Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman heard their players speak. They heard every word.
They heard them talk about a lack of chemistry. They heard them talk about their teammates quitting. They heard them talk about not fighting back when things started to go bad.
They heard LeSean McCoy say, A lack of heart.
They heard Michael Vick say, Guys have to understand, you cant do it your way.
They heard it all, and they promise they wont let it happen again.
We know youre going to go through adversity during a football season, and the character of your team is determined during that period of adversity, Roseman said Monday. And when you come out of it 1-11, you have to really figure out who the leaders on this team are and who you are.
The Eagles finished one of the worst seasons in franchise history 4-12 after a 3-1 start.
This is the first time since 1963 the Eagles won only one game after Week 4, and Roseman said the lack of chemistry and leadership in the locker room was a big reason the team was unable to fight back when faced with adversity.
If we had that kind of positive chemistry and that kind of leadership all around, I dont think theres any way we would have been 1-11 the last 12 games, he said.
Lurie said the lack of chemistry in the locker room was the result of the Eagles starting to do things differently, building through free agency instead of the draft.
Part of the reason for that was simply because of years of poor drafting following the 2004 Super Bowl run. But Lurie said it was also a conscious decision to build more around free agents to try to take that final step to a Super Bowl after five NFC Championship game appearances in an eight-year span.
I think that in the last couple years weve done things that have not been as consistent, said Roseman, who became GM in 2010 and had his duties expanded last year. Theyve been more scattered in terms of decision making. You notice it with any organization that has had a lot of success that you will start to reach, thinking, Thats the thing thats going to get us over the top, thats the player, thats the method, thats the mechanism, thats the coach, thats the thing that is going to put us over the top.
So I think we lost some of the exact nature of the method that weve all shared that created the success, which was discipline, strategic thinking, and dont do necessarily what is popular but do whats right. Its kind of a human thing and I take some responsibility for that because I was right out in the forefront of, Lets do anything we can to try to win a Super Bowl for the city and our fans.
At times you probably had to be a little more self disciplined and say, Doing that and injecting that into the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, thats not the best thing to do.
Roseman said big-money free agents generally arent as invested in being Philadelphia Eagles as players whove grown up here and developed a kinship with the franchise, the fans and the city.
I use the analogy of people who are born and bred with us and drafted by us as opposed to people who come from different cultures and are trying to fit in, Roseman said.
Weve got to get back to having a core group of guys that are Eagles. That bleed green, that are passionate about this city, that are passionate about playing here and really genuinely care.
When you bring in players from other places, you think that maybe theyre good fits, but you dont know until theyre here, and it affects the chemistry.
The Eagles have certainly found tremendous leaders through free agency or via trades Troy Vincent, Jon Runyan and Hugh Douglas come to mind. But the heart of the great Eagles teams were draft picks like Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook, Tra Thomas and Duce Staley.
Guys who were Eagles for life. Most of them seemed to hurt more this year long after they retired than the guys in the locker room.
Somewhere along the way, this franchise lost its way building a roster and thats why theyre 33-31 over the past four seasons, and thats why Andy Reid is no longer here.
I think the motives were right, because there was this hunger, this ache, with people who had been here a long time, to win a world championship and to win it now and not deal with another championship game loss or another season where we didnt bring home that trophy, Roseman said.
But when you get in those moments and feel like youre one player away or you just have to go pick this one position or fill this one need, youre getting away from the essence of what the personnel process is, the scouting process is, and we got away from that.
I think we got back to it this year. We acquired one veteran in DeMeco Ryans, who we think is a good player and a good leader for our football team moving forward. The draft we took the best available players, I think we got some good players in this draft, and were going to continue to do it this way.
Youve got to do it the right way. Theres no short cut for doing things the right way, and you learn these lessons. Weve learned some very hard and true lessons.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org