Jeffrey Lurie did a good job keeping his eyes on Eric Allen tonight as Allen spoke about his induction into the Eagles' Honor Roll -- even during the part when Allen told the news conference how honored he was to be going in alongside the late Jim Johnson, and allowed that "the Eagles are still kind of missing" the ingenuity of their longtime defensive coordinator.
Though he was not available to speak with reporters afterward, Lurie obviously knows that the defense that will take the field tonight for the 2-4 Birds against the Cowboys is not one Johnson would recognize, in the way it is easily victimized in the red zone, and blows fourth-quarter leads.
Flanked by Allen and by Johnson's widow, Vicki, Lurie made it clear that he. too, misses Johnson. Johnson ran the Eagles' defense from 1999-2009, before passing away at age 68 from cancer as training camp was opening two years ago.
"We were just lucky to have him," Lurie said, when asked about how quickly Johnson was selected for the honor. Lurie said he considered putting Johnson -- the first coordinator honored by the team -- in the Honor Roll last year.
"That's how important Jim was, and is," Lurie said. "One of the great coordinators, I think, in the history of the National Football League ... You just can't imagine the leadership, dynanism ... just the day-to-day character of that man. It was incredibly impressive. I'm atttracted to very genuine people as coaches; I think players can see right through lack of genuineness. I think Andy Reid has a lot of genuineness, and Jim Johnson epitomized that. Just always honest and self-critical, and able to analyze when things weren't going well, and also (able to) think outside the box. Just a very loving man that we wanted to honor right away; there was no reason to delay."
Allen, the former cornerback, is tied for the franchise record in interceptions with 34, and he ran five of them back for touchdowns, which is an Eagles record.
"It still stings a little bit" that the Eagles' dominant defenses of the Buddy Ryan era never won a championship, Allen said. "Every Super Bowl Sunday, you talk to Clyde (Simmons), you talk to Seth (Joyner), you talk to some of the guys and you talk about what-ifs. It's really a shame we couldn't bring a championship here," Allen said.
Allen added that the Birds had "a really good relationship with the community ... the fans really appreciated that attitude we brought, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It's unfortunate that we didn't get that championship, but I wouldn't have wanted to spend my time anyplace else."
Allen, a second-round draftee in 1988, made the Pro Bowl four times during his seven seasons with the Eagles, then two more times after leaving in free agency for New Orleans. He ended his career with the Raiders in 2001.