Eagles owner Lurie keeps on playing with fool's gold

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talked about the disappointment of the 8-8 season and discounted the four-game winning streak at the end, then brought Andy Reid back.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talked about the disappointment of the 8-8 season and discounted the four-game winning streak at the end, then brought Andy Reid back. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 08, 2012

The announcement that Andy Reid was coming back as the head coach of the Eagles came in with the smoothness of peanut butter, preceded by 12 minutes of filibuster and a trite transitional phrase that often reflects insecurity of conviction: That being said.

Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles owner, stood behind a specially created podium, rich in wood tones and befitting a man sitting on top of a billion-dollar professional football empire. Yes, Lurie said to Eagles Nation, Reid has screwed up royally and the team that was expected to contend for a Super Bowl championship is instead out of the playoffs - but, that being said, he's coming back for a 14th season. And if the focus is on winning a championship, Jeffrey continued, then our best chance is Andy.

For a moment, he had us all. We were hanging on the words, like Randall and Mortimer Duke waiting for the crop report in Trading Places. We were about to be rich as fans, the climate finally right for change. Instead, we got Groundhog Day - the same thing, over and over.

Truth be told, I wasn't that surprised by the announcement. I had predicted after the Eagles defeated the Miami Dolphins four games back that Reid had solidified his hold on the head coaching job. A total meltdown would have been needed for change, something like 5-11 or 6-10.

When the Eagles ripped off four straight wins to close the season, even though the owner himself labeled those wins "fool's gold," there was no way Lurie was going to zap the coach. But when Lurie stepped to that podium, I didn't expect a testimonial either.

Somewhere in those convoluted 12 minutes, I kept expecting Lurie to announce that Reid had won the Rotary Club's man of the year award and that he was being awarded a set of steak knives.

And then, on top of that, Evan Mathis, the journeyman offensive lineman who is beholden to Reid for a paycheck, tweeted that the fans who wanted Reid gone were idiots. Hoo, boy.

There are a couple of ways to analyze Lurie's decision to bring back Reid.

One is that the Eagles owner didn't have the courage to do the deed. After all, Lurie listens intently to national perception, which ranks Reid among the game's best. And firing a coach who has won a lot of games might have exposed him to national ridicule.

Second is that Lurie made a purely financial decision. Had he fired Reid, he might have had to pay him the two seasons left on his contract, and this is a man not in the business of throwing money down the toilet. Why not wait one final season - when, if a championship doesn't happen, Lurie can let Reid go with just $5 million in severance pay?

But here's the thing: When an owner feels the need to convince the fans of the merits of his coach, I'm not sure he's buying it himself.

So with that, I present a few of the tidbits of the Lurie Address that made me react:

Lurie said he was a "risk taker."

With all due respect to the man's immense wealth, he has not taken a risk in his life. Jeffrey Lurie was born on third base - and if he feels he hit a triple to get there, then he's sorely misguided. Family money has funded his every venture.

Now don't get me wrong, I'd much prefer being born into wealth than having to schlep for drinks and tips. But risk? Please. When Lurie failed in the movie business, he still had enough family money around to buy a cash-cow NFL team that only increases in value, and build a stadium that was helped with public money.

Lurie brought up his acquisition of Michael Vick. But if Vick was a risk, he was also an asset who came in only as a backup and who was peddled for trade the next year. In this case, taking a real risk would have been firing Reid and trusting your expertise to find a coach who can take this Eagles thing to the next level.

Lurie said it was the most disappointing season he'd had as the Eagles owner. He called the Eagles' 8-8 campaign "unacceptable" and said that fans should react with disappointment and anger. Mind you, this is a team that has lost four NFC title games, three of them as a favorite, and two of those at home. If this season was the ultimate failure in the owner's perception, then how can the CEO survive? Rhetoric sounds good only when it makes sense.

Lurie said that the track record of the head coach was a major factor in bringing him back, as was the team's level of accomplishment over the last three or four years, and Reid's ability to bounce back from bad seasons.

Let's take a closer look at that. Since 2005, the year after the Birds went to the Super Bowl, Reid is 62-49, which averages out to a 9-7 record for the last seven seasons. Only 17 of those wins have come against teams that finished with winning records.

Conversely, Bill Belichick, the only coach in the league with comparable tenure, has a 50-39 record against winning teams in his career. The Eagles haven't made the playoffs in three of those last seven seasons. If Andy Reid bounces back after bad seasons, that bounce-back hasn't included a championship.

And so for a 14th season, we will have Andy Reid. If next year pays off in a Super Bowl, Lurie made the right move. If not - and keep in mind that of the 10 nondivisional games the Birds play next year, seven of them will be against teams that made the playoffs - the Eagles will be starting the regeneration process one year too late.

Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic.

Contact him at mikemiss@975thefanatic.com.


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