How Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie pulled rank and blocked QB coach John DeFilippo from leaving for Jets

MOBILE, Ala. - When Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman hired John DeFilippo to be the Eagles' quarterbacks coach a year ago they told him that if he had an offer to become an offensive coordinator they wouldn't stand in his way.

Earlier this month, the New York Jets asked to interview DeFilippo for that very job. Pederson and Roseman, true to their word, signed off on the request. NFL teams can't block assistants from auditioning for head coaching vacancies, but they can prevent them from interviewing for coordinator positions.

It's unclear whether DeFilippo would have gotten the Jets job or even wanted it, but he never got an opportunity to toss his hat in the ring. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stepped in and rescinded the original consent, according to four independent NFL sources.

Lurie's obstruction was first reported by ESPN, but Inquirer sources provided more detail of how the Eagles owner stepped in, and more important, why he pulled rank, as he had never done before.

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While the why is obvious (Carson Wentz, duh), Lurie's blocking of DeFilippo represents his passion - some called it his "obsession" - with making sure the young quarterback has all the tools necessary to thrive. That meant retaining the assistant who played a significant role in Wentz's rookie season, and that means acquiring skill position talent this offseason.

When asked Wednesday who blocked DeFilippo, Roseman said that Pederson "decides who's on the [coaching] staff." Pederson declined to comment when approached Thursday at the Senior Bowl.

Because the Jets were the first to approach DeFilippo, the former Browns offensive coordinator never had the chance to be considered for more attractive teams that would eventually hire defensive-minded coaches (Broncos, Chargers, Bills) who would have allowed him to call plays. The Super Bowl-bound Falcons may also need a replacement if Kyle Shanahan gets the 49ers job.

When reached by phone, DeFilippo declined to comment, other than to say, "I'm thrilled to be with the Eagles for another year."

Whether the Eagles offered him an extension or a raise as compensation remains unknown, but DeFilippo has only one year left on his deal. A lot could happen in a year, but if Wentz continues to progress, the coach should once again be a candidate for coordinator posts next offseason.

The Eagles may have to promote DeFilippo to keep him, although they still have Frank Reich as offensive coordinator and Pederson calls plays. When the three were hired last January, Lurie and Roseman stressed their individual experiences as play-callers and their vast history developing quarterbacks.

But DeFilippo was the only one of three to have worked extensively with rookie quarterbacks. He has virtually seen it all. From car wrecks such as JaMarcus Russell and Johnny Manziel to success stories such as Derek Carr and Mark Sanchez - and now Wentz.

In blocking DeFilippo, Lurie understood the importance of keeping the quarterback room intact and avoiding anything that could potentially disrupt Wentz's development. It should be noted, however, that the Raiders didn't stop DeFilippo from taking the Browns job after just one season with Carr.

And Carr did just fine after DeFilippo left.

But Lurie's block was not only extremely rare for an owner, but it potentially undermined Pederson. The only other coaching move the Eagles made this offseason was to fire wide receivers coach Greg Lewis and replace him with Mike Groh.

Roseman reiterated, when asked about Lewis, that Pederson has final say over his staff. But in light of the DeFilippo situation, could Lurie have forced the dismissal of the receivers coach? Again, everything is seemingly in play, especially as it relates to Wentz.

Lurie had sharp coaches in place during Donovan McNabb's early years - Andy Reid, of course, and Brad Childress. And Reid and team president Joe Banner surrounded him with a strong offensive line and running game. But there was the perception that the Eagles failed to win a Super Bowl, particularly from 2000 to 2003, because they lacked top-flight receivers.

Lurie, per sources familiar with his thinking, is prepared to give Wentz the skill-position players he lacks. It's little surprise that the Eagles know they need to upgrade at receiver and running back. Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said as much here. The question is to what lengths will they go?

"This is a unique situation," Douglas said Wednesday, "an opportunity to find guys that love football as much as Carson, and have them come in here and grow with Carson and develop as a team."

Could Alshon Jeffery, who is expected to command top dollar, be in play if the Bears decide not to put the franchise tag on the receiver? The Eagles would have to clear a fair amount of cap space. Connor Barwin and Jason Kelce had better not make plans for next season if that were the case - probably even if it weren't.

Having a quarterback still on his rookie contract also affords the Eagles the opportunity to spend some money - at least until they're able to extend him following the 2018 season.

Lurie, who attended Senior Bowl practices for the second straight year, wasn't made available to reporters. He hasn't spoken since March. Asked if his boss was here providing input on players, Roseman said, "No, he's asking questions."

Last January, Lurie caught his first in-person glimpse of Wentz. It should be a reminder to the Eagles that Wentz is still only a year removed from playing Division I-AA football.

Lurie seems to grasp that, otherwise why would he have denied DeFilippo a chance to advance?

If you go back to after Wentz's hot three-game start, it was DeFilippo who cautioned that the rookie would hit valleys, along with peaks, while Pederson and Reich were already comparing the quarterback to Peyton Manning and Jim Kelly.

Wentz ran into the typical hurdles quarterbacks face in their first seasons. But Lane Johnson's suspension and injuries on the offensive line, along with the season-long ineffectiveness of his outside receivers, created trust problems for the rookie.

Lurie is committed to creating an environment in which Wentz doesn't have as many concerns. But has he and will he take the right steps, or should he be careful not to overstep his bounds?

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane