Philadelphia Eagles News

Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie

Opening Remarks: "Thank you all for coming, and sorry that this got delayed from a few weeks ago. I think it was obviously necessary to take some time and reflect, and handle this in a later fashion. Really, there were four topics that I wanted to discuss, and I'm open to all of your questions. I'm happy to try and provide any answers that I can. The first, very briefly, is the state of the NFL. Second is the state of the Eagles on and off the field. Third would be talking about (head coach) Andy Reid. The fourth would be our fans. Then, we'll go from there.

"With the state of the NFL, as you know, we're entering the second year of the collective bargaining agreement and really the first offseason that was a part of this collective bargaining agreement in a normal schedule sense. By all accounts, the NFL is incredibly strong. The popularity of this sport with over 182 million fans, the broadcast ratings through the charts with the best ever coming out of a lockout, and an incredible interest throughout the products of the NFL such that you're going to see – there is so much success, but the thing that makes the NFL so successful is that it doesn't take the success for granted.
"This year, we're going to have increased access to games and increased primetime NFL games. There are more ways to engage the NFL as it embraces social media in a huge way. The ratings, you know it doesn't often get written about, but twice of what NASCAR does – NASCAR is by far the second-most successful sport in America today. If you take all of the other sports and multiply that times four, you still don't get to the ratings of the NFL.

"With myself, I told you that I thought the key to the collective bargaining agreement was that we make sure that every game is critical (because) that's what separates this sport. The other thing that separates this sport is that small markets and large media markets have an equal opportunity to win. It doesn't sound like a complicated formula, but it's the formula that drives the success. We know it's a great sport, but if you know going in that you're just going to have four or five markets that have a much better chance, it changes the whole dynamic and it allows people to feel from every market that every game is important the way we have it. I'm very thankful that we're able to maintain that formula going forward.

"Another thing that's happening, I think, is that we have a wave of new stadiums. There has been a lot of investments in the new stadiums. I'm very pleased to say that two great franchises are going to have new stadiums in the 49ers – the first in California in I think over 50 years – and the Vikings. It's very important in the league for stability and for fan bases in the league that are great. Minnesota and San Francisco have wonderful fan bases and wonderful tradition, like the Eagles. They're going to have state of the art stadiums as well now. I think also, lastly on the NFL, that it is taking on in a great way serious issues with safety and improved on-field monitoring, counseling, and a teaching apparatus that goes from youth football all the way through the pros. So it bodes well.

"In terms of the Eagles, there has been both a lot and a little, but probably a lot to say. I'm sure there (will be) a lot of questions, which I am happy to answer. I think, in terms of this offseason, it came after a very aggressive free agency (period) in 2011 that has been really outstanding with five very key players: four through free agency and one through trade. I'm obviously taking about (CB) Nnamdi (Asomugha), (DT) Cullen (Jenkins), (CB) DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) through trade, (G) Evan Mathis, and (DE) Jason Babin. It's hard to leap up and get five significant players in one offseason. It didn't create the kind of season we expected last year (but) we didn't do it for a single year advancement.

"We did it for the long term and how to elevate a team. That was a unique chance to do that. This offseason was more about signing our excellent young core players – terrific young players and players that have contributed really terrifically over the last several years. I'm very pleased that we were able to do that. I myself usually don't even comment on drafts because I don't think you can really know for two or three years, but I've never been more excited about a draft than this draft, and even more so because of some of our undrafted and late drafted players who really have a chance to be special players.

"I really think that the popularity of our team is a credit to our fan base. I almost never get up here and say, 'It's another sold out season' because it's just an obvious thing. Our fan base is spectacular. We have some of the strongest television ratings in the National Football League. Our preseason game against New England rated higher than the Olympics in Philadelphia. Amazing. If you take the top 25 programs nationally in the whole country, the Eagles played in three of those games. When the Eagles play, 50% of Philadelphia is watching. That's remarkable. We talk a lot about the fan base and how remarkable it is, but we are one of those lucky franchises that has a great tradition, a great history, and in certain ways, we have a lot of opportunity to be better. It's reflected in that popularity, it just doesn't wane, it gets stronger.

"We're trying to connect with our fan base in ever increasing ways. One crazy statistic is we haven't even launched our Angry Birds game yet, but we have released trailers and everything, and our YouTube video has had 900,000 hits of our Angry Birds once that announcement was made. That is off the charts. I'm looking forward to tributes to our great players such as (RB) Steve Van Buren and (S) Brian Dawkins. Another measurement of the state of the team is our websites and our apps. What do fans want? Consistently, our apps and our websites are of the most popular tier in the NFL by far. This is, again, a credit to the fans and it always goes back to them.

"I think that there is an attempt to be more accessible. I've tried to be a little more accessible in the offseason, and I've been asked this question so many times. It's my philosophy that as an organization, you should try and be accessible. It's not every moment and every personality that you have. You may have an outstanding executive, a great coach, or a great owner or under-executive talking at a given time. You're going to have an opportunity if you believe in being accessible, and I do. If you see that, it has always been my philosophy. Sometimes it can't be executed perfectly, but I think there is a feeling that when you're talking to the fans, you're talking to the fans via the press and that's the way it works whether it is bloggers, newspapers, or anything else back there.

"I think the commitment to the community has continued in a great way. We had over 26,000 fans at our successful Flight Night, which is remarkable again. I'm very proud of the Beyond Sport Award and that rings true of what you can do as an organization. It's just something to be proud of. The NRG project is on time, and that will make Lincoln Financial Field the greenest facility in the National Football League. I think those commitments never wane.

"This was an offseason like no other. I think that in many ways, coming off of a disappointing season for us with high expectations, I think that you felt even more humble and even more determined going into both this offseason and the 2012 season. I think that there was sort of a theme that there was often a consistent reminder that change is all a part of our lives and we all experience that. Also, there is a consistent reminder that the Eagles go on no matter what. You have Steve Van Buren leaving us, and then Brian Dawkins coming home. You have Joe Banner moving on, and you have (general manager) Howie Roseman and (president) Don Smolenski doing outstanding jobs. You have changes in my family, as you know, and you have the tragedy in the Reid family. I have to say that we're all human, and there has been an offseason with a lot of tears and a lot of celebrations. I guess, again, I want to reiterate, going back to our fans, that our fans have been incredibly supportive throughout all of this. I have said it before and I'm going to say it again because I think it's right to the point: there is no better place to own a football team.

"The fans demand excellent football, deserve excellent football, and at the same time, their humanness comes out and their support comes out in phenomenal ways. This is a city that is just galvanized and wants the very best for this franchise. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of the support. I also want to thank all of (the media) because you've had to cover some sensitive topics this offseason, like no other. Whether it has involved my family, Andy Reid's family, or the moving on of Joe Banner, whatever it has been, I think you have covered it with sensitivity and integrity. That is so appreciated. I'm proud of the way you all have handled it, and it has been a great message to people handling sports teams all over the country with issues. You have handled it really, really well, and has focused us all on the season coming up in a big, big way. I think that when you go through the changes we have, it makes the games seem even much more valuable and important because it's what brings everybody together and it allows you to really look forward to something in a great way. We're all in this because we love football, but this has been a particularly valuable offseason in a sense of just can't wait for this offseason coming off of the disappointment of last season. This is something we have been waiting for since December when the team was playing extremely well.

"You know, my expectations, I've said it before and I said it after last season (that) I expect a substantially improved team. We all thought we were better than 8-8 but we weren't because your record tells you what you were. Yeah we were playing great football at the end but I think what I've noticed and I hope it continues as most expect it will going into the regular season, (an) offseason of tremendous energy and working together. I think it started in the practices in December when our record was poor and we were struggling to make the playoffs and it was a long shot but we came close. I think (with) that energy and excitement the team just came together has been more noticeable this offseason than ever before. I'm hopeful that it will both carry over in terms of talent and common purpose.

"I think that people are going to ask about Andy and there's a lot to be said. I think we all know we've had a terrific run and he's been a great coach. This is an opportunity for the football team to have a terrific season. At the same time I think I'm looking at it in a way where professionally we tend to put our resources into everything we can think of to make the team better. Whether that's scouting changes, coaching changes, player transactions, (or) different approaches in different ways you will always try for that. There's an added kind of emphasis I would say this year out of necessity which is I feel responsible to be there personally, as I think we all do, for Andy and for Tammy (Reid). The team, the organization, the players, and our fans with the Philadelphia community have been galvanized to support this family. It's an unmentionable pain I think they are going through. It provides a terrific sense of common purpose to have everybody so wanting this to be successful. It's kind of like 'Team Andy' and we so much want this to work out in a great way to maximize the talent we have. I think we'll know at the end of the season whether that unity that occurred and whether that common purpose that we all share comes to fruition. There's a real opportunity for success.

"I think that is pretty much it. I am happy to answer any questions. Just because it is talking to you guys I want to look into your eyes and say how much I really respect your handling of a lot of things this offseason. It's been refreshing for me and I think so handled so well. Thank you. Happy to answer any questions now."

On whether changes in the Lurie family have affected the team in any way: "In terms of my own family situation, I think the NFL, actually Albert Breer, had a report and he had it exactly right. There is no change whatsoever in the operation of the Eagles (or) the ownership of the Eagles. I've structured this franchise around having complete control (including) 100 percent voting and total, final decision making. That continues. I've always had a couple limited partners that were nonvoting and not involved in decisions, football decisions particularly. That continues. Christina (Weiss Lurie) will also be a limited partner as she has been just like the other limited partners. That doesn't change. I've structured it where my family has a tremendous majority of the ownership and we have limited partners that I think are helpful. I think that is really all it is. There will be no change whatsoever going forward and any details just refer to (the NFL report). Actually, what the NFL reported had more details than I probably would have explained it but there it was and they happened to have it extremely accurate."

On his statement that nothing will happen with head coach Andy Reid's contract until after the season: "That would be accurate. I like to evaluate everything. There's just so many things to look at and I think I always reserve the judgment to look at things after they've unfolded. That's what I will continue to do. You won't hear me talking about this during the season. Again, I just hope you can respect that. I don't like situations to become sideshows. It's just not my style. I'll reflect and analyze afterwards and that's what I've always done."

On whether it is his decision not to discuss Reid's contract or whether the philosophy has changed since Joe Banner has left the organization: "It doesn't change. It's always been my decision. I'm a good listener (and) I surround myself with people, and I have really good people around me at all times. It's a very, very subjective decision and I've always been the one to make it. Whether it is hiring, changing, or whatever, all of those are mine."

On what made him release a statement directly following the comments of Andy Reid's agent Bob Lamonte: "Just because it is not the way I operate in terms of having a set philosophy. We don't talk publicly about contracts with coaches. We don't talk about the performance of the key executives and coaches. We don't do that. There would never have been a situation where I would have made a commitment that is not philosophically consistent with what I've always done which is just be very analytical and try to stand back and make judgments. It's the nature of the coaching perspective that it's not the most stable profession. It's something where it's analyzed no matter what franchise it is and my style is much more not (to) get caught up in the moment, not make commitments that were talked about, and really be very careful and handle it."

On whether he thought Lamonte's comments were made because Reid wanted a new contract now: "I didn't. I didn't at all. I have a great relationship with Bob Lamonte. He represents I think half the coaches in the league and half the aspiring coaches to be. As an organization and myself personally we have a great relationship with Bob which will always serve us well I think. Andy and I have worked together for 14 years. We have very much of an open door relationship and we just talk directly. We never talk through others. It was kind of caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment or something but  (Andy) and I have an open line of communication and that's the way it has always been."

On whether there needs to be a certain level of success on the field for Reid to receive a contract extension: "It goes beyond that but there's no question (that) what I said was we need substantial improvement. We have a very good team I think on paper and paper doesn't get you that far if you don't maximize it. I'm so excited about this season. I think everybody in the organization and the fan base is very excited but it's a difficult league and I think you have to beat the other teams that are very good."

On if he has set a level of what qualifies as a successful season: "I don't have a level or anything like that. I just want to be clear about that. You just try to make the best judgment you can after the season."

On whether another 8-8 season would be considered satisfactory: "No it would not."

On whether after the season is over he will know whether the season was successful: "I do. I think it will be very clear."

On whether it is difficult to balance Reid as a coach compared to the man who lost a son: "No, I don't think it is. I think he will always have our support. Everybody in this community, Andy will always have our sympathy and support but this is a business. You are there to win and win big and you have to separate the two. All of the analysis will be on Andy Reid the coach."

On what things led to a poor 2011 season and whether he conveyed them to Reid: "I did. I do think with good intentions there was a lot to be integrated. As I said, we had five significant players that are going to be starting for us this year from that class but there was no offseason with them. There was a new defensive coordinator. I think it was a combination of decisions that probably weren't maximized in terms of a season that had no offseason. That wasn't the sole reason. I was looking at the 2012 season and what the players could do and what the talent base could do, who could maximize Michael Vick the best, and what kind of leadership we needed. That was what a lot of it was regarding."

On whether his statement on an 8-8 season has qualifiers including potential injuries: "Listen, you just have to make the best decisions you can after the season. As I said, 8-8 was unacceptable."

On whether regardless of injuries an 8-8 season is unacceptable to him: "Again, I am not going to make blanket statements. I really wanted to try to explain to you that 8-8 was unacceptable. Yeah, I guess if two thirds of the team is not playing (then) there are always exceptions. That was a really unacceptable outcome. I just want to reiterate that."

On whether there is emptiness in him without having won a Super Bowl yet: "It's a big emptiness because I feel like we've accomplished everything else. We've been in a huge percentage of the (conference) championship games, won so many division titles, (and) came so close in so many ways that it is really almost all I think about in terms of the goals and what we try to accomplish. It's kind of the one remaining situation, the one remaining goal, and I think we have the means to do it. It is just a question of if we make it happen."

On how much the upcoming season reflects upon general manager Howie Roseman: "Howie has done an excellent job. I think general managers get measured by player acquisitions, the draft, trades, how they communicate with the rest of the organization, how they communicate with the players, (and) their strategy going forward. There is a lot to analyze and I think Howie is doing an outstanding job and as I said, it is early to make a determination of this draft class. Just based on a few months it is extremely promising."

On what standard QB Michael Vick is being held to this season: "Well, there is no set way to measure that but we expect him to have a terrific year. That's why he is the starting quarterback. That's why he's been signed for a number of years. I have to say that Michael has been everything we could have asked and more in terms of the intangibles. Now we just need him to maximize that incredible God given talent, stay healthy, and deliver the kind of offensive performance that great quarterbacks can. This is a quarterback driven league and we will go as far as our quarterback play can take us assuming the rest of our team plays well."

On whether his day-to-day involvement with the team has changed following the departure of Joe Banner: "No, not in the slightest. This has been a situation where, as I've said before, we've groomed outstanding executives and (president) Don (Smolenski) is as good as it gets. He could have been president a while ago. He's been with us a long time in very key roles: chief financial officer, then chief operating officer. He's been at the core of everything we've done. So, no. I have complete faith and it's going incredibly well. The communication is terrific and I'm very blessed to have those kind of executives."

On whether he is confident that the formula he has here for the team works: "Yeah, I'm very confident, but I think you've got to just try everything you possibly can. I'm not against trying other ways. I think that (it's) the philosophy of, it's a quarterback-driven league. You've got to have a great passing offense and you've got to have a great pass rush. Those, I think, are fundamentals in today's NFL and I don't see any teams able to compete at a very high level unless they have an outstanding passing offense and an outstanding pass defense involving a pass rush. You don't see it. I think Andy Reid was ahead of the curve years ago when he focused on the passing game. Now, you don't see very many teams that don't have significantly (good quarterbacks); most great teams are the best passing teams."

On what he has noticed about Reid since the tragedy in his family occurred during training camp: "It's remarkable. I'm sure you've all noticed it. He is completely there, focused, energized. Maybe it's self-therapeutic. He still has his intensity that sometimes comes out in the public view, but often in the private view in terms of coaching his players. I see a tremendously focused man who knows he's got a lot of talent around him and wants to make sure it all happens. I think he's very strong. He's a really strong guy."

On his level of concern regarding Vick's inability to stay healthy: "Look, I'm a fan, no matter who the quarterback. But with Michael, it's very important that he do everything he possibly can to try to stay healthy. It's not a precise science and so, you know you're going to have (quarterbacks get hurt): (Texans QB) Matt Schaub going out for the year, (New England QB Tom) Brady a few years ago and (Broncos QB) Peyton (Manning) last year. You're going to have things happen, but you just try to up the odds I think of making sure it doesn't happen. I think there's things that Michael can do to lower the chances of injury, but it's a volatile game and that's a rough and tough position."

On whether this team has the best chance to win a Super Bowl since he has owned the team: "Well, that's a hard question because we've been so close so many times with five championship games and one Super Bowl. I do think this team has all the ingredients to get there but, as you know, Green Bay last year to me was by far the best team in the NFL and it wasn't even close. They were, what, 15-1 in the regular season; didn't win a playoff game. It takes one bad game. I'll reiterate what I said last year when everyone was calling us a team that was the best in the NFL going into the season: I saw it as a catch-up year. I saw us as needing to catch up, as I told you in this press conference last year, to Green Bay and New Orleans. I thought they were the two teams we had to catch because of those dynamic passing offenses.

"I still feel that way. I feel like (Green Bay QB) Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the National Football League and there's a few other quarterbacks right there with incredible offenses; New Orleans and the Patriots and, of course, (Giants QB) Eli Manning is as clutch as they get. I feel like we're there. We're trying to catch up as are most teams, yet I think humbled by the fact that there's tremendous talent and there's tremendous quarterback talent in the NFC that we didn't see in the years when we had (former Eagles QB) Donovan (McNabb). We had, by far, the best quarterback in the division and now you can say, for the first time in many years, all four teams have pretty impressive potential quarterbacks."

On whether he is still convinced that Vick can play at the level of the elite quarterbacks in the league: "We hope so. I'm not into prognosticating. I'm just saying that we hope to see the elite Michael Vick that we saw the year before."

On whether he considers this year as a catch-up year as well or whether he feels as if the team has caught up: "I see it as having caught up quite a bit, but we're all football fans in this room and I think we're looking at some of the greatest players to ever play football in Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, guys like that. You just have to look out and see what your opponent is. Hopefully, our defense can be that much better and as the Giants proved last year, you get hot and you have a great pass rush and you can nullify, sometimes, the better quarterback. The Giants have used that twice. We hope to be able to do the same thing."

On whether Reid's future and Vick's future are tied together: "No, I think you have to look at players and coaches separately and everyone is evaluated on an individual basis. There are no packages in the NFL, really."

On whether he has ever had conversations with Reid about moving into a front office position in the future: "Never been discussed. No, it hasn't been discussed."

On whether he is concerned with the quality of the replacement officials in the NFL: "Again, I will just say that I never have ever spoken about collective bargaining issues and I'm not going start now. It's a collective bargaining issue."

On how he has seen the league take a stand on player safety and the league's stance on protecting players: "The league, it's a top priority. It's not the best for the fans to have the kickoffs moved forward like they are. There's fewer exciting returns. It's not the most fan-friendly change; however, in all the research that's been done on injuries, kickoff returns have been the single leading cause of a lot of severe injuries. So there was a debate: should you do what's a little less exciting for safety? The league has time and time again now made decisions that are based on making safety a priority. You want your players to be there playing, so that's the key."

On whether the attention given to concussions over the last several years has sent alarms to parents and how that could affect the level of play in younger players down the line: "I don't worry, but I think the more knowledge you have, it gives you a chance to prevent it, to develop equipment, to develop testing, to develop teaching. So the more knowledge, the better in terms of issues like that. It's an important issue and anyone who doesn't take it seriously, I think, has their head in the sand. But I think the NFL produces so much research with universities; we invest in so much research that the modus is there to make sure we are the very best at it and that has to filter down to youth football and everywhere else. But, listen, it's a volatile game. You can choose to play tennis and you can choose to play tackle football. Tackle football is a more volatile game. But the more information we can come up with, the more research that we can learn, the better for the sport."

On whether he still speaks with Banner and what he believes his role will be with the Browns: "I do speak with Joe. I can't really comment because Jimmy Haslam, I think, will be the new owner of the Cleveland Browns. We have a finance committee meeting in September and we have an owner's meeting in mid-October. My assumption is that by the October meeting we would approve Jimmy. He's been a limited partner in the Steelers (organization) and a well-respected applicant for a team. The league still has to do their due diligence, but I expect smooth sailing. I can't comment on what moves Jimmy's going to make at all. I do know that if Joe ends up there as president, they're going to get a terrific executive. I think in a turnaround situation like Cleveland in particular, I think it would be a great decision by Jimmy if Joe was there."

On whether Banner is still employed by the Eagles: "Joe is an advisor."

On whether Banner is an advisor with the Eagles: "He is an advisor. It's not on football matters. It's on some special projects that we're doing that have nothing to do with football."

On whether Banner has an office at the NovaCare Complex: "Yeah."

On whether he feels comfortable that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is the right man to lead the defense: "I don't think it's for me to say. It's really for Andy Reid to say. Those are his calls. I've never interfered with his judgment of who should be the coordinators and who he hires like that. We've had discussions, but I think one of the important things we did in the offseason that I didn't even mention was brining in some impressive leaders into the organization and the roster. (LB) DeMeco Ryans: very impressive leader. (Senior football advisor) Tom Donahoe into scouting: very impressive leader. On the coaching staff, (secondary coach) Todd Bowles: very impressive leader. So, again, the more one can build the roster and build the coaching staff in a way that makes sense, the more chance you have for success."

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