JEFFREY LURIE: Thank you, all. I know it’s probably been a long day for some but thank you all for coming on this virtual press conference. This is kind of new for me to make a big decision and have to describe it virtually, but that’s kind of where we’re at.
You know, today, there aren’t many tougher days for I think an owner of a team or CEO of a business than to have to make a very, very tough decision involving somebody you care personally a lot about. I’ve known [former Eagles head coach] Doug [Pederson] and his family for over 20 years. It’s rare to have somebody as your quarterback, as your assistant coach from the ground up and then as a head coach of your team and having all the success that we’ve had together. He’s a close friend, he’s a family friend and Doug is family to me. What can I say?
So it’s even harder to make the tough decision with somebody like that and that relationship but it goes with the territory. If you want to be a leader and make the tough decisions, sometimes you just have to – sometimes you just have to look towards the future, try to evaluate things in an unemotional path as possible, and a process as possible and arrive at a decision that might make you very uncomfortable, but you have to feel honestly, my first allegiance is: what will be best for the Philadelphia Eagles and our fans for the next three, four, five years?
It’s not based on: does someone deserve to hold their job or deserve to get fired? That’s a different bar. Very few people probably after success deserve to lose their job. This is much more about the evaluation of whether the Eagles moving forward, our best option is to have a new coach and that’s really, really what it’s about. It’s not about: did Doug deserve to be let go? No, he did not deserve to be let go. That’s not where I’m coming from and that’s not the bar in the evaluation process.
I just want to reiterate, so grateful, we all are, in Philadelphia, Eagles fans around the world, to the success we’ve had over the last five years winning Super Bowl LII, the camaraderie in the building we’ve had, the collaboration in the building we’ve had. It’s awfully nice as an owner to have the football operations and the football coaching and virtually all the employees and just a general culture of both success and collaboration and professionalism. And Doug has represented that every single day and this was a difficult, difficult year on many, many levels. Disappointing in its results. And I feel particularly bad that – I was really hoping the Eagles could be that beacon of light during this difficult 2020. And I’m glad the NFL has been able to play all of our games. That’s been a huge, huge plus. But I wanted the Eagles so badly to uplift our fans and not create more stress. And I think we’ve not accomplished that this year, and it’s been a disappointing season.
But you know, going forward, again, you have to make tough, tough decisions and after talking to Doug again today, it just felt that the path forward was best for us to part ways. And I actually think it’s better for both the organization and for Doug, and I really, really expect him to be a successful head coach in this league, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he is on another NFL team later this week. I’m certainly there for any owner that wants to talk about hiring Doug, because I will be a major fan.
That being said, sometimes you have to make the tough decisions on prognosticating the future and that’s what this was about. So happy to answer any questions. Sorry for that long-winded statement. It wasn’t planned. It’s impromptu. But I feel really – it’s a tough day for me personally, honestly.
Q. As you evaluated this, how do you weigh coaching versus personnel in determining the problem with the state of the team, and how do you evaluate the job Eagles executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman has done building the roster? (Zach Berman)
JEFFREY LURIE: So I think basically my process is, I evaluate every aspect of the franchise, every aspect. Evaluate the coaching, evaluate the personnel, evaluate the architecture of building the roster. Where I think we’re at, and I’m just being kind of direct with all of you, and it’s something that’s hard to talk about during the season, but I think where we’re at is we made a lot of decisions to try to accomplish bringing the first Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia, and that started in 2016 but it continued into 2017. And certainly afterwards, if there were significant, I would say strategic mistakes, they were made in the name of trying to hold the band together, kind of bring back the band together. There was a lot of short-term decision-making and allocation of resources that gave us probably a slightly better chance to go back to the Super Bowl in 2018 and 2019.
You know, again, we were probably, without focusing on one person, an [Eagles WR] Alshon [Jeffery] reception [away] from getting back to the [NFC] Championship Game the next season; 2019 back in the playoffs and our quarterback got hurt.
I think we gained from the short-term decision-making but there was no stage where we weren’t aware that a lot of those decisions and resource allocations and the lack of volume of draft picks wasn’t eventually going to create a real trough, a real transition period, and I think that’s what we’re in. We’re in a real transition period, and it’s not unlike 2016.
We have to retrench and rededicate and allocate resources to what can make us the best possible team in the mid-term, in the long term and hopefully compete in the short term because I think we can, but honestly, that’s really where we’re at.
I have real confidence that our football operations, led by Howie, can not only repeat the performance of 2016 until now, and once again, create a dominant football team that can really maximize every aspect of its potential. I think that’s the transition period we’re in.
Q. In the earlier statement you guys put out, you mentioned that you and Doug had talked about the collective vision, what the collective vision of the franchise would look like going forward. Obviously it didn’t coincide. How much of that had to do with the structure and makeup of his coaching staff? (Paul Domowitch)
JEFFREY LURIE: I would say the difference in vision is much more about where we’re at as a franchise. As I said, we’re at that point. It’s a transition point and we’ve got to get younger and we have to have a lot more volume of draft picks and we have to accumulate as much talent as we possibly can that is going to work in the long run with a focus on the mid-term and the long term and not on how to maximize 2021. And it’s almost not fair to Doug, because his vision has to be: what can I do to fix this right away and what coaches can I have that can help me get to a smoother 2021?
My vision is much more: how can we get back to the success we’ve had and what we’re used to in the next two, three, four, five years? It’s not a difference of opinion. It’s a difference of where we’re both at, and I really feel it was in both of our interests to proceed on our own sort of paths that way.
Q. You spoke to the confidence you have in football operations led by Howie. Why do you feel confident in Howie, and do you feel like he’s been held accountable for some of the mistakes he has made over the last few years? (Dave Zangaro)
JEFFREY LURIE: So I think that there’s several reasons I have confidence in our football operations. First of all, it’s the people that he surrounds himself with. We’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It’s easy to talk about the quarterback and the head coach and the GM, but honestly, we’re a product of those that surround us.
I see the people that Howie has attracted to our organization. I think the last two major GM searches have all been raiding our organizations, for whether it’s [Jets general manager] Joe Douglas or [Browns general manager] Andrew Barry. We have about five people in our organization that right now I could project that will be general managers in this league, and he continually replenishes, whether it’s a John Dorsey or [Eagles director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant] Jeremiah Washburn, or the list goes on. I don’t want to leave anybody out.
But we have a real strong nucleus with [Eagles vice president of player personnel] Andy Weidl, [Eagles assistant director of player personnel] Ian Cunningham, [Eagles football operations/player personnel coordinator] Catherine Raîche, [Eagles director of pro scouting] Brandon Brown. One of the jobs of the general manager is to attract really good people and executives around him because it’s not meant for one person. There’s been mistakes. 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. 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.
And so I always have to make the tough decision of: are we getting it right? Where are we getting it wrong? Where are the decisions being made that may cause us to – once we didn’t get the three players that we really wanted right there, they just got taken, what’s caused that next selection that may not have been maximized?
But in terms of every level of the football operation, I am really confident of where we’re at and I don’t see any reason why we’re not going to return to preeminence with more mid-term and long-term decision-making.
Q. How much of this decision is tied to the regression of QB Carson Wentz this year and his relationship with Doug, and will Wentz be on the roster in 2021? (Tim McManus)
JEFFREY LURIE: This kind of decision has probably multiple, multiple variables, but it’s not based on a quarterback or a particular position group. Certainly, you have to look at the regression of our offense. This is a league that scored the most points ever in 2020, it’s a league that started to not call offensive holding penalties and offensive pass interference penalties, and yet we were, I think, 31st in offense.
I look more at the whole picture. It’s not about a particular player or a particular group, and that’s true for going forward. I think you all know me – I put a heavy emphasis on wanting to have an elite offense, and I feel like defense has variables, variations throughout the year. But if you want to be a dominant team, you need to be a top offensive unit. I didn’t see … it’s hard for me to project that at the moment and therefore, you know … but it’s multiple variables. I don’t want you to think that there’s one possible explanation for a change in head coach. It’s way far more complex than that.
Q. And the second part of that is will Wentz be back on the roster in 2021? (Tim McManus)
JEFFREY LURIE: First of all, I don’t think any owner should decide that. … Carson, to us, to me, and to I think virtually everybody in our organization, is a quarterback that his first four years was in many ways elite and comparable to some of the great quarterbacks’ first four years in the league.
Fifth year, obviously not satisfactory, for whatever reasons. There are probably multiple reasons for that. The way I look at it is we have an asset and we have a talent. He’s a great guy and he wants nothing but to win big and win Lombardi Trophies for Philadelphia. This guy is tireless. He has his heart in the right place and he’s really dedicated off-season, on-season – he’s just what you want. It behooves us as a team with a new coach, a new coaching staff, to be able to really get him back to that elite progression where he was capable of, and at the same time, understand that there have been many quarterbacks in their fourth and fifth year … if you trace this, you can come up with many, many quarterbacks that have a single year where it’s just, whoa, the touchdown-to-interception ratio is not what you want. And we’re talking some great ones, like Peyton [Manning] and Ben [Roethlisberger] and guys like that.
So I take sort of a more, probably a longer view of this was not the best season for our offense, it was a poor season, and we also had a poor season from Carson in terms of what he’s been able to show in the past. Very fixable and I fully expect him to realize his potential.
Q. How do you view your role in the regression of the team, particularly this last season, and do you feel like you’ve gotten too involved in football decisions? (Jeff McLane)
JEFFREY LURIE: I would say my involvement has been the same for about 25 years. 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.
When we have a bad season, I look at myself as much as I look at anybody else, but I think we have a great infrastructure. I think we’ve got good people all throughout the building, and it’s a lot of the same people that built the championship team. I think our track record in the last 20 years, how many NFC [East] titles, playoff appearances and appearances in the NFC Championship Game, those are some of the metrics I look at. I’ll compare our record with almost anybody.
I think the involvement’s good. You never want to be too involved. 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.
Q. I think we all understand the things that were done to win the Super Bowl and to try to be competitive in the next couple of years, but nonetheless, the draft picks you have had during that time and some of the free-agent signings you have made during that time have not been very good. The drafts, in particular, there have been some really notable failures. If you do have all these great people and personnel and if Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman really is doing such a great job, then why is that? (Les Bowen)
JEFFREY LURIE: I think you’ve really got to look at the big picture of have you analyzed every single draft pick and street free agent and everybody? Have you compared it to other teams? Have you compared it to other successful teams and do they have two-, three-year drop-offs with less volume? Are the picks that you’re talking about seen in the long run or just in a one-year period? There’s a lot to look at. I’m not disagreeing with anything. I’m just saying you’ve got to really look at it.
Seattle … you take whichever organization you want and look at it over a multi-year period, you’re going to see highs and lows of drafting, you’re going to see highs and lows of free-agent acquisition, and you’re going to have to make your own determination of do they have the right people in the building? Is that two years of not having good first-round picks, is that related to people in the building or is that because the two players that they actually were going to draft got taken just before and they are All-Pro players in the league? I have to be much more in-depth and complex about the analysis.
Luckily for me, I sit there and I get to see exactly what took place and takes place. Maybe someday I’ll write a book about it but you can’t really talk publicly about what could have been and all that. There are mistakes made and they have to be improved, corrected, and I expect us to have that success. We’ve certainly had the success on the field that has to be in every aspect of the organization.
I’m not somebody who is very satisfied. My personality is, even when we are winning, we can do a lot better. My message to Jim Schwartz after we won the Super Bowl was, ‘Wow, that was not a good defensive performance in that game. It was great against the Vikings and Falcons.’
But again, my personality is I want to win badly. I want to win more Lombardis for Philadelphia and our fans. We have got the greatest fans around. I will do anything possible, and if it means making any change necessary, I will.
Q. Did Week 17, the Washington game, factor into this at all? Did you have any input on how the quarterback situation was handled? How do you think it was handled? (Mike Garafolo)
JEFFREY LURIE: No, nothing to do with it whatsoever. I heard that Doug wanted to give Nate [Sudfeld] some time. And I understand the circumstances, but Nate, I think he holds the record for his debut in the NFL against Dallas for the best completion percentage. He was awesome. What is it, 19-out-of-22, you know, unstoppable. He was our backup in the Super Bowl because we had so much confidence in Nate. We talked about [how] we are going to advance far here, we hope, and who is going to be there if Nick [Foles] gets injured, and we had a lot of confidence in Nate.
I’m at practice a lot. Our coaches know much more than I do. Throws the best long ball on the roster. I think what happened was he, if you remember, broke his wrist in the preseason a year ago. Our plan was to give Nate a lot of playing time in that preseason. The whole idea was to establish is Nate our long-term backup, is he a potential starter in the league, and how good is Nate, because he’s awfully good in practice. And then we tendered him a second-round exclusive rights designation worth millions of dollars and therefore, it just showed where we thought he was both as a quarterback and as a teammate. What happened this year, the preseason got wiped out, so there was no chance to use him this year either.
Doug had said we were going to use as many young players as we could. Jalen [Hurts] had the injury in the Dallas game in the second quarter. He, of course, wants to play, but you know, significant hamstring. I think Doug just wanted to give Nate a chance. He deserved it. He’s been part of our Super Bowl-winning team. He contributed to the scout team. He contributed so much. I think it was just with good intentions. The circumstances weren’t the best, maybe the communication wasn’t the best, but we would have loved to have eliminated Washington.
Q. Going back to early in this Zoom conference, you talked about the difference in vision. But I don’t know that I really heard a specific reason or the differences in the vision between you and Doug Pederson. What were the differences in vision, and were there differences in vision with the coaches? (Howard Eskin)
JEFFREY LURIE: I’d really rather not publicly talk about the details, but I think it’s fair to say that I saw this as a retooling of the team in a way in which I thought we needed to make a lot of mid-term, long-term decisions, and that also had to do with coaches, how would we best set ourselves up for success two, three years down the road. I’d rather not publicly talk about any specific coaches or anything like that except to say that we probably saw things a little differently.
What I was trying to get across, it’s much more about where we are as a franchise heading into a retooling and a real transition period versus trying to support a coach, trying to attract potentially other coaches, a defensive coordinator, or retain people on the staff in that role, knowing that you might not have the success that you want in that transition right away and therefore, you don’t want to put Doug in that position. And therefore, I thought it was best for him and best for us that we part ways. It’s just sort of the root of where we’re at at the moment.
Q. Following up on that, though, doesn’t every NFL team or every sports team constantly weigh the short term and the long term? Isn’t that kind of part of what every team is trying to do, let’s try to win for the long-term but we also have to win now? Why was that gap not surmountable? Why couldn’t you find common ground there? (Reuben Frank)
JEFFREY LURIE: I would say we changed our balance as a franchise between short, mid and long term. The way we’ve created the success and been able to have the success we’ve had has been thinking mainly in the mid term and long term and making unpopular short-term decisions at times. And we got away from that, understandably, because when you have competed to win a Super Bowl and you want to retain emotionally and physically the people that helped bring us all there, and if you remember, there were a lot of people injured that year and we very much wanted to bring them all back to be able to participate the following year in trying to win another one.
And so, if you look at the final – I do this because I like to study this stuff and it informs me – if you look at the final four teams from the year we won the Super Bowl, they are all going through the exact same thing. If you look at Atlanta, the year before, they weren’t in the final four but they were in the final two the year before, and then we played them obviously in our Super Bowl year, it’s where they are. If you look at the history of the final groupings, unless you have a Hall of Fame quarterback that can sustain it, teams tend to go for patching up, they tend to change their balance. It’s not what made us successful. I don’t regret it because I really was hoping we could pull off another one and I owed it to the players that brought us one to be able to lean in that direction.
So, while your question is a good one, we haven’t had that balance. We have much more erred towards giving up a draft pick for an immediate infusion at a position or drafting for a specific position because we thought it was our biggest weakness, or a trait that we thought was our biggest weakness. I don’t regret any of that, but I know where we’re at. I think 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 so that we are not in this position of questioning his job going forward. And so, that’s probably as simply as I can say it.
Q. When you look at sort of the way the league is trending, what you mentioned with offense and then kind of combining that with where the roster is, and retooling, a period of transition, what qualities are you looking for in the next head coach here as you begin the hiring search and also who will be working with you to lead that search? (Sheil Kapadia)
JEFFREY LURIE: I think multiple people will be working with me to lead the search. I’ll be leading the search. I always do.
We’ll have, for sure, [Eagles president] Don Smolenski, Howie, key personnel people involved in this. It will be multiple people involved in it but it’s — and we have relationships with different people to get information about any candidate that we probably want to look into. So it’s a multiple — multi-pronged process.
In terms of the characteristics, I’d rather not specify, but I can tell you no matter who we have, it needs to be a leader of coaches, a leader of players and someone who represents the organization in a great leadership way. We had a lot of that with Doug. Leadership is an important characteristic.
You brought up offense. I think there’s a couple ways to skin that cat. You can hire somebody really steeped in offense or you’ve seen great offenses coached by head coaches coming from the defensive side. I don’t think there’s any predilection for one over the other, but I do think somebody that is constantly curious of where the league is headed and what you need to do to have really good units and again, without a really good elite offense, I tend to err on that side. But not that side of the ball for head coach. Doesn’t matter.
Q. It’s been awhile since you’ve had a minority in the head coaching position or a coordinator position. How will that factor into your search, and also, will you consider anybody currently on the staff for the position? (Mike Kaye)
JEFFREY LURIE: Really good questions. So yes, I think that we are very open and it’s top of mind to make sure we have some of the best minority candidates in on the search. It’s very important I think for us, for the league and it’s top of mind.
I would expect [Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach] Duce Staley to be a candidate. He’s a great representative of the Eagles and knows our values. I would expect him to be part of the search, as well.
But great question, because I’ve never hesitated in this area. Obviously, I’ve hired an African American as a head coach and proud of it, because he was the right man for the job at the time. There’s plenty of possible candidates in this area.
Q. Eagles fans are very passionate. You know that. The overwhelming feeling, the overwhelming sentiment among fans is that the biggest problem with this team has been talent evaluation. Now, based on some of your responses when we’ve asked about Howie, it seems you don’t agree with that but when you look at the Draft record, it’s been poor. When you look at one Pro Bowl player drafted in the last seven years, how do you feel about that aspect of it, because it’s not that difficult to make a Pro Bowl? And how do you justify not making changes in terms of talent evaluation, or are you considering making changes and maybe giving someone like John Dorsey more say or someone else in the building more say when it comes to the draft? (Rob Maaddi)
JEFFREY LURIE: I think the best way to look at it is you’ve got to look at every aspect of drafting and talent acquisition, and if you’re making short-term decisions or you have a veteran team or you’re specifically focusing on one position or things like that, or a lower volume of picks, there’s no reason to not look forward in having excellent success in this area. We’ve over the last ten, 15 years, had a lot of success, a lot of success winning divisions, being in NFC Championship Games. I think one-fourth of the time I’ve been owner in the last 20 years, we’ve appeared in an NFC Championship game. That’s hard to do without really good talent.
I would say, yeah, we can do better in every single aspect and I’m as critical as any fan — trust me, I’m as critical as any fan and I look at it in a very complex way. It’s in a data driven way, it’s looking at what could have been, what should have been, but I will match our performance against most any organization and know that it’s because of really good talent on the roster.
There are other ways of looking at it but when you have a veteran roster, you’re going to have many fewer starters coming from the Draft and elsewhere. But listen, your words are not unheard. They are heard by me and I feel like we’ve got an excellent football operations area and I would look forward to us having real success as we retool through talent acquisition and through coaching.
Q. And as far as John Dorsey or someone else, would you consider that, or is that something that’s not in the equation right now? (Rob Maaddi)
JEFFREY LURIE: I think that, listen, all the people we have, whether it’s [Eagles vice president of player personnel] Andy Weidl, John Dorsey, [Eagles director of pro scouting] Brandon Brown, all very, very capable guys, [Eagles director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant] Jeremiah Washburn, these are all very capable people. I think they will be very included. It’s a very collaborative process. I’m very pleased we have excellent people in that operation.
Q. How much work were you able to do on potential candidates over the past week or so as you were weighing this Doug decision? And then comparing this opening to the other openings on the market where they might have a better quarterback situation or more cap space or more young talent, or right or wrong, less of a perceived clash with the front office potentially, what is the selling point for this job as compared to the others? (Bo Wulf)
JEFFREY LURIE: First of all I would think it’s a very, very attractive job because if I’m a coach, first thing you want to know is if you’re going to have as much resources as possible to create a successful team; are the facilities good; what’s the organization’s track record over the last ten, 20 years, are they a team that rarely makes the playoffs, are they a team that’s satisfied to occasionally make the playoffs, how many division titles do they have, do they ever get as far in the playoffs in the way they build their roster or is it just one-and-done or did they get to championship games and Super Bowls and things like that. That’s what I’m looking for.
Cap room is a one-year phenomena in this league. Anybody who really understands the cap knows that you can transition away from a difficult cap situation in about 12 months. And so anyone who has that short-term thinking in terms of cap utilization probably wouldn’t be the right coach for that.
On the quarterback situation, we’ve got two really interesting assets. They are both young. They are both hungry. They are terrific people, very different and terrific people. A coach is going to have options. A coach is going to have an ability to fix what he feels is necessary in our offense and have a potential star in [QB] Carson [Wentz] and a potential star in [QB] Jalen [Hurts]. That gives us an asset, also, so that if we end up deciding on one some day, the other is a really good asset.
The best fan base in America; there’s other great fan bases, but this community really, really cares about their team; the culture of the team and how competitive they are and they want to win divisions. They want to win and get to championship games and further. So I just can’t — is the owner committed, is the culture positive, are there good people all over the franchise in terms of operations, business-wise? It’s all very, very, very positive. So I don’t look at the opportunity on a short-term bases like is that quarterback better than that quarterback or do they have more cap room than the other team? To me that is a very, very false way of looking at an opportunity in this league and if I were advising a coach, I would say, you want to win and you want to win big and you want to have a fan base that’s there for you no matter what, Philly is the best possible place. It’s the best to own a team and it’s the best to coach a team. And yeah, tough, at times. I love that. I absolutely love that. And there’s a lot of places in America and the NFL where it’s very different and they haven’t had the performance of their organization. They haven’t necessarily had the full commitment and the resources that are almost unlimited in terms of what we devote to football. So I look forward to having that conversation. We’ve always had it. We’ve never had a problem attracting anybody, and I think we’ve got a lot of really great positives, as does Philadelphia as a city. Love the city. I think it’s just one of the real underrated cities in America. And you can’t underrate that. You devote your life to football, you’re in the place you’re in, and Philly is a great place to be, to coach, to live, to have great schools, great hospitals. It’s kind of a win, win, win, win.
Q. And how much were you surveying the scene of potential candidates over the past week as you evaluated Doug? (Bo Wulf)
JEFFREY LURIE: So I think we always do that. I know I always do that. I’m always watching every game to see what I can learn about offensive schemes, defensive schemes, coaches, people who think outside the box. You’re always kind of looking. We always basically do ongoing research no matter what. When we’re winning the Super Bowl, you do ongoing research on — because you know you may lose people.
We didn’t know we were going to lose [former Eagles offensive coordinator and current Colts head coach] Frank Reich but suddenly it happened when Josh [McDaniels] turned that job down and set off a whole — so you have to be aware. You have to always have your plan ahead that you can go forward with. There’s a lot of good candidates out there. We’ll think both inside the box, outside the box. I just want to say, there will be no rush here. This notion of an NFL team making a very important decision for itself and its fan base and rushing to a decision is unlike any in business, and I just don’t think that’s warranted.
If we find a head coach soon or it’s early February, it’s totally great. If we’re the last team picking a head coach, that’s great, too, because then you have all the opportunity in the world. There’s no rush. There’s no pressure. There’s nothing that should drive you from a decision based on just rational thought and careful analysis and getting to know the person as best you can.