When he hired Chip Kelly in January, Jeffrey Lurie was less concerned about the win-loss record for 2013 and more with restoring the winning culture after the franchise had lost its winning ways.
With his team is back in the playoffs in Kelly’s first season, the team chairman isn’t shying away from dreaming big again.
Super Bowl big.
“I imagine big things, but you didn’t know [how the team would do in Kelly’s first year],” Lurie said in the visiting locker room at AT&T Stadium after the Eagles clinched the NFC East title with a 24-22 win over Dallas.
“My main concern coming into the season was, ‘Could we shift the leadership from an excellent coach in Andy Reid to an excellent coach in Chip Kelly? Could you accomplish it all in one season where the entire locker room and the entire organization bought into a whole new way of doing things? That’s what was accomplished a while ago. Now we’re just trying to execute and execute really, really well.”
Lurie didn’t set an expectation level in terms of wins and losses on Jan. 17 during his press conference to announce the hiring of Kelly, the former Oregon coach, to resurrect his franchise after the Eagles went 4-12 last year and to replace the fired Reid.
But Lurie isn’t content with another division title.
Every year is an opportunity for the Eagles to win their first Super Bowl, and just because the Eagles weren’t odds-on favorites to win the division in August or given much of a chance to make the playoffs when they ended September at 1-3, Lurie won’t treat this upcoming playoff run as house money.
“Our coaching staff did a great job, but this was one win,” he said. “I think everyone in the locker room treats it as an important win. We won the division. That opens the door to next week. That’s all it does. We’ve won seven of these (division titles) and we’ve got to celebrate, but celebrate in a way that motivates us to succeed next week. That’s the key.”
The Eagles, who won seven of their last eight games, claimed the No. 3 seed and square off against the sixth-seeded Saints on Saturday night at the Linc in the wild-card round. The Saints have lost four straight road games and have never won a road playoff game in franchise history.
If they beat New Orleans, the Eagles will travel to Charlotte the following Sunday to play the No. 2-seed Panthers.
The Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since the divisional round of the 2008 postseason, a 23-11 win over the Giants at the Meadowlands. They haven’t won a home playoff game since 2006, a 23-20 win over the Giants.
Their last home playoff game was Jan. 9, 2011, a 21-16 loss to the Packers that triggered a chain of risky personnel decisions by Reid that ultimately backfired and sent the franchise into a temporary downward spiral.
Since Lurie purchased the team from Norman Braman for $195 million on May 6, 1994, the Eagles have appeared in 22 playoff games, winning 11 of them, and went to the conference championship five times. They’ve made the Super Bowl once, losing 24-21 to the Patriots on Feb. 6, 2005, in Super Bowl XXXIX.
When he hired Kelly, who had no prior NFL coaching experience, Lurie touted the former Oregon coach’s program-building acumen and compared Kelly’s blueprint for long-term success to Reid’s.
Now that Kelly has the franchise back on track, Lurie’s sights are set back on his Super Bowl obsession.
“The main thing is outstanding leadership job, outstanding handling of an NFL team, coming in and in every way showing leadership, motivation, class at all times, understanding where the players are coming from, instituting a new offense, a new defense, hiring great people,” he said, “and the main thing when you change coaches -- and we do it so rarely -- is institute a new program, a new culture and can you get that across? Create it, and then can you get that across?
“Again, a big win tonight, winning the division in Chip’s first year -- spectacularly outstanding. But we’ve got a long way to go, a long way to go.”
-- Geoff Mosher, CSNPhilly.com