McCaffery: Time to credit Jeffrey Lurie for some golden Eagles moments

January 23, 2018|

By Jack McCaffery, Delaware County Daily Times

PHILADELPHIA >> Never realizing how quickly it could instead become a joke, Jeffrey Lurie once made a promise.

He’d owned the Eagles for no more than a few hours, and there he was, in the courtyard at City Hall, tossing souvenir footballs to fans and throwing around some ideas. Basically, he vowed to copy the San Francisco 49ers plan and build an NFL dynasty. Later, maybe that day, he went plural, saying that his organization would collect multiple Super Bowl championships. Maybe those weren’t the exact words. But that’s how they were translated. Soon, trolls took it deeper, reminding Lurie, again and again, about those championships-es-es-es-es-es he’d never delivered.

Photo credit: Matt Slocum AP

He’s a 10-billionaire with half a golf course on his property. Yet no dollar figure could ever buy Lurie out of that verbal jam. And since his football operation traffics heavily on contracts, fine print included, he likely will not be freed from that concept or those taunts until he plants twin Lombardi Trophies in the NewsControl Compound lobby. Contracts are contracts.

Lurie was in the Linc Sunday, one of 10,000,000 who someday will claim to have been there, as his Eagles reached a Super Bowl with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. That was him on the field, beneath the confetti, holding the NFC championship trophy — not that many even realized that such a thing existed. And he was, for the moment, satisfied.

“It’s very special,” he said. “I can’t underestimate our fan base. It’s just unbelievable. This is the most passionate fan base in the NFL, if not in sports. They care so much. They’re our partners, and we just want to win so badly for them. So when you win a conference championship, it’s for all of us and it’s for them. If we win a Super Bowl in two weeks, it’s for them. It’s very special. It means a lot.

“And it will mean even more if we accomplish our major goal.”

Of course it will. The Eagles will play the defending champion New England Patriots and have a chance to win. But for the moment, and mostly for fairness, it has come time to pry open a back door for Lurie. For even if the Eagles never did become that 49ers tribute band that he’d envisioned back when the West Coast Offense was what all the kids were wearing, Lurie has delivered something. Enough? Maybe not. But something.

Since spending $195,000,000 to make Norman Braman go away in 1994, he has produced two Super Bowl teams. Four other times, his Birds were in the Final Four. So that’s six times in 24 years, or once every four years, that the Eagles have been no more than two Gatorade baths from a world championship.

Not bad?

Maybe?

Participation ribbon?

A quick thumbs up?

Perhaps because he’d been clobbered so often for his premature declarations, the owner who once rolled the words “gold” and “standard” around a state-of-the-franchise address had recently cooled it with the promises. By last offseason, he was even caught hinting that the Eagles, after all those years, were about to go the trust-the-process route. So when the Birds suddenly became so good that they routinely won by overwhelming margins, then earned a spot in another Super Bowl, even Lurie was stunned.

“It surprised me because of all the injuries,” he said. “I thought going into this season we were going to be a very good football team. How good? That’s hard to judge. If you told me before September, ‘No you’re not going to have Jason Peters, you’re not going to have Darren Sproles, you’re not going to have Jordan Hicks, you’re eventually not going to have Carson Wentz, you’re going to lose your best special teams player in Chris Maragos, and, oh, by the way, your field goal kicker, you’re not going to have him either,’ it’s a lot of body blows at that point. If you had said that, I would have told you, ‘No I don’t think we’ll make the playoffs.’ Right? So the resiliency amongst this group is phenomenal.”

Lurie has had plenty of teams, some resilient, some coached by Chip Kelly. But under his command, there was never a retreat. Free agents were bought, or at least recruited. Different systems were tried. Money was spent.

Through it all, there was only quiet on Broad Street the day after every season. Yet that’s why the victory Sunday left Lurie particularly pleased: It reminded him how hard it has been to deliver on that City Hall promise.

“It does,” he said. “It’s not easy. But I’m very excited about the present and I’m very excited about the future.”

He’s been excited about the future before.

He has the right to be excited about the present for the next two weeks.

As for the past? Well, that’s six total Final Fours and two Super Bowls. So whatever happens in Minnesota, there will be no reason to laugh.

Contact Jack McCaffery at jmccaffery@21st-centurymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JackMcCaffery.

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