As teams around the National Football League return for preseason training camp, now is as good a time as any to appreciate just how fortunate area football fans are that they can root for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Two Super Bowls in the last few years is just one reason. One look a few miles south on Interstate 95 is enough to remind fans that the Eagles’ best asset is its owner Jeffrey Lurie. Since buying the team from Norman Braman in 1994 for $195 million with a $190 million loan from the Bank of Boston, the Eagles are one of the few teams that consistently not only have a plan to succeed, but follow through on those plans and actually have had real success.
With the exception of Robert Kraft in New England, Philadelphia fans might have the best ownership group in the league. Kansas City and Buffalo are two other fortunate franchises out there on the same level but we can count ourselves lucky.
In Washington, the Redskins/Football Team/Commanders were just sold to Sixers majority owner Josh Harris for more than $6 billion (with a B). So ends one of the most damaging ownership tenures in NFL history. Dan Snyder bought one of the league’s premier franchises and systematically tore it down to the point that it was a laughingstock around the NFL.
Every time a franchise changes ownership, there is the chance that things can go tragically wrong. Lurie avoided most of the potential pitfalls by setting expectations high, then trusting his leadership to follow through on those expectations.
Just look at his coaching hires: Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson and Nick Sirianni. Each of those five coaches found success with Lurie and the Eagles. No coach lasts forever and Sirianni won’t, either. Once the next coaching search starts in Philadelphia, there’s a good chance Lurie will find another gem.
Somewhere between a quarter and a third of the teams around the league change coaches each year. To have the kind of success Lurie has had is both remarkable and no accident.
There are other reasons to feel thankful. In New York, Saquon Barkley may have to play under the franchise tag. Barkley (and most other top running backs) is unhappy and may opt to sit out the season if a new deal can’t be negotiated.
The Eagles haven’t used the franchise tag since 2011 and 2012 when they tagged Michael Vick, then DeSean Jackson before renegotiating the contracts for both players. Jeremiah Trotter (2002) and Corey Simon (2005) were tagged but were eventually signed by other teams without returning to the Eagles.
The only Eagles player to ever play under a franchise tag was tight end L.J. Smith in 2008. He left the team in 2009.
The Eagles’ experience with the franchise tag informs their decision to avoid it for more than a decade. They learned with Trotter and Simon that it can disrupt a locker room. The Giants locker room will learn that for as long as Barkley and the team are at odds. The focus will be on Barkley while it should be on finding a way to beat the Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have signed their entire draft class. The roster is in place, happy and set on the task of reversing the result of Super Bowl LVII.
You can count on the Eagles adding new players right up until opening day, but the team will be working from a position of strength rather than need. If a good fit becomes available, the Eagles can pounce.
The Eagles are in a good position by design. Good ownership, good leadership and smart decision-makers lead to success. It makes Philadelphia fans among the luckiest in the NFL.
Need more convincing? Washington has a new owner. New York has roster issues. Most importantly, down in Dallas, Jerry Jones has his stubborn fingers in every pie with a more than two decades-long track record of mediocrity.
Happy football season. ••