Bob Ford: Jeffrey Lurie can't lose in this Eagles season

Posted: September 06, 2012

Welcome to the No-Lose Season for Jeffrey Lurie, even though some would portray 2012 as the most perilous for the Eagles' owner in the recent history of the organization.

After watching the team fail to win a playoff game for three straight seasons, after betting the limit on quarterback Michael Vick, and after putting the head coach on notice that this is truly a make-or-break situation in his tenure here, Lurie certainly will be watched closely. The television cameras will peer into the luxury suites to catalog every cheer and every grimace.

It remains to be seen how Lurie, who prefers the role of distant patrician, will react to being on the spot, but, really, when you own a billion-dollar property and have right-time-right-placed yourself into fabulous personal wealth, what exactly is there to be stressed about?

So, this, as all of them are, is another No-Lose Season for Lurie. Maybe even more so than usual.

Look at it this way: If the Eagles play well, return to the postseason, and acquit themselves reasonably there, Lurie will be rewarded with a reinvigorated fan base and will be applauded for sticking with Andy Reid, the most successful coach in franchise history.

Or, if the Eagles play poorly - whether the measure is the short yardstick of last season's 8-8 disaster, or something also judged unacceptable - and Lurie takes the bold step of replacing Reid, he will be praised for having the resolution to do a very difficult thing.

He is the only member of the organization guaranteed to be around in 2013, so, again, where is the pressure?

From the standpoint of public perception, which is always a fuzzy measure at best, Lurie would actually gain in stature if he had to fire Reid.

Lurie is viewed locally as nice enough for a rich guy, definitely knows which fork is which, and was lucky enough to parlay the family inheritance into a huge score. In terms of being a visionary leader, however, that isn't always the perception. (He hired Ray Rhodes, after all, and stuck with him four seasons, long after the inner workings of the team had devolved into a Def Comedy Jam with shoulder pads.)

A good deal of the organizational acumen on the business side of football was always ascribed to former team president Joe Banner, who arrived with Lurie in 1994 and guided the team steadily through some turnaround years and, most importantly, was the point person for the gold mine that is the new stadium. If Banner had waited for the Phillies to get their act together, both teams would still be in the Vet.

Along with the brains, and accurately or not, most of the courage of the organization was also credited to Banner, even if grudgingly. He wasn't afraid to devise an economic system that cut loose popular performers in favor of more cost-effective replacements, or squeezed nickels on every salary negotiation until the moaning from the locker room was audible. If that left Banner, in particular, and the front office, in general, with a reputation for being at least one ventricle short of a heart, then so be it.

Lurie was something more than just a guy along for the ride, but something less than the one plotting the GPS coordinates. He was the guy who got excited about running the scoreboard on solar energy or making sure the cheerleaders uniforms were biodegradable, or whatever the fashionable cause of the moment happened to be. This did not always play well in Mayfair and Port Richmond when the team was winning the war on its carbon footprint, but also saving money on the trophy-case spotlights.

Now, Lurie is going forward without Banner, who must have made some sort of power play or equity grab to fall out of favor, and he is going forward as a single man, having agreed to an apparently amicable divorce from Christina Weiss Lurie. He's very much on his own, and outwardly interested in repairing a situation in which the city loves its football team but is cool at best to the organization behind it.

"It's my philosophy that as an organization, you should try to be accessible," Lurie said during his state-of-my-team news conference. "You're going to have an opportunity if you believe in being accessible, and I do."

He has also moved to mend the perception of the front office within the locker room during an offseason in which the Eagles completed big contracts with star players, exactly the kind of deals that took excruciatingly long to get done in the past.

Appearing friendlier isn't always the answer in Philadelphia, though. Being tough counts for a lot, too, and Lurie made sure he didn't look wishy-washy when he said that retaining Reid after this season will require, at minimum, a winning record. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

Whether he is liked or not is ultimately beside the point. He will own the team as long as he likes, and fans can either accept that or not. As the 2012 season begins, a lot of different things can happen. The Eagles might win. They might lose. They might end up in the Super Bowl. They might unravel once again.

Whatever happens, and whatever action he takes, Jeffrey Lurie will endure. Everyone else can lose, but he cannot.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @bobfordsports. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns

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