The Philadelphia Eagles historically have not been one of the leading NFL franchises. They are third from the bottom in losses with 549. They are 12th from the bottom in winning percentage at .483. They have only made the playoffs 23 times in 78 years, soon to be 79.
Despite all the losses and failures, 2011 has been by far the most disappointing season in franchise history. After an unprecedented free-agent spending spree, the tone was set. Super Bowl or bust. Sadly for Eagles fans, it went bust.
Whenever expectations aren’t met, there is always an urge to place blame. Philadelphia is no different. They want to blame someone. The popular choices are head coach Andy Reid, team president Joe Banner, general manager Howie Roseman and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
While it is true that all four deserve a share of the blame, there is one person who is ultimately responsible for each being in their current position. That would be team owner/Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie.
Lurie is generally accepted as one of the best owners in sports, and there is no argument there. Lurie purchased the team in 1994, and has overseen the best generation of Philadelphia Eagles football.
He purchased the Eagles for a then-record $195 million, and during his tenure he has seen the value rise to over $1 billion. His tenure has also produced a 158-124-2 record over his 17 years for a .560 winning percentage. He has overseen 11 playoff appearances. He has also failed to make good on his vow of multiple championships.
Blaming Lurie for the current failures is not an indictment of his character. He has actually accumulated quite a few accolades to the contrary.
The Eagles just won an award as Sport Team of the Year by the global organization Beyond Sport, who promotes, develops and funds the use of sport to create social change across the world. They were also a finalist in 2010.
In 2010, Jeffrey and his wife Christina were honored by Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business as the Business Leaders of the Year. They were also executive producers of the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job.
They started the Go Green campaign in 2003 which was known as a ground breaking environmental initiative in professional sports. It has ultimately led to Lincoln Financial Field becoming the world’s greenest stadium.
PhiladelphiaEagles.com has won five NFL awards for Best Website and Content and for Best Fan Interactivity. In 2005, the Eagles Youth Partnership won the inaugural Steve Patterson award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy.
On top of the accolades are the wonderful work Lurie and his wife have done with the NLM Foundation and the Lurie Family Foundation for the research of cancer and autism. They even produced an Oscar-nominated documentary, Autism is a World.
Lurie is no doubt running a first-class organization. He has been a great businessman and an agent of charity and philanthropy. The NFL is a business and he is surely on the front lines of that. But the key word in National Football League is football. The game of football is not a business.
As far as football operations go, Lurie has not shown the same fervor as the business operations. He has lawyers and money men in charge of personnel decisions. He’s left a coach in charge who has shown the same flaws for 13 seasons, and shown no signs of improving them.
When Reid started, there was a general manager with a football background from the Steelers organization named Tom Modrak. He was ultimately let go. There was another football man as general manager named Tom Heckert who was let go to make room for Roseman.
Heckert has taken a bad team in Cleveland and helped to start building a defense that is No. 2 in the NFL in pass defense and number seven in scoring defense. He also drafted two defensive lineman that have combined for 9.5 sacks and six forced fumbles with three games still to go in their rookie year.
Football is a business, and the Eagles were on the cutting edge of figuring out how to manipulate the salary cap, but now it’s to the detriment of actual scouting and talent evaluation.
Maybe an accountant can determine the best way to distribute money over several seasons. Maybe a lawyer is well equipped to lead contract negotiations with player agents. But should he really be in charge of drafting players or choosing free agents?
With everything that has gone wrong over the past few seasons—and yes, this is a trend over several seasons—the worst part may be that the city of Philadelphia has been stripped of its identity.
Philadelphia is a hard-working, hardscrabble city. They are scrappy and passionate. Say what you will about Philadelphia fans, but they love football and they love their team. People think Philadelphians revel in negativity, but the truth is a bad Eagles team crushes them inside.
The current Eagles regime has abandoned those values. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers build their team based on those values. They reflect their citizenship. They are adored and supported. Their fans are treated as important. You don’t get that sense in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.
Instead of a tough, physical, energetic team, Reid, Banner and Roseman have assembled a finesse team on both sides of the ball. That doesn’t play in Philadelphia, especially when you aren’t any good. And especially when the players have no enthusiasm.
Lurie has clearly overseen a successful run in Philadelphia. They went from usual losers to usual winners. But at some point the goal has to be winning the whole thing, not just winning more than half of your games.
The current approach hasn’t worked, and for the first time since the days of Rich Kotite, Eagles fans are apathetic. They feel like things are getting worse instead of better, and they feel like there is no hope for change. Unlike the Kotite days, the Phillies have a championship team to capture the city’s attention.
It’s time to figure out what has gone wrong, and to fix it. It’s time to realize that your fan base has been completely alienated and they don‘t want to take it anymore. Reid will never change. Everyone knows that. Banner and Roseman are not football people. It’s time to change. It’s just time.
If Reid won’t change, and the other two men in charge aren’t qualified, then where do Eagles fans turn? Mr. Lurie, in the words of your longtime coach, “Time’s yours.”