JEFFREY LURIE did a good job keeping his eyes on Eric Allen last night as Allen spoke about his induction into the Eagles' Honor Roll to a pregame news conference - even during the part when Allen allowed that "the Eagles are still kind of missing" the ingenuity of their longtime defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson, who was inducted posthumously, alongside Allen.
The chairman didn't frown or interrupt to mount a defense of current defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Though he was not available to speak with reporters afterward, Lurie obviously knows that before last night's 34-7 rout, this Eagles defense was not one Johnson would recognize, in the way it was easily victimized in the red zone during a 2-4 start, and blew three fourth-quarter leads.
Flanked at the podium by Allen and by Johnson's widow, Vicki, Lurie made it clear that he, too, misses Johnson, who ran the Eagles' defense from 1999-2009, before passing away at age 68 from cancer as training camp was opening 2 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, dynamism . . . just the day-to-day character of that man. It was incredibly impressive. I'm attracted 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."
Vicki Johnson called it "a great night for our family."
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, now an ESPN analyst, 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 was a second-round draftee out of Arizona State in 1988 who made the Pro Bowl five times during his seven seasons with the Eagles, then one more time after leaving in free agency for New Orleans. He ended his career with the Raiders in 2001.
"He was the prototypical modern cornerback - smart, fast, explosive, capable of changing the course of a game in a single play," Lurie said of Allen. "He was a student of the game, and he put his studies to use in becoming a feared defender and an interception machine."
Lewis in accident
Eagles rookie kickoff returner and running back Dion Lewis was a surprise inactive last night after being involved in an auto accident Sunday afternoon, the Eagles said.
A team spokesman said he had no details of the accident, but said that though Lewis was uninjured, he was shaken by the experience and the team decided to give Lewis the night off. After the game, Andy Reid said Lewis banged up his wrist.
Veteran Ronnie Brown, last seen trying to throw a pass that was ruled a fumble down at the goal line in an Oct. 2 loss to the 49ers, was the kickoff returner against Dallas. The team attempted to trade Brown at the deadline for Jerome Harrison, only to have to void the deal when Harrison was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Brown was the only active Eagles running back last night after starter LeSean McCoy.
Also inactive were offensive linemen Winston Justice and Julian Vandervelde, linebacker Keenan Clayton, corner Curtis Marsh, safety Jarrad Page and defensive end Phillip Hunt.