A roster has been revamped. The new-look Eagles open practice on Tuesday with great anticipation and high expectations. Off the field, the Eagles revamped the approach and wrapped their arms around the fans and begin a new generation of Eagles football hand in hand with those who have supported the team since 1933.
As the NovaCare Complex auditorium filled on Thursday and the media gathered to shoot a press conference announcing some of the significant changes ahead, the fans couldn't contain themselves. They chanted E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles! and they hugged and bumped and generally showed the excitement they are feeling with training camp right around the corner. It was an unusual press conference in that Andy Reid's football team wasn't the focus.
The best fans in the NFL were on display and they proved worthy of the attention.
"Players and coaches change from generation to generation but the constant is always our fans," said Eagles Chief Operating Officer Don Smolenski. "Our fans, whose passion and support for this team are unending, who live with this team daily and who truly own this team. This year, wanted to make sure the fan was front and center."
Born of an idea from Ryan Starr, the Eagles' creative services manager, the Eagles introduced their season tickets, which feature a different fan on each face. Months ago, the Eagles invited fans to "tell their stories" about why they are such great fans, and 10 fans were selected to represent the 2010 campaign. They come from all walks of life -- there is the story of the man who raced into his burning house to retrieve his season tickets, and left his wife's engagement ring behind, and the serviceman who kept his submarine above water so he could hear the end of a crucial Eagles game, and the woman who beat breast cancer to continue to cheer on her favorite team to the man who is without eyesight but who is certainly not without a deep, deep love for the team -- and they come from all over the world.
Hundreds of fans submitted their stories. And for those who missed the chance, here is an opportunity to share your story with the rest of the Eagles world.
"We chose 10 fan stories but there were many, many other great stories we heard and that we continue to hear," said Tim McDermott, the team's Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer. "We hear from the fans every day. They have amazing stories. They deserve to be recognized because we all appreciate what they mean to this franchise."
Featuring the fans on the home-game tickets is one change, but it is certainly not the only difference you will notice. The in-game experience is going to be enhanced in many ways, including scoreboard features and text-to-screen interactivity that the fans can enjoy. The team is soon opening up auditions to be part of the new Drum Line, to be featured during home games. There will be a halftime show with Don Tollefson and Hugh Douglas at the stadium to discuss the first half and talk about the second half ahead.
When the regular season opens, of course, the Eagles will pay tribute to the 1960 NFL Champion Eagles by wearing the kelly green jerseys worn by that team and by having a weekend-long celebration inviting those players back to Philadelphia.
A 30-person fan advisory committee will be formed to meet with the team's marketing department to discuss ways the Eagles can better connect with the fans. Insider Magazine, published eight times a year as a print magazine, is now a monthly digital publication free to every fan on the team's database. The first issue is out next week. The Eagles are close to unveiling their social network strategy after long and detailed months of planning the platform correctly, most effectively.
The Eagles Television Network has been overhauled and instead of the standard show with the head coach and the quarterback, the team is producing more comprehensive, entertaining and *fun *shows taking the fans deep inside the walls of the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field.
There will be more. There will always be more. McDermott is one of those guys who doesn't stop thinking, who doesn't stop planning, who isn't afraid to tinker with an experiment here and there to get where he needs to go. The mission is to include the fans and to embrace the fans and to have everyone step in step as the franchise goes in an aggressive, exciting and bold new direction in 2010 and beyond.
"There is a unique passion in Philadelphia and with Eagles fans for this football team that doesn't exist in other places," said McDermott. "I truly believe that they, the fans, are the ones who define our brand. I'm also a big believer that while Mr. and Mrs. (Jeffrey) Lurie purchased the team, it is the fans who own the team and it is our responsibility to manage it like it is a public trust.
"Knowing that, I believe that we should be celebrating our fans and showing them how much we appreciate them and really elevating the relationship that we have with the fans. The 2010 season represents more of an opportunity to do that more than we have in the past, partially due to technology. A lot of the initiatives that we are doing are driven partially by the fact that technology allows us to have these sorts of relationships with the fans. Whether it is our social media strategy, or our Digital Insider, it's really us putting the fans at the heart of all that we do.
"We're excited to do that. This season is a chance to elevate the relationship with our fans to new levels."
It wasn't a day to discuss the run/pass ratio, or to talk about the depth chart, but Thursday was an important moment for the Eagles. The organization reached out to the fans and put forth a game plan for success as the football side prepares to take its own steps next week. Together the Eagles and the fans move in unison as a new day dawns for this organization.