DN Agenda: Are you confident Jeffrey Lurie will get it right?
Les Bowen: Welllll . . . NO. Not so much. Jeffrey Lurie has provided the best, most stable ownership the Eagles have ever had, which is sort of like winning the tallest jockey contest. This is a franchise that has been around since 1933, yet never had a real practice facility, or a stadium to call its own, until Lurie took over from the beloved Norman Braman and made those items a priority.
Welllll . . . NO.
Not so much.
Jeffrey Lurie has provided the best, most stable ownership the Eagles have ever had, which is sort of like winning the tallest jockey contest. This is a franchise that has been around since 1933, yet never had a real practice facility, or a stadium to call its own, until Lurie took over from the beloved Norman Braman and made those items a priority.
Ownership is the main reason the Eagles only have three championships to show for their long NFL tenure, the most recent having occurred in 1960. The franchise was sold BETWEEN the '48 and '49 championships.
Lurie is a decent man with strong progressive values, who wants his organization to help the community, who doesn't interfere with coaching decisions.
But does he know what a championship organization looks and feels like? Or how to build one? I have my doubts.
So far, we know that Lurie, in his second attempt at hiring a head coach, landed Andy Reid, who helped bring the only decade of sustained success the franchise has ever enjoyed, but who also neglected to win a Super Bowl.
On Sunday, the Eagles interviewed Reid's offensive coordinator in Kansas City, Doug Pederson. They are the only team that has done so. Another candidate is Pat Shurmur, the Eagles' offensive coordinator, who got his NFL coaching start under Reid.
Last time out, after reluctantly drawing the Reid era to a close at least a year after it had run its course, Lurie could not have more enthusiastically embraced the idea of doing something 180 degrees different from Reid. He was all about Chip Kelly and bold innovation. And then he wasn't, after Kelly (a) insisted on the demotion of Lurie's most loyal confidante, Howie Roseman, and (b) made a bunch of ill-considered personnel decisions that put the team farther from winning the Super Bowl.
Why is Roseman, who has never worked for another organization, and has at best a mediocre record in personnel, the only possible choice to head that part of the operation as he, Lurie and team president Don Smolenski interview coaching candidates? Because Howie is loyal. Because he explains the league and the game to Lurie.
Lurie has never had a top-rank, universally respected general manager during more than 20 years of owning the team. His need to keep involved in football decisions summer-camp buddy Joe Banner, and then Banner protégé Roseman, has factored heavily in this.
Lurie might somehow stumble across a coach who can win a Super Bowl, even with Roseman drafting the players. Maybe that would be 69-year-old Tom Coughlin, who interviewed Monday. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
When Chip Kelly was fired, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie continually cited the team's "trajectory" as the overriding reason why. The record wasn't improving. The play wasn't improving. And it didn't seem to anyone that the coach was willing to concede to anyone that a change in operating philosophy was needed, even a small or temporary one.
You can't fire an owner of course, only urge him to get out, which Lurie, 64, clearly has no intention to do - now, or in the foreseeable future. So you look for a trajectory from him, something that suggests he has learned from his missteps and improved upon them, that he is not willing to go down the same road that led to his disappointments - and yours - in the future.
Please tell me you see such a trajectory.
Because I surely don't.
His most trusted voice is once again Howie Roseman, and only God knows why. His list of coaching candidates range from coaches who have worked with really good quarterbacks and really good offensive-minded head coaches to a head coach up the turnpike pushed out by the organization he had given most of his professional life to, an organization to which he delivered two Super Bowl championships as a head coach and worked towards two others as an assistant.
Giants ownership absolved Tom Coughlin for the team's performances of the last three seasons, citing a dip in talent. But they retained the general manager, Jerry Reese, whose job it was to supply that talent.
This makes about as much sense as replacing the general manager you kicked upstairs just 12 months ago with, well, the general manager you kicked upstairs just 12 months ago. Makes about as much sense as giving him a voice in hiring the head coach to replace the one he was integral in hiring 36 months ago.
Lurie targeted Super Bowl victories and a "gold standard" shortly after buying this team in 1994. Now, after two decades and no gold, he's interviewing Doug Pederson, an assistant to the coach he let go three seasons ago, and the 69-year-old ex-coach of one of the few teams his has beaten regularly - no matter who was coaching them - over Coughlin's 12 seasons as the Giants head coach.
Listening to Lurie these days in Philadelphia is not unlike listening to Jerry Jones in Dallas. There are no new ideas, no clear organizational philosophy. Just a lot of emoting, a lot of resolution to make the future better than the present and - someday even - better than their near-miss past.
I don't know about you, but I'm not feeling much of a trajectory here.
This will be Jeff Lurie's fourth coaching hire. If we are fair here (not a popular concept these days), the Eagles owner actually has a pretty good track record so there should be some level of confidence that he will get it right. I did not say I am confident, but, if you accept the history, there is, at least, a chance he will get it right. Each of his hires took over a bad team and almost immediately made them contenders or at least quasi contenders.
Ray Rhodes was a good hire, at least for the first few years. The Eagles went from nowhere to the playoffs quickly. The coach probably should have spent even more time in the South Philly Turf Club after practice to get the kind of wisdom you can only get there because when he went bad, he went really bad.
After Rhodes imploded, Lurie chose an unknown Green Bay assistant whose first move was to pick by far the best quarterback in a draft where most of the quarterbacks turned out to be frauds. Andy Reid quickly took a very bad team and turned it into a perennial playoff contender. The coach had flaws, which anybody who actually watched the games noted, but Reid was a great hire. His flame flickered his final few years until it was finally extinguished three years ago.
Chip Kelly staged a football revolution on the field and, apparently, behind the scenes as well. Who didn't think they were seeing a new, improved version of football on the first night of the 2013 season? That turned out to be mirage, of course. Beyond that, Kelly, like Reid before him, never had much of a feel for game flow and in-game strategy. Why these "geniuses" don't just concentrate on calling the plays and hire somebody to manage the game still baffles me.
Kelly apparently thought he was a general in an army he did not control, but by the end, his biggest problem was the football and the players he chose to play it. The Eagles are a mediocre team so Lurie's major issue is that the coach is not his most pressing concern. It all crystallized for me when I watched the Carolina game. The talent difference was just so clear. If Cam Newton did not have a rare bad day, the Panthers would have blown the Eagles away like so many teams did later in the year.
Choosing a coach certainly matters and Lurie may actually get that right. But what about the rest of it? Super Bowl 50 looms. The Eagles are 0-for-2 playing in it and 0-for-48 trying to play in it.
Considering this is just the fourth coaching search Jeffrey Lurie has conducted in the two decades of owning the Philadelphia Eagles, he has had more success at selecting coaches than most NFL owners.
The qualifier is the fact that Andy Reid had a 14-year stint sandwiched between the four-year stint of Lurie's first coaching hire, Ray Rhodes, and the three-year term of his last one, Chip Kelly.
A coach has to have a large measure of success to keep the job for 14 years. The terms of Rhodes and Kelly were about the average wait time given to a NFL coach who does not get the job done.
Confidence in the Eagles current coaching search comes from the fact that this process more resembles the one Lurie conducted when he came up with Reid, not the others.
With Rhodes and Kelly, Lurie seemed hell-bent on making a big splash by hiring a high-profile candidate.
Rhodes was a disciple from the coaching tree of the franchise Lurie considered model in 1995 - the San Francisco 49er.
In 2013, Kelly was the innovative college coach everyone wanted.
Rhodes and Kelly were "impulse" hires spurred by their glamorous surface traits.
Rhodes was hired four days after he won Super XXIX with the 49ers as the defensive coordinator and Kelly would have been hired within a week of the end of the 2012 season but delayed things by initially stating he was staying at the University of Oregon.
Reid was the only hire that Lurie & Co. extensively vetted before handing over the keys to their midnight green Rolls Royce.
"Big Red" had never been a coordinator so Lurie knew he would face criticism for hiring a quarterback coach, even Brett Favre's, over more experienced candidates.
That, however, forced Lurie to do lots of homework on Reid. The two-week process resulted in hiring the winningest coach in franchise history.
Lurie said he fired Kelly with a game remaining in the regular season to get a jump on the search process. It is already at two weeks.
Lurie is smart. When he invokes a well-thought out and deliberate process, he usually makes smart choices - like when he hired Reid.
Well, in two decades Mr. Lurie is batting 1-for-3 so far when it comes to picking guys to be the sideline face of his franchise. While that will get you into the baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, it's not enough to turn you into the new gold standard. Then again, this is Philadelphia, and after 57 years I'm pretty much a jaded lifer. So how many times have I seen any Eagles owner hire Mr. Right? Of course that could be said for any of the city's pro teams.
The best thing I can say for Jeff is that when he did hit a home run with Andy Reid, it set the Birds up for what became the best decade-long run in their history. Even if it didn't produce a Super Bowl, which of course is the only thing that matters in a city where the last football championship happened before JFK's inauguration. Big Red was able to get the quarterback and defensive coordinator that made much of the success possible. What are the chances of that happening again, even if the next guy is Knute Rockne?
Nobody knew who Reid was. I think Jeff wants to try and replicate that scenario, maybe show that he really is the smartest one in the room. And that worries me. Especially since a lot of whatever goes on at the NovaCare Complex seems to center around Howie Roseman.
I'm old school. I want a general manager that everyone knows is the GM. And I want a coach, whoever it winds up being, who is just responsible for what happens on the field. I want clearly defined roles, so I know who to blame if something goes wrong. I just don't know if Lurie and this collaborative plan of his, mixed with Roseman's right-hand influence, can produce a championship-caliber bottom line, regardless of whether Doug Pederson or Tom Coughlin or Pat Shurmur is getting introduced at a press conference.
Did I miss any suspects?
I will say this, though. It looks like the Birds wanted Adam Gase before the Dolphins plucked him. And when was the last time Miami got anything right?
Bob Vetrone Jr....No