EAGLES JEFFREY LURIE TALKS ABOUT THE EAGLES AND THE WORLD
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to make himself available to those media members who were on site at the NovaCare Complex Thursday afternoon to talk about anything and everything that is the NFL and/or the Eagles.
There was very little notice of the gathering that turned out to be as interesting as any press conference he has done as owner of the Birds
Outside of executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, Lurie was asked a lot about controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who despite having a decent season with the San Francisco 49ers last year, is still unemployed.
Kaepernick drew worldwide attention when he began kneeling during playing the National Anthem before every game.
Lurie was asked if he would sign Kaepernick if he had the need at the quarterback position, and what he thought the owners around the league’s responsibility is when it comes to players who are demonstrating in the name of social injustice?
“That’s kind of two questions in one,” Lurie said. “Let me just focus on social injustice: It’s a big problem in America, social injustice. It’s a big problem around the globe. Anybody who wants to do proactive things, to try to reverse social injustice, I’m all in favor of. It has to be respectful. It certainly has to respect the military and the people that serve, the women and men that serve our country, emergency responders, whoever that is. You’ve got to, I think, do it in a respectful way.
“But I applaud anybody that can find respectful ways of trying to use their platform in some way to discuss social injustice. We all need to discuss it. We’ve all seen it around us. We live in a city that has a lot of it. There are multiple issues. They’re not simply racial issues. There are a lot of economic issues.
“Players have grit and determination. There’s no boundary on how that grit and determination gets expressed. I’m not talking about Colin here. I’m just talking about the concept of social injustice in America and elsewhere. Sports is an opportunity to bring people together. I see it as an opportunity. I applaud when players can bring communities together. We see it all the time, and I think it’s great.”
Lurie sidestepped the direct question about whether or not he would sign Kaepernick.
“I have no idea,” Lurie said. “We are completely happy with our quarterback situation.”
The Eagles owner of 23 years did bring up his own players who have been involved in controversial behavior. First he talked about quarterback Michael Vick, who spent time in jail for running a dog fighting operation. The Eagles took a lot of heat when they signed him in 2009.
“With Michael Vick, there was a complete vetting of how is he as a teammate? What is his character? What is his potential? What is his football intelligence? Can he be a backup, in Michaels’ situation, or a third string, in that time period? It’s a whole series of evaluations. That’s how we approach any player acquisition. I don’t want to talk about any specific player.”
Lurie seemed to show his hand on how he felt about Kaepernick by talking about Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins who joined Kaepernick’s protest last year by extending his arm skyward, fist clenched, during the National Anthem.
Lurie said he respected Jenkins’ stance because he backs it up with his community service, and by working in the trenches as an activist for such causes.
He seemed imply that Kaepernick is all show and no substance, or shows respect for the institutions Lurie referenced first that protect the flag and the country.
“I don’t think anybody who is protesting the national anthem, in and of itself, is very respectful,” Lurie said. “If that’s all their platform is, is to protest the national anthem, then what’s the proactive nature of it? But I think we sometimes can misinterpret what those are. I’ve talked to Malcolm Jenkins about it. He’s very involved in our community here. That’s my involvement with Malcolm. It’s, ‘What can you do as a player to be involved in the community?’ Whether it’s social injustice, whether it’s autism – you name it. There are opportunities to really be proactive. We, as a franchise, try to be as proactive as you can be as a sports franchise. We hope we’ll get more and more proactive.
“Particularly on issues that we think are company-wide, like autism and things like that,” the owner continued. “I think it’s all about respect. It’s respect. Anyone who doesn’t have respect for the servicemen that support the country loses me. So it’s very important to show respect for the flag, for the anthem, but it can be misinterpreted that certain people are not showing respect. We’ve got to get to the bottom of what are they trying to accomplish, and are they being proactive in the community, and what are they doing? I think you’ve got to take a holistic view of it.”
Luire was asked about Roseman, who has been the GM since 2010 and has no playoffs wins during that span. Luries was asked to give his evaluation of him going into this year through this offseason, and what gives him the confidence he’s the guy to build a championship team?
“I think Howie has done a tremendous job,” Lurie said. “I have real, total confidence in Howie. The last couple years, [he has made] remarkable franchise-changing decisions. As I’ve said before, it is not easy to not tank and be able to accomplish the goals you want to make in the NFL. It’s so hard to get quarterbacks. The maneuvering, the use of assets the way we did, the identification of the one player that we had a lot of confidence in, [QB] Carson Wentz, at a time when other teams all needed quarterbacks, that’s just one of many, many key things that Howie, the player personnel department, analytics, everybody has participated in, and the coaches in a big way.
“Ever since then, it’s been one domino after another in terms of smart moves. Really happy with the additions this offseason, as was last offseason. In today’s NFL, and I’ve said this before, it’s not simply having, ‘Okay, this is your scout or this is your GM, or whatever.’ Football operations requires enormous processing and identifying of key data. If you don’t a have great player personnel department, an excellent analytics department, really good sports science, top-notch player development, excellent teaching, you’re not going to be the team you want to be.
“Howie’s primary function is to organize that and to be the final decision maker when it comes to the key moves we make, and also to structure contracts so that we can maximize our assets. The way he structured the Sam Bradford contract allowed us to retrieve a first-round draft choice and a fourth-round draft choice. [That is something that is] very hard to accomplish in this league. We also didn’t have a lot of assets to be able to trade up in terms of getting Carson for that No. 2 pick. We were not a 2-14 team. We were going to be drafting 13 [13th overall pick]. How do you get there? How do you get up there? We could get to eight. It was a double move. Very rare.
“When you look back on the last couple years, very impressive performance. I couldn’t have more confidence in Howie.”
Lurie was asked about Michael Lombardi’s recent comments about his head coach. The former NFL GM said Pederson was the least qualified head coach in the NFL. Some of the comments went pretty low. The owner dismissed Lombardi’s comments as a stunt to get viewers to look at the internet site he is involved in called “The Ringer.”
“I have a strong endorsement of Doug. First of all, those comments, you guys call it ‘Click Bait’ or ‘Hot Takes,’ that’s how I saw that,” Lurie said. “But Doug, think about this, I mean, he took over a team that had some locker room issues with the previous head coach. He lost his starting quarterback [eight] days before the start of the season, and was asked to use our young third-string quarterback [Carson Wentz]. He had to put together a coaching staff. My personal evaluation of the coaching staff that he put together, or inherited, but was open to inherit, is outstanding. I mean, really outstanding.
“That’s a huge credit because quarterback analysis, locker room chemistry, and the ability to put together a top-notch coaching staff, those are three real key ingredients. I think he aced them all.
“Yes, there’s going to be growing pains with any first-year head coach. We had that with Andy [Reid], we had it with Chip [Kelly], we’ve had it no matter who it is. I see him as someone who can keep improving. He’s a listener. He’s a collaborator. I think he has terrific relationships with the players. The future is in front of him, and it’s there for the taking.”
NOTE: You can hear more segments of the press conference on the “Sport Page” Radio show this Saturday night on WRDV 89.3 FM (wrdv.ord) 10:00 P.M. – 11:30 P.M. And next Wednesday afternoon 5-7 P.M. On Footballstories, the Radio Show on 610 Sports ESPN Radio Philadelphia.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii