When Jeffrey Lurie spoke at the NFL’s owners’ meetings Tuesday, his first public comments to reporters in over a year, he did not seem like a man pressed for time. He, like Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas weeks before him, had one thing in mind: patience.
“When you're patient, you also have opportunities,” Lurie said Tuesday.
“It takes a very patient, disciplined approach.”
His unifying theme stood somewhat askew to the murmurs coming from the NovaCare Complex after the 2016 season ended, when, this past January, ESPN’s Tim McManus reported Lurie was feeling the squeeze of years gone by.
“Lurie recently turned 65 and is said to be shocked and pained that the franchise has not won a Super Bowl during his time as steward,” McManus wrote at the time. “It is fair to say the sense of urgency is as high as it has ever been.”
Fast-forward to late March, and Lurie appeared to be projecting, at least publicly, the same cool he’s shown fans for years. He wants to build a winner, but Lurie says he isn’t going to be taking shortcuts, and in that sense it’s fair to believe his resolve is still strong, and his belief in the team’s direction steadfast.
The reason? Carson Wentz, plain and simple. Lurie was blunt about his belief that, by drafting Wentz in last spring’s NFL Draft, the Eagles set themselves up for a bright future. Because quarterbacks run the league.
"The best structure is to have a terrific quarterback,” Lurie said.
He went out of his way to enumerate the reasons he believes Wentz is a player the Eagles can build around:
1. His physical talent
2. His personality and leadership
3. His football intelligence and passion
4. He’s humble, and a great teammate
Is it possible, then, that even though Lurie, who has owned the Eagles now for 23 years and has yet to bring the Super Bowl trophy to Broad Street that he so richly wants, his fears have been assuaged, for now, by the promise Wentz showed in one season?
If it’s not necessarily the truth, that’s certainly the reality Lurie was selling Tuesday. By drafting Wentz, Lurie intimated, the Eagles had also drafted time.
And while Lurie isn’t keen on wasting that time, he also wants to make sure the Eagles don’t bungle it. He said Roseman, Douglas, and the rest of the team’s leadership “hellbent” on not just focusing on short-term needs when it comes to this draft, and he is correct to direct the team that way.
“The key to that is to have optionality. It's not to say we're not going to pay any good players,” Lurie said.
By signing players like Chris Long and Patrick Robinson, the Eagles theoretically keep themselves from reaching in a draft loaded with talent at a number of positions. Lurie reiterated the team’s draft strategy is to select the best player available, regardless of short-term fit, in order to secure their future.
The question that begs asking, however, is what occurs if the Eagles are unable to retain Alshon Jeffery’s services after this season? And what if they fail to bring in a running back of the future in the draft? And what if futility at the cornerback continues for another season?
Did the events between January and Tuesday’s meeting with reporters just change Lurie’s mind for now, because he believes his franchise’s quarterback is in a position to succeed? Will Lurie still believe in the team’s long-term prospects? And how will he feel about Howie Roseman’s ability to direct those prospects?
The word “patience” is easy to digest short-term, but Lurie says he’s looking for long-term answers. And Lurie’s current philosophy of answering “patience” to any and all questions is not a cure-all. Just ask Sam Hinkie; or, better yet, just ask Josh Harris.
Will Lurie still preach patience a year from now, if his team goes 7-9 once again? It’s unlikely the team remains a sub-.500 squad this season. But between injuries and the unexpected, nothing is impossible in the NFL.
The Eagles have a piece they believe can change everything in Carson Wentz, and they would rather not rush development around him and get things wrong going hyper-speed. It’s an admirable goal, and it’s the right one. But there also needs to be some sort of blueprint.
Patience without an end date doesn’t often end well.