the question. But there is such a build-up of understanding where this man comes from, what he has with the team at this moment in time and what the potential is for next year, that there was no need to kind of go to the brink and say, yeah there is really about to be a change about to be made, not the case."
On whether he’s talked to coach Reid about not sacrificing his popularity while still protecting his players in press conferences:
"I did. I think that’s an area where Andy can probably learn from some of those coaches that do protect their players. But it’s not the easiest thing to do when a team is 8-8 and expected to be deep into the playoffs. I think it’s an easy thing for a coach that’s very protective of his players to be attacked and criticized and you become more defensive as that process goes on, you’re only human. So yes I think there is an opportunity and maybe you all can be helpful, and I know I am with Andy would love it if he could create that balance of being very protective of his players as he is and at the same time maybe find ways to communicate in small groups or interviews or something like that."
On whether he anticipates any changes to coach Reid’s contract since he has two years left on his current deal:
"Not at this point in time. No."
On his thoughts about coach Reid’s ability to evaluate draft picks:
"I think there is but I think the analysis is complicated. You know, we’ve had a pretty good defense and we’ve had a lot of veteran players we’ve brought in that have been very successful that probably overplayed the draft choices. So I think if you look back just two years on defense, I know Andy and this team is very excited about [DE] Brandon Graham having a healthy offseason and should be a top tier pass rusher, but we brought in a top tier pass rusher because we didn’t think Brandon was necessarily going to be healthy this year. So you know, in today’s NFL it’s a combination of draft, free agency, whatever, every aspect has to be analyzed by everyone in terms of internally, and it’s putting the pieces together."
On whether coach Reid makes the final call on draft picks:
"Yes he does. Totally."
On whether he had a self-reflection about the fear of moving on from coach Reid at the beginning of the evaluation process:
"I don’t [have a fear of moving on]. I don’t, it’s just not in me. I’m a risk taker. I don’t know how many owners would have signed [QB] Michael Vick at the time and gone in the different directions that we had to go or chose to go. So the last search was Andy, the most successful coach in Eagles history coming from Green Bay and not even a coordinator at the time, it doesn’t give me any sense of pause to do that again and I’m sure, as everyone knows every coach doesn’t last forever, we’ll be doing that again."
On whether he made his feelings about the assistant coaches on the staff known to coach Reid:
"You know it’s a constant discussion, but I think one of the important things and it’s important in our locker room is for Andy to have the final say. I want our players to understand that he’s responsible for selecting his staff. If I had to tell Andy Reid what to do for offensive or defensive coordinator or something like that I have the wrong coach. I just have the wrong coach if I didn’t trust his judgment. If he’s wrong then circumstances happen, but I have faith that next year we will have a far superior year to this year. And we have great upside."
On whether Eagles President Joe Banner will remain with the team: