Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for the first time in years — and perhaps ever — didn’t travel to his team’s road game last Sunday.
Lurie’s frustration with his team has been mounting, and his absence in Cleveland was widely believed by many at the NovaCare Complex to primarily be an extension of his feelings, two team sources said.
The Eagles, through a spokesperson, said that Lurie didn’t attend because he was being overly cautious, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, because he was planning to visit his mother on Thanksgiving. It’s unclear whether he quarantined for 14 days, but he was at the Eagles-Giants game in East Rutherford, N.J., on Nov. 15 and is expected to watch Monday night’s game at Lincoln Financial Field in person.
Lurie also has been at recent practices and has left various workouts early out of disgust, the sources said.
The 69-year-old Lurie uses his private plane to travel to most road games. On West Coast trips he usually travels on the team’s chartered flight. He had attended the Eagles’ first nine games this season. In the past, even sickness hadn’t kept him from following his team, no matter where it played.
Sources close to the team, past and present, were shocked that Lurie missed a game and couldn’t recall the last time it occurred, if at all.
Lurie, who has owned the Eagles since 1994, is often visible in the locker room following games. He always meets with Doug Pederson afterward, often before the coach meets with reporters. Coronavirus protocols have restricted reporters from the locker room or from coming in contact with team personnel this season.
The 3-6-1 Eagles are still in the NFC East hunt, but their monthlong division lead vanished when Washington moved to 4-7 after beating the 3-8 Cowboys, 41-16, Thursday.
The Eagles have lost two games in a row, but even in their victories they have played sloppy football. Their offense is among the NFL’s worst and, despite coaching and personnel changes in the offseason, has regressed.
Lurie, who has long emphasized offensive football, influenced some of the changes. He and general manager Howie Roseman convinced coach Doug Pederson that offensive coordinator Mike Groh needed to be fired and to hire coaches with innovations.
Several new coaches were brought in, with senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello, who had previously worked under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, the most significant addition.
“The last couple years we were all, as a group, not satisfied with our offensive production,” Lurie said on Aug. 30. “It didn’t stop us making the playoffs. It didn’t stop us from making a postseason run. But we always have the belief as an organization — it’s part of our DNA — that you want to be a top-five offense to have your best chance of winning the Super Bowl.”
The Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl-winning team was seventh in the NFL in yards and tied for second in points. In 2018 and 2019, they were 14th in yards and 18th and 12th in points, respectively. This season, they’re 26th in yards and 24th in points.
Lurie has typically been one of the more patient owners in the NFL. He endured two losing seasons before firing his first coach, Ray Rhodes, in 1998. His next coach, Andy Reid, brought unparalleled success to the Eagles, but he couldn’t win a title in 14 seasons and was ultimately let go in 2012.
Lurie wasn’t as patient with Chip Kelly, who was given personnel control after a bitter power struggle with Roseman. He fired the coach with a game remaining in 2015 even though he had a winning mark (26-21) over three seasons. The owner didn’t like the direction his franchise was headed.
He reinstated Roseman’s personnel authority and hired Pederson in January 2016. Pederson went 7-9 in his first season, but he guided the 13-3 Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory the following season. The team went 9-7 the next two seasons, which both ended in the playoffs.
But this year’s squad, despite high expectations, has floundered. Roseman has been the GM since 2010 and has already been part of two coaching searches. Few NFL GMs have as much sway over their teams. Roseman oversees everything from the personnel department to the medical staff to football operations.