Lurie made it clear there will be no Reid contract extension, or talks, until the season is over. That's interesting, with Reid in the next-to-last year of his current deal, the closest he has come to expiration since he arrived in 1999. You'd think, say, a 6-0 start might buy the coach a chance to bury all the speculation for a year or so. It's not like you couldn't still fire him if the season went to pieces; you'd just owe more money. Lurie was firm on waiting until the season was in the books.
"I don't even care about that," Reid said after Thursday's preseason finale, when asked if he would prefer the contract issue get settled before the end of the year. "I care about this football team and winning games now, playing well, working hard. That stuff, that's the last thing on my mind."
He reiterated that he has a great relationship with Lurie. He also said he wouldn't be satisfied, either, if the Eagles finished 8-8 again. "His expectations are high, my expectations are high. Let's go play," Reid said.
Lurie kept talking about "substantial improvement" over 2011's 8-8, no-playoffs season. He couldn't say exactly what that meant, except that another 8-8 wouldn't be good enough. Which wasn't a shock, really, given Lurie's statements last January, when he talked of deliberating whether to fire Reid after last season's "unacceptable" disappointment.
So, what is "substantial"? Making the playoffs in what Lurie acknowledged is a tougher NFC than the Eagles faced in their run of four successive NFC Championship Game appearances? Making the playoffs and winning a game? What if you're 12-4 in the regular season, roll into the NFC title game again, and then get completely destroyed? Is what to do with Reid "very clear" then?
Lurie was questioned along those lines. At one point, he conceded that even 8-8 might be OK if "two-thirds of the team" got injured. (You couldn't go through every possible scenario with him. But let's say Michael Vick goes down for the season in the opener, and Nick Foles goes 8-8. You're still definitely gonna fire the coach?)
It was interesting that Lurie was willing to reinforce the perception that the clock is loudly ticking on Reid, instead of just dancing around the topic. The sense seemed to be that Lurie really is exasperated not to have won the Super Bowl by now, and really is not going to wait forever. As you might have heard, it took Bill Cowher 14 seasons to claim the big prize in Pittsburgh. No other coach has been at one place longer without winning and gone on to win.
In the wake of Garrett Reid's death, Lurie said such glowing things about Reid's character, it was easy to infer he would be very reluctant to part with the winningest coach in Eagles history. Lurie was asked Thursday if it would be hard to separate his compassion for Reid's situation from his coaching performance.
"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," Lurie said. "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."
But Lurie reiterated his respect for Reid, when asked about the effect of the tragedy on the coach.
"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," Lurie said. "I think he's very strong. He's a really strong guy."
Asked if he felt "emptiness" not having won it all, Lurie said: "It's a big emptiness because I feel like we've accomplished everything else. We've been in a huge percentage of the championship games, won so many division titles, came so close in so many ways. It's really almost all I think about, in terms of goals and what we're trying to accomplish. It's kind of the one remaining situation, one remaining goal. I think we've got the means to do it, so it's just a question of, hopefully, we can make it happen."
Lurie said he did not take Reid agent Bob LaMonte's unfortunate comments during LaMonte's annual visit to Lehigh as an attempt to force a new contract. (LaMonte said Lurie had told him Reid would be the coach as long as Lurie owned the team; the owner had to issue a statement clarifying that Reid would be evaluated at the end of the season.)
"I didn't. I didn't at all [think LaMonte was there to talk contract]," Lurie said. "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 . . . 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."
Of course, Reid's fate is linked to that of Vick, the quarterback Reid brought here fresh from federal prison, in a move Lurie had to be talked into, back in 2009. Vick's contract is structured so that the team can walk away after this season. Lurie was asked about Vick's status.
"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," Lurie said. "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."
Lurie said he is confident that the Eagles' formula for success can produce a championship.
"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," Lurie said.
When Jeffrey and Christina Lurie announced they were divorcing July 4, they said in a statement that there would be no effect on the Eagles. Since then, the NFL Network reported they have worked out a settlement that will leave Jeffrey Lurie with total control. Lurie said Thursday that report was "very accurate."
"There is no change whatsoever in the operation of the Eagles [or] the ownership of the Eagles," he said. "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 will also be a limited partner, as she has been, just like the other limited partners. That doesn't change."
Contact Les Bowen at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.