The numbers are serious: 97 wins, 10 playoff victories, 61% winning percentage, 7 trips to the post-season, 5 division titles, 5 NFC Championship Game appearances, 1 trip to the Super Bowl. These are the attributes of your Philadelphia Eagles under the current 10-year regime of Jeffrey Lurie, Joe Banner and Andy Reid.
Conversely, prior to the “Big 3” rescuing the organization from a history of sub-mediocrity, the team mustered a whopping 5 playoff wins, 2 division titles and 1 super bowl appearance since 1967 (year of the first Super Bowl). Remember Ray Rhodes and Rich Kotite? How about Marion Campbell? Do the names McCormack and Kuharich give you visions of Lombardi?
So why is it that the Eagles organization under the current regime is constantly criticized and picked apart by many of its fans? Listen to the two major sports stations in Philadelphia and one could easily mistake the city for Cleveland or Cincinnati.
What the Eagles have is an image problem.
Consider this. I was traveling this week for a work related matter. I travel quite often and it is not like I am traveling half way across the country, so ultimately I do not mind it. But there is one thing that really sets me off. I think in 3 of my last 7 trips in which I rented a car, the car rental agent gave me a friggin’ Chevy PT Cruiser. Yes, the “clown car” as I like to call it.
Whose brilliant idea was it to ever bring these vehicles to market? No male, no matter how masculine he thinks he is, can ever pull off the PT Cruiser. It’s basically a punch line on wheels. For the 3 or 4 people who have actually made a conscious decision to purchase one of these vehicles, I do not mean to offend you in any way, but I wish you luck in your job interview with Barnum and Bailey. Do you juggle?
To top matters off, the color du jour: lipstick red! Yes, I was officially the fire engine clown in the circus. When I picked up the vehicle they did not even offer me a GPS; instead they offered a wig and a clown nose. I found myself explaining to everyone that this was not really MY car- it was a rental. No one believed me. The valet at the hotel had a few laughs at my expense. The gas station attendant looked at me with a crooked look, muttering something to the effect, “what a Bozo!” And the 3 drunks smoking outside of a bar heckled me for a full minute as I waited at a traffic light.
You may have thought they were watching reruns of Dave Chappelle they were laughing and pointing so hard. “Darkness!!” So what’s my point? I consider myself a “man’s man”, and I think my wife finds me pretty masculine (okay insert joke here). However, if you are a male driving a PT Cruiser, you should probably ask for your balls back when you return the car to the rental company.
No matter how well the Eagles think they do things, and no matter what positive image they are trying to portray, the fact is the front office is driving around in a PT Cruiser of sorts. Consider 3 very recent examples.
The Brian Dawkins saga: Look I’m okay with the move in a business sense. The Eagles usually know when to pull the plug on a player (i.e. Trotter, Duce, Bobby T, Troy Vincent). Any, yes, Brian Dawkins is on the downside of his career and is nowhere the players he once was. But if you think about it, this really was not about Dawkins. It was really about the Eagles fans. The part that the Eagles do not get is that Brian Dawkins was a “Philadelphian”. He was the lifeline that linked the fans to the organization. When he was introduced and he crawled out of the tunnel on hands and knees, every Eagles fan in the Linc felt the adrenaline, got the chills and wanted to run through a brick wall. His passion and commitment epitomized Philadelphia.
How many “20” jerseys did you see running around? Some people actually wore them to work!! The way the Eagles butchered the situation was a kick in the nuts to every hardworking, die-hard fan who has supported this team over the last 10 years. To send “Dawk” a fax with a final offer contract sheet, and treat him as if he was Dhani Jones completely sends the wrong message. The Eagle lifer deserved to be handled with special circumstances. It was insulting. It was cold. It was disappointing.
Financial state of the franchise: Jeff Lurie is doing something right. In an economy that has kicked the asses of financial experts everywhere, Lurie has managed to prosper. Billionaires have reverted to millionaires, but he has defied the odds. As of this week, his official net worth is over 1 billion dollars. A truly great accomplishment.
So why are Birds raising ticket prices at this time? Why are they haggling over a few measly million on contracts with all the salary cap space? Why have they not taken (and paid) a first round draft choice for the past 2 years? Where is that big time over-the-top free agent signings reminiscent of 2004? Obviously there are logical answers to all of these questions- fodder for another day. But that will not stop the fans from asking and wondering.
Public Perception: To be honest I am a Jeff Lurie fan. I am a very big Andy Reid fan as well. I think the self-applied “Gold Standard” label uttered by Lurie in 2004 was fairly accurate depending on interpretation. No matter how you slice it the Eagles are one of the top 3 organizations in football for the past 10 yrs.
And I believe that other than the Patriots and maybe the Steelers, no other organization has been run better. The majority of the NFL, I believe, hopes to emulate the success the Eagles have enjoyed. So you can interpret Lurie’s comments literally, or you can cut him slack and give credit where credit is due. The Eagles have been, at least, the NFC’s Gold Standard.
Andy Reid is non-emotional and even keel. I have heard so many of his players list this as his best characteristic as a coach. On the contrary, I have heard many more fans identify this as a flaw. Well, okay, this combined with his play-calling, run/pass ratio, clock management, stubbornness, yadda, yadda, yadda. Reid is not beloved and probably never will be in this city because he lacks the raw emotion and visible fire that made Buddy Ryan and Dick Vermeil so popular.
Fans are visibly passionate and emotional. They connect with players like Dawkins and Sheldon Brown because they are the same way. They connected with the aforementioned coaches because of the tears and the anger and fire that those coaches put forth each week. Emotion is the common bond between the Philly fan and the Philly athlete/coach. Without it, there is a disconnect, independent of success.
One guy in the front office that I just can not warm up to is President Joe Banner. Look the guy is a hell of capologist and knows the financial ins and outs of the leagues. He has found more loopholes in the salary cap than Enron in the energy markets. Perhaps he would be better suited in Obama’s Cabinet these days. But the guy just rubs people the wrong way. He sneers. He smirks. He annoys. He’s a NERD.
And it appears he has way too much to say regarding player personnel. I am not saying he actually has input, but that is the message that is being portrayed. I have many questions. Why does he appear to be the face of the franchise when it comes to player issues? He is the one who is interviewed immediately following the playoff loss the Cardinals, stating that, “changes will be made.” Why was he talking about potential upgrades to the skill positions in an interview prior to the 2008 season?
And why is he on the airwaves discussing the Eagles position on a “declining” Brian Dawkins? Where is the Head Coach? Where is the GM or Director Player Personnel? I know, I know he’s the President. And that’s fine. They just need a better spokesman. NO- not Dave Spodaro!
So as the Eagles drive down the street in their new fire-engine red PT Cruiser, Joe Banner is the perfect clown in the driver’s seat. It is obvious it is time for a new PR strategy. They need a new face. Less Joe Banner equals more. They need a Lexus or a Cadillac. A few years ago the Phillies hired Scott Palmer (former ABC-6 News Sports Correspondent) to ameliorate the team’s image with the fans.
The move has paid dividends. One way the Eagles can start the transformation is by getting the very popular PR guy Derek Boyko out there. He is very good. Either that or win a Super Bowl!!