Salary cap found this great article about faith and determination of the story of the Philadelphia Eagles. This year had all the emotions and feelings associated with most Philadelphia sports teams. Here is to another great season and looking forward to next year. Enjoy!
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and his top executive, Joe Banner, hired Andy Reid as their coach in 1999 when practically no one else in the league thought Reid was ready or able to be an NFL head coach. They watched as Reid built the Eagles from also-rans into NFC East champions. They stuck by him as the team lost three straight NFC title games and when wide receiver Terrell Owens tore the organization apart and the team stumbled to a 6-10 record last year.
So they weren’t about to change their minds about him this season, even when the Eagles lost quarterback Donovan McNabb to a torn knee ligament and suffered through a midseason stretch in which they lost five of six games following a 4-1 start.
“If you feel you’ve surrounded yourself with really good people,” Lurie said as he sat behind his desk this week at the Eagles’ training complex, “then give them the support and that will bring out the best in them.”
The Eagles won their final five games of the regular season to secure their fifth division crown in six years. They beat the New York Giants in a first-round playoff game here Sunday to advance to an NFC semifinal Saturday night in New Orleans. They have, again, proven to be a model NFL franchise, perhaps more so now than ever because Lurie, Banner, Reid and General Manger Tom Heckert stuck to their way of doing things even when last season’s debacle and this season’s struggles made it appear to many observers that their way just might not be working any longer.
When the Eagles returned to Philadelphia after a lopsided late-November loss in Indianapolis that dropped them to 5-6, they faced an avalanche of criticism. But this wasn’t the usual, the-season-is-hanging-in-the-balance variety. This was their fans and local media members raising bigger issues, like whether Reid’s message to his players had grown stale and whether he should keep his final say over all the franchise’s football decisions or even be retained as coach after this season. Banner knew the market. He’d worked in Philadelphia as a radio producer and reporter before being hired by Lurie, his boyhood pal in Brookline, Mass., to run the franchise. But even he was stunned.
“It was startling how extreme it was so quickly,” Banner said this week, sitting at a conference table in his office that’s a few doors down from Lurie’s. “Although things looked bad at 5-6, they were really obituaries. They weren’t like, ‘Things are going poorly and they’re 5-6 and it’s going to be tough for them to make the playoffs,’ all of which were obviously true. They were like, ‘It’s over and they should dismember and start again.’
“It was like nothing prior had ever happened or nobody here had established any credibility. To me, that was mostly about Andy. If it was about coaching or leading or being the general manager, he’d established a track record over eight years that didn’t fall away over a three-game losing streak.”
Reid told his bosses he thought things could be turned around, and they believed him. Banner watched the Eagles’ practices that week and thought the players and coaches still were full of positive, constructive energy.
“I’m really proud that when we were 5-6 you couldn’t find any divisive, negative thing within the team, front office, coaches or anything,” Banner said. “There were people questioning, ‘What do we need to do to get better?’ That’s constructive energy.”
The Eagles’ MO is well-established. They build through the draft and mostly shun splashy free agent moves. They use their money and salary-cap space to re-sign their own promising young players long before they’re eligible for free agency. They bristle at the suggestion they’re not risk-takers. But the risks they take usually are thoughtfully measured and precisely calculated.
They got to the Super Bowl in the 2004 season after trading for Owens and signing defensive end Jevon Kearse, an expensive free agent. But Owens is long gone and Kearse is on the injured reserve list and both Lurie and Banner say they wouldn’t have made the Owens move if they’d known then what they know now, even though the deal helped to get them to a Super Bowl during a period when it seemed they might never get to one.
Banner, who assumed the title of team president in 2001 and is the manager of the club’s salary cap, said he will favor taking risks on players in the future but never again will favor taking one that could jeopardize the core values of the team as did the addition of Owens.
Lurie and Banner talk about having an insatiable desire for the best of everything in the league, such as the most innovative team Web site, the most comfortable stadium and the most creative marketing approach. It all goes back to the conversations they had as teenagers after they had been introduced by a common friend. They’d debate what the Boston sports teams were doing, and Lurie, in particular, would be amazed every time Celtics boss Red Auerbach would make a move that the fans hated but that Auerbach knew would aid in producing a cohesive, winning team.
The two stayed in touch even when they headed off to different colleges and went their separate ways in business, Lurie to Hollywood to produce movies and Banner to Philadelphia to work in radio, back to Boston to run a retail clothing business and then to work for City Year, a national service organization. When Lurie decided to get serious about fulfilling his dream of buying a pro sports franchise — he failed to land the New England Patriots just before buying the Eagles from Norman Braman in 1994 — he called his old friend Banner. When Reid, a little-known quarterbacks coach from the Green Bay Packers, came aboard and drafted McNabb, they soon found themselves with a winning team.
Reid didn’t berate his players when things went bad this season. He told them that everyone, including he and the other coaches, needed to perform better. When Reid was asked during a news conference this week about his even-keel demeanor and where that comes from, he gave his usual low-key response. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know that, where it came from. My mom and dad.”
Some veteran Eagles players think Reid perhaps has done his best coaching job this season. Lurie said he’s not sure of that. He thinks it would be difficult, he said, for Reid to top the job he did during the 2003 season when he took an injury-laden team to the NFC championship game before losing to the Carolina Panthers. But this has been, he’s quick to add, a superb coaching job.
“What separates him is, you can tell when someone is genuine,” Lurie said. “They’ll look you in the eye and they’re just human. They’re just themselves. When he talks to a player or a coach, he’s just Andy Reid. He’s not playing a game. He’s not role-playing. He’s not trumping up emotion. It’s very real.”