Lurie held his State of the Team address, post-2011 season, on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex and was brilliant, just brilliant. He opened by expressing with candor the disappointment he feels after an 8-8 season that ended with no playoff spot and then he wound into next steps, including retaining Andy Reid as the team's head coach for 2012, and his hopes and dreams for 2012 and beyond.
"It's not only unacceptable, it's very, very disappointing and anyone who in my mind both doesn't feel the disappointment and anger is just not getting what we're all about," said Lurie, warming up. "We're a team, and Andy (Reid) is a coach who has been in the playoffs nine out of the last 12 years, and it's just completely unacceptable to be 8-8 and watching these other teams play starting next week. Incredibly, incredibly disappointing.
"We owe as a franchise to Philadelphia the singular pursuit of winning a championship and that's why I want Andy back. Amidst all the anger and frustration, I'm really excited about this team. I've been around the players every year and this is a special group. It's a talented group and it's a group where we brought in a lot of good, talented players. The payoff wasn't this year, but the payoff has a chance to come soon and be really great."
Any fan who thinks the Eagles don't hurt internally after a loss just don't understand how much goes into the profession. This is a franchise that has been to two Super Bowls, with no ultimate success. Nine times in 13 seasons under Reid the Eagles have made the playoffs, and of those nine trips to the postseason they have reached the NFC Championship Game five times. Reid has won more games than any coach in franchise history, has the respect of everyone in the organization and the entire league.
Reid's only coaching crime is that he hasn't won a Super Bowl. That remains the target, and so the pursuit continues under Reid.
What's next, then? There is a lot of work ahead. Any changes to the coaching staff come per Reid's direction, as it has always been. He is the one who decided to change up so drastically after the 2010 season, and he is the one who will determine the staff for 2012. We all know the speculation out there. We all know how the defense here performed in 2011, how it went from so much inconsistency to such outstanding work in the final month of the year. We know that Juan Castillo made great improvement as the year passed, and we know that a high-profile defensive coach by the name of Steve Spagnuolo is out there after three years as a head coach in St. Louis.
It is Reid's call. It has always been Reid's call.
But at the same time, it was a collective effort organization wide that landed the Eagles at 8-8 in 2011, and Lurie expressed that beautifully during his NovaCare Complex press conference.
"I think maybe there was a miscalculation in terms of implementing big-scheme changes in a lockout situation. To me I don't know why, I would have thought we would have been able to during the abbreviated training camp and preseason to adapt to some of those schematic changes, they were bold changes," said Lurie. "But clearly the team was not gelling and maximizing those scheme changes in the first half of the year. That's one that comes to mind right away.
'So I would hold everybody accountable that's responsible for the scheme changes, yet there's a payoff once it takes effect and you gel and have it. So I think we saw tremendous benefits in the two lines, offensive and defensive as the season went on and we will benefit from that as we go forward. But the first half of the season, it's just ridiculously unacceptable to have a fourth quarter lead and blow all of those games. And if we just blew one less game we'd be playing Atlanta next week. So that's where it's at."
Lurie touched on DeSean Jackson's future here, and I found it extremely encouraging for Jackson's return in 2012. There is still the matter of the negotiation, which is always the tricky part and has been for a couple of years. That can go awry. But Lurie clearly is leaving the door open for Jackson.
It was important for Lurie to speak. The fans needed to hear from him and, frankly, I wish he would speak more often. He speaks well, offers his opinions clearly and obviously has a great passion for the team and fans. I thought maybe Lurie's best answer came when asked about Reid's "arrogance" during press conferences and his relationship with the media in general. It is something I have heard from the fans many times over the years. They don't like Reid's press conferences. They have heard him take responsibility for poor play time and again. They want Reid to show some anger, to blame his players, to have more fire and give more information with his answers.
Lurie's perspective that Reid's press-conference personality isn't "arrogant" at all.
"I think it's a legitimate question, but to describe it as arrogant is completely wrong; it's protective and there's a difference how you interpret protectiveness," said Lurie. "You can convert it to arrogance if you misjudge it. There's no arrogance in this man. One of the analysis I do when I meet with Andy for multiple times in the last month and I do it every year is how humble he is and how self-critical he is and that goes into my analysis.
"So you're dealing with a completely non-arrogant man who blames himself for a lot of the troubles with the team but at the same time can openly talk to me about each player and each strengths and weaknesses that you can't talk to the press about. So that's what our experience is.
"And I sometimes do feel bad as an organization that that gets presented in a way that never would be interpreted as arrogant because I don't think you're ever going to meet a head coach who's any less arrogant than Andy Reid."
Reid returns. That isn't a shocker. Lurie expressed optimism about Jackson coming back. That is hopeful. There can still be changes to the coaching staff, so stay tuned there.
What happens next year? The Eagles have work to do. We will hear from Reid soon, who will explain why he is keeping the coaching staff the same or why he is making changes. The personnel department is signing players and preparing for free agency and the draft. The coaching staff is into the self-evaluation of the 2011 season and filing reports on wants and needs for 2012.
The overriding message from Lurie on Tuesday was that 2011 was an incredible disappointment for him just as it was for the fan base and that it was unacceptable and that the Eagles have improvements to make to get back in the Super Bowl race and that in his estimation the best man to lead the way is Reid for his 14th season as the head coach.
The Eagles need to keep the ball rolling, keep moving together in the right direction and analyzying every aspect of their football operation with an objective view and a critical eye. Lurie's press conference was a good step, a refreshing word of realism and hope.