PHOENIX -- Jeffrey Lurie has never played it conservatively. He's had three head coaches work for him and has enjoyed a high level of success, but the Eagles have not achieved the ultimate goal. The Super Bowl is the only goal.
On the heels of successive 10-win seasons, Lurie felt the need to change direction. The Eagles' Chairman and CEO made the decision days after the 2014 campaign to re-structure the way the Eagles conduct their football business, giving head coach Chip Kelly final say on football matters, promoting Ed Marynowitz into the position of vice president of player personnel and naming Howie Roseman executive vice president of football operations.
"Yes, it was all my call. I've lived through a lot of division championships, a lot of playoff appearances, a lot of final four appearances, but our goal is further than that," Lurie said on Tuesday, his first time meeting the media since the decisions were made. Lurie spoke for 40 minutes at the NFL's Annual Meeting, between his busy meetings schedule. "We want to deliver a Super Bowl, and sometimes maybe I'm influenced by the notion that it's very difficult to get from good to great, and you've got to take some serious looks at yourself when you want to make that step. It's a gamble to go from good to great because you can go from good to mediocre with changes, but I decided that it was important enough to adopt the vision and philosophy of integrating scouting with the coaching on a daily basis."
It was an interesting and informative session from Lurie, who has always supported his coaches and organization and who has made the right call on his coaches -- from Ray Rhodes to Andy Reid and now Kelly. There's a reason coaches want to work for Lurie. He gives them what they need to succeed, he trusts his football people to make the right football decisions and he is never afraid to take chances.
The Eagles, of course, have been the talk of the league with all of the moves they've made -- releasing popular and productive veterans like linebacker Trent Cole and offensive guard Todd Herremans, and trading running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Nick Foles and bringing in talent that the Eagles hope makes the right kind of difference.
"When you're trying to go from good to great, you have to take some gambles. You have to take chances," Lurie said. "Yes, there's a chance bringing in a running back (DeMarco Murray) who doesn't know what we're all about, who has a sterling reputation as a player as a teammate, all that – (Ryan) Mathews as well -- will not be as productive as LeSean. But you have to make that judgment. You have to take chances in order to be great. I don't know any other way about it.
"We're not interested in being predictable in terms of what we do in player personnel. We have to be not risk averse, and sometimes trades are the best way to accomplish that. It's not easy to trade the young quarterback that you're developing who had a terrific year the year before and got hurt this year. But you have to go on your evaluations and there was an opportunity to do an upside gamble with an outstanding young quarterback who you hope can become healthier throughout his career. It is so hard to get a franchise quarterback, as you know. It sets the ceiling on what you have as a team and do you want to take upside gambles or not? You have to make that decision."
Ten-win seasons aren't enough. Division championships don't cut it. Lurie's ownership has produced 12 playoff appearances in 20 seasons, five trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance. Good, but not the ultimate goal.
He hired Kelly after Reid's tenure ended and knew he had something special in the former Oregon head coach: A brilliant mind who looked at the game from every angle, a coach who wasn't afraid to work against the grain. Kelly is married to the game, and he went as far as he felt he could with the roster that finished last season with a victory over the New York Giants.
In Chip We Trust. That's the mantra. That's what I believe. Everyone in the organization has Kelly's back. It's clearly also what Lurie believes.
"For two years Chip has been talking about getting players that fit more what he's all about in terms of their style of play. LeSean McCoy is a great running back. He's the all-time franchise leader and a great guy in every way. To maximize his power, spread offense, he always admired the one-cut runners," Lurie said. "You've got to let a coach try to bring in the players that he thinks fit best and what he's all about to maximize what he's trying to accomplish. It really boils down to that. You have a decision as an owner- do you want to fight that or do you want to adopt it? I went all out to try to get Chip as the coach and I'm really happy that we did. I think he's got a great potential future and I'm happy to provide him resources to try to maximize what he's all about.
"With any coach you need patience, you need vision, and you need them to be able to gamble and fail and gamble and succeed, because the last thing you want to do is make a coach risk-adverse. I just don't believe in that. I think it was always one of the keys to success with Andy -- we never wanted him to be risk-adverse, on the field or off of the field. You want them to be bold. You don't want to be like every other team. You want to try to separate yourself from the pack, and sometimes it's not going to work and sometimes it's going to work great."
Kelly, the head coach, is obviously a huge part of the success the Eagles have had in the last two seasons and his decision making in personnel and on game days will define 2015 and beyond. And while much of the focus from the media was on the structure of the front office, Lurie pointed to the quarterback position as the critical component to reach the goal.
The Eagles have long thought highly of Sam Bradford, the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Lurie was willing to take the chance -- bold moves, remember -- and trade Nick Foles and a 2016 second-round pick to acquire a player the Eagles think will be special in this offense.
"When he was scouted out of college, and this goes back to Andy and the group, we thought he was best young quarterback we had seen in a long, long time, probably since Peyton Manning coming out of college. He was Rookie of the Year his first year, outstanding," Lurie said. "Pat Shurmur (current Eagles offensive coordinator) had him as an offensive coordinator (in 2010 in St. Louis) reconfirmed everything we had heard about him in the draft process – extraordinary competitor, incredibly accurate and needs to stay healthy."
This has been a wild offseason, a startling ride. There is so much more to do for Lurie, for Kelly and for the Eagles. The draft is the backbone of every NFL team and the Eagles have eight picks on April 30-May 2, including the 20th overall. They need to make the right decisions to fill some needs and get this team back in the playoffs.
"It's possible that our success made us all believe that we were absolutely heading on the right track, but when you really want to critically analyze where you are at and don't just accept that you had double-digit wins, you step back and say 'How can we really get better?' That's what it's all about," Lurie said. "I feel that responsibility to the organization and our fans and everybody. How can we really get better? I'm not interested in staying the same."