McMullen: Lurie’s Biggest Mistake Was his Shrewdest Decision
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There was plenty to digest from Sheil Kapadia's recent visit with Jeffrey Lurie but the aggregators found the Eagles owner's penance for Chip Kelly as the sexiest part of the deep dive in The Athletic.
For those whose memory was erased by the Lombardi Trophy in the NovaCare Complex lobby, Lurie infamously settled a coup by exiling his most trusted advisor, Howie Roseman, in 2015 and handing Kelly full personnel control.
It was arguably the biggest mistake Lurie has made in what has been a successful quarter-century run atop the Eagles, although he wouldn't quite put the tag of worst decision on the move.
“I don’t regret the hiring of [Kelly] because it was done with a really good thought process,” Lurie told Kapadia. “But, yes, I would say I regret giving him the kind of authority I gave him, yeah. That’s an easy one.”
At the time, the thinking behind the decision seemed specious as well, described as a necessary step to see what he really had in Kelly.
It turned out that it was a necessary step but for a far different reason.
It's not only easy to point to Kelly but there is also no clear competition for Lurie's biggest flub unless you are into meaningless uniform changes or empty platitudes like "gold standard."
Kelly was a snake-oil salesman propped up by a constituency that doesn't know what it doesn't know, namely that while innovation is by definition new, not everything new is innovative.
Decisions aren't made in vacuums, however, and the Eagles are living proof that you can turn what is perceived to be the worst decision into something far greater and more positive than if you made the "correct decision" at the time.
The assumption that Roseman would have turned into what he is today as one of the best de facto GMs in football takes for granted the light switch comes on without the kick in the pants and ignores there was virtually no evidence that was going to happen. Howie 2.0 doesn't exist without a year to reflect and pick the brains of other successful sports executives like Brain Cashman and R.C. Buford.
"You know, I do," Lurie answered when asked by 973espn.com if the year off was the turning point for Roseman last August when the extensions for both Howie and Doug Pederson were doled out. "Now, before that, we had two very successful seasons obviously with Howie as a GM. I think we were in double-digit wins both seasons, and then took the year to really have that happen. ... He learned so much in that year, and he was able to combine everything he brought with a much more, as I said, a much more collaborative and appreciative way of dealing with everybody in the organization.
"It wasn't that he wasn't [good] before, but if you want to be the very best, and I think we've got the very best, then why not try to learn from those in other sports that are the very best?"
The revisionists forget that the old Roseman butted heads with far more people than Kelly before finally losing a chess match. Furthermore, one of the conditions Lurie placed on Roseman for his return, according to an NFL source, was to be more open-minded and collaborative with people.
In many ways, Lurie's greatest mistake was really his shrewdest decision.
Heck, the Kelly hiccup even introduced "emotional intelligence" to the Philadelphia lexicon, the kind of corporate buzzwords Lurie is often chuckled at for, which ultimately turned from punch line into prophecy when Doug Pederson quickly morphed from the overmatched third choice to a Super Bowl-winning coach.
In hindsight, the fact that Lurie kept Roseman around by giving him a raise and a new title while also telling his right-hand man to better himself and bide his time was a clear signal for the end game.
Kelly's inevitable implosion was predictable and the step back to take the two forward that ended on a cold winter day in Minneapolis with Lurie raising the Lombardi.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen