Jeffrey Lurie failed to hold Howie Roseman accountable for the Eagles’ Great Regression because it would be holding up a mirror to his faults as an owner. As much as his longtime general manager has become a blind spot, honest reflection after a dismal three-year slide would have forced Lurie to confront his own cognitive bias.
And that isn’t easy for most, let alone someone who has been successful in life.
But Lurie failed to sufficiently see his role in the Eagles’ plummet since winning the Super Bowl in 2017, and it wasn’t just in the insufficient answers he provided when asked to explain why Roseman was staying on the day he fired coach Doug Pederson.
It was also in his lack of introspection in how his increased involvement in football decisions has affected his team. Lurie has always been attentive. But Pederson’s agreeableness, Roseman’s complicity, and later his first championship have only emboldened the owner to become more involved in recent years, team sources, past and present, have said.
“I would say my involvement has been the same for about 25 years,” Lurie said during a video news conference Monday. “I think that what I tend to do is to ask a lot of questions and to understand where we’re coming from strategically and performance-wise.
“And it’s stood us in a good way because it’s allowed me to transition when we’ve needed to, make coaching decisions that have worked out, at least often in the short run or long run, and allowed us to be able to have a finger on the pulse of what could take place.”
Lurie, overall, has been a good owner. And many of his decisions have led to winning. The Eagles have won 55% of their games during his tenure. They’ve been to the postseason in 15 out of 27 seasons. And they won their only Super Bowl.
But the team that won that title is long gone despite how recent it occurred. The fortunes of NFL teams can rise and fall in a short time, but the Eagles have been unable to sustain a certain level of success since Andy Reid was coach.
There aren’t many teams who can, but the Eagles’ crash was swifter — swifter than records indicate — and now they find themselves with a daunting hole to climb out of with an unknown next coach as their most significant selling point.
How candidates may feel about Lurie’s potential meddling, or Roseman’s track record remains to be seen. Lurie said that the Eagles would be an attractive destination, and that may be the case in some respects. There are also only 32 head coaching jobs, and only seven this offseason.
But the Eagles have a giant question mark at quarterback with Carson Wentz and/or Jalen Hurts and/or a high draft pick. They have an old roster with few young, budding talents. They have salary cap circumstances that aren’t ideal. And they also have an owner who’s more Jerry Jones than outsiders realize.
Lurie said that he will again lead the search. He’s batted about .500 in that regard, which is better than most, but he’s also about to have his fourth coach in the last 10 years.
Roseman will also be part of the search committee. He has now survived three head coach firings, more than any current GM, and more than any personnel executive in recent league history.
But Lurie struggled to give legitimate reasons why Roseman should be given another chance when asked specifically about the Eagles’ poor draft record or other mistakes made since 2017, especially if he was to be held to a similar standard as Pederson.
Asked about Roseman’s performance in roster building, Lurie spoke about how the Eagles had spent the last several years trying to win in the short term. A follow-up led him to pivot to the hires the 45-year-old GM has made in scouting and football operations.
And asked directly about the poor drafts, he made excuses about missing out on players and how the process was too intricate to merely judge someone based upon, well, picking good players.
“There’s mistakes, but what I have to look at is the process and I have to look at the performance over time but most importantly I have to look at the process,” Lurie said. “If we are not identifying the best players leading up to a selection in the draft, then that’s a problem.
“If we are identifying the best players but they get taken two, three, four, five picks ahead of us, that’s also part of the evaluation. That’s part of understanding the process. Understanding the details.”
Lurie knows as well as anyone about the process and the details because he’s a part of it — intimately. He lobbied for wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 draft and got Pederson to go along, per sources. Roseman, who wanted Parrish Campbell, must have figured he had no choice but to sign off.
A year later, Lurie was on board when Roseman selected quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round, per sources, even though Wentz was less than a year from receiving a franchise contract extension, and the Eagles had other greater needs.
It’s unclear how the pick affected Wentz, but the process was flawed — Roseman had disregarded his scouts’ choice of safety Jeremy Chin — and the results were disastrous. The same could be said of Roseman’s decision to take his coaches’ advice over his scouts’ and draft receiver Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson a round earlier.
Roseman has made errors on his own, but he has also had to cover for Lurie, which explains part of his entrenchment. Pederson went along, as well. He wasn’t the Eagles’ initial choice, but he proved to be the best of the coaching class of 2016.
But his emotional intelligence, while useful in dealing with modern-day players, also came in handy with Lurie. The owner fired previous coach Chip Kelly, in part, because he had shut him and Roseman out of the process. Pederson wouldn’t, they knew, get in the way.
They would eventually overstep their bounds, of course. Lurie and Roseman pressured Pederson to fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh last year. Pederson was livid because he had told Groh he would be back, and he threatened to quit, even though most sources believed it was said in jest.
But that moment, not to mention a series of others, however minor, would set in course what happened last week. Pederson didn’t want to make significant changes to his coaching staff. He wanted to promote from within — Press Taylor to offensive coordinator, Andrew Breiner to quarterbacks coach, Matt Burke to defensive coordinator, among other suggestions.
Lurie was underwhelmed. He wanted external candidates with top credentials, sources said. It’s hard to argue with his sentiment. Taylor had just overseen the worst regression from an under-30 starting quarterback in 70 years and a pass offense that finished last in the NFL.
Lurie spoke a lot about the short term vs. the long term. He’s ready to rebuild, however long that may take. And to him, Pederson’s coaching ideas were clearly for the now. But didn’t the 52-year-old coach deserve at least one year to do as he saw fit?
“Doug also knows where we’re at, but I think in his natural coaching instinct, it’s to literally do everything possible to maximize 2021,” Lurie said, “so that we are not in this position of questioning his job going forward.”
Shouldn’t Roseman, who also has two years remaining on his contract, feel the same way? Not when you have tenure. And the implication from Lurie was that Roseman had provided a plan for the long term.
Adding former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey may have been one way to placate Lurie — or the outside world — but the Eagles have brought in comparable evaluators in the past to just write up players and prospects. Lurie also said that roles in personnel won’t change, hence Roseman will have final say over the roster.
That alone will rule out some coaching candidates. Many would accept the job on its own merits, but if previous history suggests anything, Lurie’s choice will be offensive-minded and not one of the obvious contenders.
And the next coach will likely have to be able to handle a very hands-on owner.
“I think the involvement’s good. You never want to be too involved,” Lurie said. “You never want to micromanage, and I’m very, very sensitive to that. You’ve got to trust the people around you, and first bring in the right people around you, and then trust them.”