BETHLEHEM, Pa. What is it going to take? That is the crucial question that Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, president Joe Banner, general manager Howie Roseman and coach Andy Reid keep asking each other.
Whats it going to take to get over the hump and not just get close but win a Super Bowl?
We have only have one goal, Lurie said Thursday. We have won so many division titles and we have been in five NFC championship games and have been to one Super Bowl. The only goal is to win the Super Bowl. As it has been every year, our total focus is, What is it going to take?
Lurie, saying the Eagles were obsessed with winning a Super Bowl, held his 17th annual State of the Franchise media briefing Thursday under a tent adjacent to the teams Lehigh University training camp practice fields.
Lurie spoke about the teams free agent frenzy, the perception that the Eagles have not been willing to spend money in previous years, the DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick contract situations, where the Eagles sit in the NFC and much, much more in a 35-minute talk with reporters.
Here is a transcript of Luries press conference:
Q: How would you describe this team, with all the new additions?
Yeah, those are obviously players that dont know us that well, and in Vinces Young case, new. Were about as far from a dream team as you can be, were playing catch up. The only dream team I know is the Green Bay Packers. We dream to become as good as the Green Bay Packers and hold that trophy. And going into last year I would say the New Orleans Saints because those are the dream teams, theyre the ones holding the Lombardi Trophy.
Were consciously trying to play catch up in an aggressive way. I personally thought that, we won our division last year, and I thought we played the Packers very evenly in the playoff game and played them very well. But you have to understand the way I looked at it and I think most of us looked at it is Green Bay won in a year in which a lot of their best players were injured. So this is not an accurate assessment of Green Bay last year and they were holding the Lombardi Trophy. So when you add the Jermichael Finleys and Ryan Grants and just a slew of great players all over, I think theyre the team were all trying to catch, I think theyre the team you dream about trying to surpass and so does the rest of the NFL.
So the other thing just to add to that is the personality of the players we brought in and the personality of our players and the coaching staff is were a blue collar football team, its a grind-it-out team. We go from practice to practice. You know, players like Jason Avant and Mike Patterson, I think theyre the identity of the kind of team we have and we are. And I think that our style is focus on whats right in front of us, be humble and be aggressive but be humble, be confident but understand that were trying to play catch up and thats all were doing.
Q: Is this a Super Bowl team?
I think well compete. You know, I think well compete. Theres no question we had a strong team last year and we should have a better team this year.
Q: Did the free agency philosophy change this year?
Just to be accurate about it, all teams spend the same amount of money, virtually. There are no tight minimums this year, but we always spend to the cap. So its not about that, its about taking advantage of the market place. We thought there was a real potential for a buyers market place with the ingredients I spoke of before. Its a unique situation to have uncapped to capped, two years of free agency rolled into one offseason, rolled into one week or two and the lack of stringent minimums going forward for the first two years, were never going to see that again, certainly in the next decade were not going to see that.
We thought we were positioned well. I have to give my guys a lot of credit, in particular Howie Roseman, Joe Banner and Andy Reid. I mean, we were very well positioned salary cap-wise to be able to take advantage of this very unique situation that occurred. We knew that if we could be disciplined and have sort of a strike area for each player that we focused on, each position and each player, and when the market place entered into a zone where we thought it was a strike zone for that player, we became extremely aggressive and tried to be creative. Every contract though was with an eye towards both maximizing the chance to win big this year and at the same time be extremely strong going forward.
We dont believe in contracts that create dead money. We dont believe in sacrificing next year and the year after for contracts that wouldnt work best for us that way, we dont do that. We try to compile as many draft choices as we can. The last two years I think weve led the NFL in the number of draft choices. As you know, going forward were loaded up for next years draft, 11 or 12 choices already with two twos, two fours and going from there. And Howies building on the 2013 draft at the moment. So we dont really feel that philosophically theres really any change, but this was a very, very unique market place that we wanted to be very agile and strike.
Q: Why is there a perception that the Eagles dont spend money?
You know, in life theres a lot of misperceptions. We are a team that always spends to the cap and weve done that ever since I bought the team. So yeah, I think when you sign some big time free agents theres an assumption that youre spending more but were literally not. Were doing what we always do, we spend to the max because thats our blueprint. We spend to the max but we try to be as efficient as you can in doing it and pick the right players. And Im sure well make some mistakes and have along the way here. But Howie and Andy and Joe are very, very well prepared and we have this constantly aggressive mentality.
Q: When do you plan to sign DeSean Jackson to a contract extension?
Listen, we all really like DeSean. Hes a positive player, a good person, and we have nothing but high hopes going forward with DeSean. Im not going to talk publicly about any of the dealings with him, but its all positive and we look forward to DeSean being here and working things out in a great way going forward.
Q: Why do so many NFL players want to be Eagles?
I cant really answer that because you have to ask them. I sense players, especially players that have been the league a while, they already have earned a lot of money. Whats missing? Its to win a Super Bowl, and they want to join a team that has the chance to win the Super Bowl. Also, head coach Andy Reid has an amazing reputation nationally both with players and coaches around the league. Hes really very much admired and its not just because of success. Its how he handles people and players. I think that helps us very, very much in recruiting free agents. When you have a quarterback as dynamic as Michael Vick, that attracts a lot of talent. Who doesnt want to play with Michael? I think they knew were a strong team already, and to become stronger is exciting.
Q: Do you want to sign Michael Vick to a long-term contract?
Yes, I do. Michael is healthy and in his prime, and Im looking forward to having Michael for many, many years.
Q: On whether he received inspiration from the Phillies to stock pile players during the NFL free agency period:
No, not at all. Its so different. Are we building a pitching staff? No. Its a completely different evolution. We have a salary cap. We are just trying to maximize players. I think theyve done a great job with the pitching staff there and I admire it. Were keeping up with the Jerry Joneses.
Q: Eagles havent won a playoff game since 2008. How much of the first-round losses the last two years motivated the front office?
Ill tell you, we dont need any internal motivation. Were obsessed. Last year, honestly, I felt like the winner of our game with Green Bay was going to go to the Super Bowl, but I also felt, and I guess Im a fan as well as an owner, I looked back to the Meadowlands, and the game in New York. If it werent for that amazing, unbelievable eight minutes, we were down 28-10 in a very important game, and we lost to the Vikings in a game that would have given us a bye. We played a very, very good Green Bay team, and played them almost evenly, but I tend to look at where are the gaps.
We remember the Meadowlands, in such a phenomenal, that was one of the greatest football games as a fan Ive ever watched, but until the last eight minutes we were down 28-10. So, in the offseason, lets make sure were not in a position to be down 28-10 in a very important football game. The motivation is all internal. As I said, weve won so much, we just want to win the Super Bowl and go from there. We dont need any more motivation than that.
Q: What did you think of Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryans remark, calling the Eagles an all-hype team?
I dont really know the answer to that, but I do know the Ryans will always, whether its Rex or Rob, will always come up with a mechanism to try to create for their own team coming together and they do a great job. Im not somebody who talks about that kind of stuff. I think when you have a good football team you should be a target. Certainly Green Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, theyre all targets, the New York Giants, Atlanta had the best record in the NFC last year, theyre all big time targets. If you cant take being the target and play on primetime than youre not ready to win. Its not our style. Anyone who knows me, and knows Andy and our players, its sort of the opposite of our style to talk about it.
Q: Hows your relationship with Andy Reid?
Superb relationship. I admire the hell out of him. Hes a great motivator but hes an even better person. The players in todays NFL respond to honesty and integrity. Theres nobody who has the direct communication and honesty and integrity any more than Andy does. Dynamic offensive mind. He wants to win the Super Bowl so badly.
Q: After all these moves, how close are the Eagles to the salary cap?
I dont have the calculation in my head, but we have the capability of making more moves. Injuries happen, and we always try to allow some cap room between now and the point where you cant use it anymore because injuries happen in this league and youve got to be prepared.
Q: After reaching the playoffs nine of the last 11 years, why havent the Eagles won a Super Bowl?
I dont have a great answer for that, honestly. You can only win it if youre in the playoffs, in the final four. Weve been there so many times. It can be the performance of a couple players, it could be bad luck where certain key guys couldnt play that day because of injuries. Certain players just thrive in the clutch. Not everybody is Tom Brady with three Super Bowls. He deserves it because hes an unbelievable clutch performer. I just think you have to be in it to win it. Just try to set yourself up as best as possible.
Youve got to try to maximize talent, but at the same time maximize depth, and that doesnt go hand in hand because if youre maximizing frontline talent youre minimizing backline talent so youve got to try to do a mixture. Its a long season. A lot of it is just a question of playing well in the final game or two. Green Bay, I have to say, I really admire that they won it all last year with all those injuries. You guys watch tight end Jermichael Finley. Talk about a young superstar, theres one. Aaron Rodgers is only going to get better.
As I look at the NFC, I laugh when people say are you the favorites? or something like that. Lets cut to reality. Youve got Atlanta coming off the best record in the NFC, terrific young quarterback in Matt Ryan, hes only going to get better. They add wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers to give them explosiveness, thats what they needed. Coming from the outside they added defensive end Ray Edwards on the pass rush opposite defensive end John Abraham. Theyre loaded.
New Orleans, great offseason, coming off a Super Bowl win the year before. Spectacular quarterback in Drew Brees. They add running back Mark Ingram, they add defensive end Cameron Jordan, they add everyone theyve focused on, running back Darren Sproles. Loaded from there. Green Bay is going to get all these star players back with a quarterback that is off the charts in Aaron. Then youve got a young, potential superstar quarterback emerging in the NFC, really could be as good as any of these guys, and thats quarterback Sam Bradford.
Not to mention the fact that going into last year everyone kind of on paper said Dallas was the best team. Youve got the Giants who, as I said, manhandled us in the Meadowlands in the most important game of the year. Given all that, thats how I feel when I go to bed at night. I see it as an extremely competitive NFC. Im sure therell be some surprise teams I didnt even mention. Thats the dose of reality I have.
Q: Is the Eagles philosophy that you wont give a player under contract a new contract if hes holding out?
Thats been our philosophy consistently. Yes.
Q: We saw you talking to Asante Samuel during practice. Were you reassuring him that he still has a major role on this team?
Yeah, well at first I said to him until you start yapping at the offense, youre not all the way back. Then you heard him the rest of the day there. What a great guy, terrific cornerback. I think in terms of playing with Nnamdi Asomugha and DRC and the rest, talk about being opportunistic, hes finally going to have a situation where theyre going to have to throw the ball in his direction. This is sort of a unique situation for Asante that way. Hes a great guy to have. Well see how it goes as we go forward, but its great to have him back.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com