On the day after the Super Bowl, just hours past fulfilling what had become an obsessive quest to bring a Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie spoke to top executive Howie Roseman and coach Doug Pederson about 2018 and was “really fired up about things we can do better.”
Lurie went back and forth between savoring the joy of a championship and also starting to think about what it will take to repeat. No team has repeated since the New England Patriots beat the Eagles in January 2005.
“I’m equally obsessed to be the first team to try to repeat in a long time,” Lurie said, “and to try to put us in position over the next several years to have an opportunity to repeat what we just accomplished.”
Lurie knows it won’t be easy — especially in the NFC. He looks at the AFC and sees how in 14 of the last 15 years, it was Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger leading their teams to the Super Bowl. But he sees more competition in the NFC, which is expected to be the superior conference in 2018 and has a group of near-elite quarterbacks who should contend with Carson Wentz and the Eagles for years to come.
“This is our first Super Bowl win. We’re really, really obsessed with more,” Lurie said. “I think it’s crucial to be humble about it. The NFC is packed. Anyone who analyzes what’s going on with the NFC, it’s packed. We won the Super Bowl, but you could point to the Rams, you could point to the Vikings, you could point to the Falcons, and the list goes on and go on and on. Majorly talented teams, and good young quarterbacks. Carson’s not the only good young quarterback. We know Russell [Wilson], [Jared] Goff, the list goes on and on. It’s formidable. The Saints.”
So what must improve? Perhaps it’s a case of recent bias, but what cannot be disputed is that Tom Brady passed for 505 yards against the Eagles defense in the Super Bowl and was not sacked until Brandon Graham’s decisive fourth-quarter hit. That seemed to be the first thing on Lurie’s mind because a path to repeating as champions will likely require the Eagles beating an elite quarterback or two along the way.
“We gave up a lot of points to the Patriots. Couldn’t stop them,” Lurie said. “So, better pass rush, things like that. You always want perfect, but I think it’s important to be able to critique yourself. The defense was great in so many games, but it was tough to stop the Pats that day. So we have to look at what we did not do well that day. And let’s look at what we did great against the Vikings and try to maximize what we have, but understand there’s time we go against a great, great quarterback and what can we do if it happens again?”
It helps that the Eagles have a potential elite quarterback of their own. When Lurie was at the league meeting in March 2017, he emphasized the need for patience and stacking good drafts on top of each other to build around Wentz.
What Lurie couldn’t predict was just how rapidly Wentz developed into a MVP candidate and what that did for the team. Lurie watched Wentz’s season end prematurely with a knee injury that has halted the career momentum of other promising young quarterbacks. Lurie insisted his optimism about Wentz has not wavered post-injury.
“I think we’ve got one of the very best young quarterbacks in football in every way,” Lurie said. “A dynamic leader. Tremendously talented. Great personality. Wants to win so bad. Just everything you want.”
Lurie has also been honest in the past about the value he places on the No. 2 quarterback. You might not find a bigger Nick Foles supporter than Lurie, who said the teams atop the draft seeking a franchise quarterback will try to determine if that prospect can play the way Foles did during the postseason.
“Let’s say you’re going against a No. 1 defense in the championship game. Try to project that,” Lurie said. “Or let’s say you’re going against a team that has a quarterback who can put up 40 points or 30 points in the Super Bowl. Can you project that quarterback, if you’re going to take him in the first or second or third pick in the draft, can he do that? Nick Foles can do that. That’s the situation we’re in. He’s a pretty amazing quarterback.”
Lurie agreed that key players such as Wentz, Jason Peters, and Jordan Hicks returning from season-ending injuries could become an antidote for a Super Bowl hangover. They were with the team when the Eagles upset the Patriots, but they weren’t between the lines. Those three core players will be motivated to experience playing in a Super Bowl.
Lurie cited his quest to repeat as reason he wouldn’t go in depth about how the team uses data to inform decisions. The Eagles are clearly among the teams whose decisions are most driven by analytics and are invested in information and radio-frequency identification, but Lurie did not want to make public beyond his belief in its value.
Lurie also has confidence about the leadership structure in place. He thought the job Pederson and the coaching staff did last season was “as good as I’ve seen in the NFL” and was effusive in his praise for Roseman and the “incredible situation” created with the amount of core players under contract for the next few seasons. With the way he feels about his front office, coaching staff, and quarterbacks, Lurie appeared to believe he has good reason to be obsessed with repeating.
“Everybody’s involved,” Lurie said. “It takes a village.”