PHOENIX -- Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has not spoken publicly in a year -- he’ll break his silence when he addresses reporters from the Annual Meeting on Tuesday evening -- but his actions have left no doubt as to what is top-of-mind as he prepares for his 24th season as the team’s chairman and CEO: doing right by Carson Wentz.
Lurie has been pining for a franchise quarterback since Donovan McNabb left town, rightly believing that without one, you’re fighting against a current with little give. Now that he feels he has landed one, the priority is to capitalize on the moment by throwing the organization’s full weight behind Wentz.
It is a big reason why, as we reported earlier in the offseason, Lurie blocked quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo from interviewing for an offensive coordinator job with the New York Jets, preventing head coach Doug Pederson from granting permission as his mentor, Andy Reid, typically has done. The move ensures that the voice most regularly in Wentz’s ear is a familiar and effective one.
Free agency has largely been about bolstering the support system around Wentz, as well. The Eagles signed the top wide receiver on the market, Alshon Jeffery, to a one-year deal that can be worth as much as $14 million, and inked speed receiver Torrey Smith to a three-year contract. Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman then turned his attention to the offensive line. He re-upped G/C Stefen Wisniewski and signed former first-round guard Chance Warmack to strengthen the wall in front of Wentz. The focus has been solely on the offensive side of the ball to this point despite the fact that half of their starting defensive line (DE Connor Barwin and DT Bennie Logan) and both starting corners (Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin) from last season will be playing elsewhere in 2017. There were even reports that veteran safety and team leader Malcolm Jenkins was being discussed in a trade with the New Orleans Saints for the rights to receiver Brandin Cooks.
While there is plenty of logic behind the idea of properly arming your quarterback, recent history suggests Lurie and the Eagles’ brass needs to guard against going to extremes. When Lurie spoke to the media from the owners meetings in 2015, standing on these very grounds of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, he had just handed Chip Kelly full personnel control -- a level of power that only Bill Belichick enjoyed at the time -- despite the fact that Kelly was still very green to the NFL world and had yet to win a playoff game. He explained that, in a quest to “get from good to great” he wanted to “maximize Chip Kelly’s vision and system” by handing him the keys to the car. Kelly pulled out of the lot and promptly crashed. He was fired before season’s end, and the Eagles are still in the process of recovering from several of the ill-fated personnel decisions that he made.
Many viewed Kelly as the cure to the Eagles’ championship drought, just as many view Wentz now. That helped justify behavior from the owner that, with the benefit of hindsight, was reckless. A firmer commitment to the intended course, turns out, was the right play.
The lesson could prove applicable here. The messaging out of the NovaCare Complex earlier this offseason seemed to signal that the Eagles were going to resist taking shortcuts to build a strong, lasting foundation around Wentz. In January, Roseman was firm about the need to be “disciplined with our process” and avoid putting “Band-Aids on things.” Asked about those comments following the Jeffery signing, Roseman defined a Band-Aid as “a guy who's in the twilight of his career and doesn't have a lot of time left and probably not someone that you would want to extend going forward” and insisted the signing was consistent with their original philosophy. But he also acknowledged immediately following the season that the Eagles are still not at a spot where they can contend with the best teams in the NFL, yet the Jeffery signing smacks of a team gearing up for a push rather than one that realizes the time to push is still a ways away.
If there is an internal conflict in such a situation, it’s likely the desire to provide your quarterback with the proper resources bumping against the knowledge that the best chance at long-term success is to grow this thing organically. You don’t want to squander this moment by not doing enough, and you don’t want to squander this moment by doing too much. Lurie, we’ve seen, is liberal in his generosity. He’s much more apt to go down swinging than to go down looking. While admirable, that can also lead to lack of discipline, which brings on added risk. By usurping his head coach’s power in order to block one of his assistants from leaving, for example, he runs the risk of weakening the chain of command and upsetting the natural order of things. By loading up on offense in the name of supporting Wentz, he risks going too heavy too early on one side of the ball while leaving the other side of the ball barren.
Sound investment and self-control seem to be principle to the formula necessary to best capitalize on the Wentz years. On Tuesday, we’ll get more clues as to where Lurie has positioned the throttle.