As the countdown continues to this year's training camp at Lehigh, the Daily News and Eagletarian have gone back to look at some of our favorite or most interesting events and storylines of training camps and the preseason during the Andy Reid Era. Each weekday for the next two weeks, we will count them down, leading to No. 1.
NO. 2: THE GOLD STANDARD
Published: Aug. 8, 2003
By LES BOWEN, Daily News Sports Writer
The contract stalement with holdout running back Duce Staley was not what Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie was eager to discuss yesterday - in a rambling, stream-of-consciousness, 1,136-word introduction before taking questions from reporters, Lurie said he preferred to use the situation to discuss "the big picture. " And that picture was, from Lurie's perspective, unmarred by any of the shadows outside observers might perceive around what Lurie called "the model of what NFL franchises want to be. "
Lurie is justifiably proud of the Birds' league-best 34-14 record over the past three seasons, proud of his coach, his new stadium and his state-of-the-art practice facility. But as usual, he provided rich material for critics who see the Eagles as wanting to tell everyone else how it's done without quite having done it yet - without having won, or even played in, the Super Bowl.
"When I'm talking to other owners or other GMs in the league, we're kind of the gold standard," Lurie said. "The goal is to win championships and do it with class. "
Lurie dismissed any notion that the Eagles, having lost back-to-back NFC Championship Games, might be looking at a closing window of opportunity. Lurie called the Eagles "a young, ascending team. "
"I think we haven't even hit our potential," he said. "We had an outstanding season last year, but I think we're a team that can dominate this league. You're not going to do it 19 weeks in a row; I don't know if we'll see another Miami Dolphins situation [unbeaten in 1972], but this team is capable of winning every time it goes on the field. "
In his lengthy introduction, Lurie talked of how the 2000 (St. Louis), 2001 (Baltimore) and 2002 (New England) Super Bowl winners all had been among the league's worst teams the year before winning, but noted that current champion Tampa Bay was perceived a year ago perhaps a bit like some people perceive the Eagles now - a good team that hadn't gotten to the next level, and wasn't likely to get there.
"It's a funny league; it humbles you," Lurie said. "I know we've got a very good football team, but I'm always humbled by the process. There's 32 teams that all think they're capable of gaining that momentum, even though people think they're longshots or they're not right on target to succeed. You see it all the time. "
Lurie lauded the team's financial strategy, asserting that because the Birds have less "dead" money under their cap - money being paid to players who are no longer on the roster - and because they are astute about "rolling over" money from year to year, such as in reachable incentives that aren't reached, they will be able to spend more on their team.
"The unspoken advantage is that the money we spend goes to the players on the roster. We will complete this season spending somewhere between $7 [million] and $10 million more than most of our competitors on the roster," Lurie said. "[Team president] Joe [Banner] and [assistant] Howie [Roseman], and the guys who are involved in managing the cap deserve a lot of credit.
"There are very little competitive advantages in terms of most aspects of the National Football League. But when you look at the miscellaneous charges that the teams have on their books each season and you can go in and have a $7 [million] to $10 million advantage, that's huge. "
Lurie said the Eagles' brass could curry more favor with the faithful by re-signing pricey veterans who are fan favorites, but he doesn't think that would be a winning strategy.
"If you allocate [the cap money] with what you think is popular, then you're going to find yourself in last place consistently," Lurie said. "You've got to allocate it on how the coaches and the player-personnel people view the tapes and production and chemistry and everything that goes into it. As an owner, you want to see everyone satisfied . . . If you buy into that, as far as popular decisions, you're not going to have the Philadelphia Eagles as you know them today. You're going to have a real run-of-the-mill team.
"I give that power and I give that discretion to the football guys and tell them to disregard every other source that is telling them what to do. "