Jeffrey Lurie explains presence on Geno Smith scouting trip

Jeffrey Lurie said he might push for a Super Bowl in Philadelphia. "It would be great if it's snowing a bit," he said.
Jeffrey Lurie said he might push for a Super Bowl in Philadelphia. "It would be great if it's snowing a bit," he said. (   DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: March 20, 2013

PHOENIX - Jeffrey Lurie's presence at the Eagles private workout with top quarterback prospect Geno Smith last week was conspicuous because the team owner rarely takes part in such excursions.

Lurie said Monday it was the first time he's attended a scouting trip since 1999, when the Eagles selected Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick.

That is revealing for two reasons. It shows the importance of the Eagles' No. 4 overall pick, the earliest they've picked since nabbing McNabb. And it fortifies the notion that the team is serious about the West Virginia quarterback - or is at least trying to create that perception.

"It's a common thing when it's an important decision," Lurie said of his involvement. "We haven't had a very high draft pick in . . . 14 years. It's true on anyone we look at. We want all the information we can if we stay at No. 4 there."

Lurie was at the NFL's annual league meetings, where an Eagles contingent included Lurie, team president Don Smolenski, general manager Howie Roseman, and coach Chip Kelly. Lurie held court Monday about a variety of topics, and even mentioned that he might push for Philadelphia as a Super Bowl site.

This season's Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., will serve as the guinea pig for cold-weather, open-air stadiums hosting the event. Lurie, who grew up in Massachusetts and attended games in inclement weather, said he is not concerned about snow.

"As long as there's no public safety issue that day, I think it would be great if it's snowing a bit," Lurie said. "Yes, I will [push for one in Philadelphia]. If it's a success, New York will help us."

Lurie's traveling party is different this year, with former Eagles coach Andy Reid here as the Chiefs new coach and former Eagles president Joe Banner present as the Browns new CEO. It underscores the changes around Lurie, which include bringing training camp to Philadelphia for the first time in Lurie's two-decade tenure.

When the Eagles interviewed prospective coaches in January, the site of training camp was raised. Lurie said every candidate preferred hosting the camp in Philadelphia, which helps explain why the team said last week that it will train at the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field instead of Lehigh University.

He also countered the notion that the Eagles have undergone a philosophical shift in free agency, leaning more toward mid-range, moderately priced free agents than toward the top players on the market. Lurie said every year is independent, and the Eagles reacted to this particular class of players and the reality of a flat salary cap.

"We just adjust to what we think can maximize the benefits of that particular free-agent class and where we are as a franchise," Lurie said. "No permanent ideological change."

He defended the team's approach during the ill-fated 2011 free-agent spending spree, noting the cap space and number of top free agents available.

When asked what lessons he learned from 2011, he answered, "First of all, not to have a player [quarterback Vince Young] come in and call it a 'Dream Team.' "

He continued to emphasize the need to build through the draft, which is why this year's No. 4 pick is so important. Lurie said he would "not necessarily" take additional scouting trips this year. The trip to visit Smith was in part because of the importance of the quarterback position, he said.

That's why it's noteworthy that the last trip Lurie took was to visit McNabb, who was also the last quarterback the Eagles selected in the first round. If the Eagles anoint Smith as the face of the franchise, Lurie will want to make sure it's the right decision.

"That was also the last time we had a lottery pick," Lurie said. "I don't expect to probably be doing it in the future, but it doesn't have to be a lottery pick. Just an important pick."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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