Familiar Question: Do You Trust The Process?
This isn't about Jeffery Lurie. This is about you, the Eagles fan. This isn't about Lurie because nothing that's been reported over the past 24 hours about the Philadelphia Eagles chairman's involvement in decision-making should be considered Earth-shattering or breaking news. Listeners of Inside The Birds have known, for quite a while, that Lurie's influence and oversight over football activities has increased in recent years, spreading throughout myriad areas of operations – from the draft, to hiring and firing assistant coaches, to deciding on personnel. It's known that Lurie's heavy preference for analytics helped result in the second-round selection of J.J. Arecega-Whiteside, and that his unhappiness with the 2019 team's offense led to the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Groh, and that Lurie's disgust with the 2020 offense factored into an in-season quarterback change. So it shouldn't shock anyone that Lurie, per ESPN, has reportedly mandated that his new coaching staff build around second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, even if there isn't "internal unanimity" on last year's 53rd overall pick.
Creating competition at every position, new coach Nick Sirianni had said at his introductory press conference in January, would be one of the defining characteristics of his program. So much for that. Lurie has said recently that he's no more involved in personnel decision-making today than he's been in his 25-plus years as owner, but we know that's just owner-speak, like a coach using "day-to-day" to describe a player who sustained ligament damage or a torn muscle. But this isn't about Lurie, because anyone who's been paying attention for the last few years could see this latest decree coming from a mile away. And because, well, owner's don't fire themselves. And because fans typically stay loyal, no matter how many reasons the franchise gives them to lose faith. This is about you, and your sports partisanship, because there's many of you out there giving Lurie a thumbs up for this decision. You really like Hurts – and there are good reasons to like him – and you don't want the Eagles to draft another quarterback, so you're willing to be at peace with the mandate. For now, at least. Feeling partial to Hurts and hoping that Sirianni and his staff would feel the same after evaluating the player's game tape is fine. But you can't be the person slapping Lurie on the back for putting his foot down on Hurts and knifing him in the back when the Eagles draft Arcega-Whiteside ahead of D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin. A process is either sound or flawed, and an owner's heavy-handedness in football operations is far from a sound strategy. You also can't be the person laughing at the follies of Jerry Jones for the past two decades but co-signing on Lurie's decision to take the wheel. Remember, most fans applauded reports of Lurie's influence on Groh's firing after the 2019 season. How'd that offense look in 2020? For every reaction, there's a reaction. Judging one decision as if doesn't have a widespread impact is problematic. What would make the most ardent Hurts fan optimistic that the same person who's masterminded the draft picks that you've loathed has the blueprint to surround Hurts with enough talent to win? Giving Lurie your stamp of approval to make unilateral personnel decisions – or just overlooking an over-reach in this particular case – because it means "your guy" is starting quarterback is tantamount to the self-serving tribalism that's tearing apart our government. As we've reported on Inside The Birds, most teams we spoke to last year about Hurts graded him in the third or fourth round. It was a surprise to many, including personnel people inside the Novacare Complex, when the Eagles drafted him in the middle of the second round. That doesn't mean Hurts can't or won't become successful but should provoke questions about how Sirianni and his staff feel about the prospect. If the head coach and offensive staff aren't as fond of Hurts' potential as the owner is, why is the head coach and his staff here? Sirianni hasn't spoken publicly since his introductory press conference, so the outside has no idea if he prefers Hurts or would rather bring in someone else. It's quite possible Sirianni is on board with Lurie or understands that the draft capital the Eagles would need to give up to move up for Zach Wilson (and maybe Justin Fields) isn't helpful to rebuild the team, although Chris Mortensen's report suggests that there's dissension on this topic somewhere inside the building. But even agreement between the owner and coach on this doesn't legitimize a process in which the owner's thinking on personnel carries more weight than the coach's or general manager's. There's no question owners have the right to be involved and informed on major decisions; they sign the checks. There's no question owners should have final approval. But an owner's most important job is hiring the right people to lead the organization, people who have already convinced the owner that they have the aptitude to make the tough decisions. That's a process worth trusting. – Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Listen to the latest "Inside The Birds" podcast from Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan here:
Or watch on YouTube: