Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Mike Sielski

Mike Sielski: Jeffrey Lurie’s Eagles have made a habit of firing coaches and getting to the Super Bowl. How do they do it?

Jeffrey Lurie was basking, which was expected and, given the outcome of the NFC championship game, entirely appropriate. He was in the middle of the Eagles locker room Sunday, a semicircle of reporters around him, his team’s 31-7 victory over the 49ers still so fresh that the maintenance crews hadn’t yet disassembled the stage where Lurie had, for the third time, held up the George Halas Trophy for everyone at Lincoln Financial Field to see.

Lurie doesn’t make himself available for public comment and questions as often as he once did, when he was a newer, younger NFL owner, eager to establish his bona fides among his peers and among Philadelphia football fans. But a third Super Bowl berth for the Eagles under his stewardship, their second in five years — oh, he could make time to talk about that. And it wasn’t just that they’d advanced to the big game again. It was that they had done it with a different coach and quarterback than they had the last time. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz/Nick Foles then, Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts now, just a half-decade apart.

It is a noteworthy achievement, to have a franchise go through so much change after winning a championship and position itself to win another in such a short time. And by firing Chip Kelly in late 2015 and Pederson in early 2021, Lurie himself had created that change, that upheaval. Those were thorny times — the power plays, the battles for control, the ash piles that remained, the rebuilding to be done. Yet in each situation, the team had reached the Super Bowl two years after Lurie decided that a man he had selected to coach the Eagles could no longer coach the Eagles.

How does that happen?

“I don’t want to fully answer that because I think the secret sauce is involved in that evaluation of when your team is at a certain place,” he said. “What can you bring in terms of coaching leadership that will vault you to have a chance to play for another Super Bowl soon? That’s something I don’t want to talk about. But there are probably multiple variables, and Nick, Doug at the time, all fulfilled those variables.”

Fair. It’s never just the one thing. From a pure on-field, strategic standpoint, a team that hires a smart, unpredictable head coach will have an advantage on its opponents for a while as the rest of the NFL tries to figure out his philosophy and play-calling patterns. In 2017-18, Pederson and his staff raised that concept to another power, revamping the offense to accommodate Foles’ strengths and de-emphasize his weaknesses. “There’s definitely something to that,” former Eagles tight end Brent Celek said. “The year we won the Super Bowl, changing our quarterback did some of that. We were running totally different plays. They couldn’t get a bead on us. All those little things just help.”

From a broader, management-oriented perspective, though, Lurie and Howie Roseman seem to have come around to following the principle that it’s better to let go of a coach too early than too late. Lurie gave Andy Reid 14 years here, of course, but over the first 11, Reid was paired with Donovan McNabb, the handpicked franchise quarterback. The two of them failed to win a Super Bowl, of course, but they generally kept the Eagles competitive, in the hunt.

Since then, just look: Kelly lasted less than three seasons. Pederson lasted three after beating Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in Minneapolis. Pederson had softer edges than Kelly. Sirianni revitalized a team whose collective attitude and atmosphere had gone stagnant. When Lurie believes that a new voice needs to be heard in the locker room, he acts, and it doesn’t bother him if — as was the case with Reid and Pederson and Sirianni — most people don’t know what that voice sounds like.

“I know it’s not the conformist thing to do,” Lurie said. “As I said, nobody wanted Andy. Nobody wanted Doug. Nobody knew about Nick, I guess. I don’t know. Didn’t make sense to me. Didn’t make sense to Howie. We feel: Just do the right thing, and you’re going to have a chance to be great. And if you don’t do the right thing, you have no chance. That’s kind of what it is. Just have confidence in what you think is the right way and what gives you the best chance of high success.”

Extend that view even to some of the Eagles’ major player-personnel decisions in recent years, and the pattern is apparent. They didn’t keep Jalen Reagor around to justify or compound their mistake in making him a first-round pick. He had his shot. He wasn’t good enough. Off to Minnesota he went. They liked Hurts, so they courted controversy by using a second-round pick on him — a move that usually indicates a team believes that player can be a starting quarterback — when they already had a starting quarterback. Once Wentz made it clear he was unhappy here, Lurie and Roseman didn’t wait to see if he would change his mind or grow up. He played poorly. He got benched. He wanted out. They sustained the financial hit, the rightful criticism for wasting so many resources on him, and traded him.

“You’ve got to do what’s right and not do what makes sense to the noise out there or the public perceptions,” Lurie said. “Never do that. When we drafted Jalen, it was because of the upside. It wasn’t because we were trying to be smart about it. We thought he had terrific character and upside, and how often can you find that? It’s hard to find at that position. There’s a scarcity of really good quarterbacks. It made sense. If it didn’t work out, you move on.”

Yes, you move on. To the next player. To the next coach. To the next decision. And, lately, to the Super Bowl.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.