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David Murphy: Jeffrey Lurie is the only person who can fix the Eagles. Fixing his front office should be his top priority.

By David Murphy, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

Good news is, you aren't the only one who can't stomach the Eagles. The guy who signs their checks is apparently tired of them too.

As The Inquirer's Jeff McLane reported, Jeffrey Lurie's skipped his team's trip to Cleveland last weekend, the first time that anybody can remember the boss man not making a road trip.

Lurie's absence was, at least in part, due to his frustration with the Eagles performance. Never before has an NFL owner felt so relatable to his team's fans.

Difference is, Lurie doesn't need to rely on copious amounts of whiskey and Tums to carry him through the winter. He can fix this thing. The fact that he signs the paychecks means that he alone can fix his football team's predicament. He is in possession of what the social scientists like to call "agency." Autonomy. Self-determination.

All of which is ironic. Because one of the things that might fix the Eagles is a head coach who feels he is endowed with such rights. Or, at least, one who feels he is pedaling in the same direction as the other guy on the bike. Because, at this point, you can't help but wonder if part of the frustration Doug Pederson has betrayed throughout the season is a sign of some sort of disconnect with the front office. And that is a serious enough problem to warrant immediate intervention.

The latest wisp of smoke again came from Pederson's ears. Late last week, reporters again asked the head coach if the current starting quarterback would still be the starting quarterback.

It was a question that was ripped straight out of the Pop Quiz in the study guide at the end of the first chapter in Principles of Coachspeak. Yet Pederson somehow managed to answer it in a way that made you wonder if he was issuing the latest QAnon drop.

Was he thinking about benching Carson Wentz?

"Not today."

Did that mean he might consider benching Wentz later in the week?

"I don't know."

In any existential crisis, there is a moment when the sufferer becomes aware of his own internal incoherence. This may have been Pederson's moment. As the head coach spoke, you could almost see the last light of his soul flickering to black. These weren't simply the words of a man who would rather not be dealing with the media. They were a cry for help.

 

Question is, is Lurie listening? Over the last year, his front office has done everything in its power to put Pederson in a place where he feels he cannot succeed.

At the end of last season, they allowed him to meet the media and answer questions about his coaching staff before they'd signed off on that coaching staff's future. Pederson had barely finished vouching for offensive coordinator Mike Groh when he had to shift gears and come up with an explanation for why he fired the guy. Instead of putting Alshon Jeffery on injured reserve and laying the groundwork for the inevitable turning of the page, they spent two months wasting a roster spot on a guy who did not play a down.

Without question, though, the Eagles' biggest case of Plaxico Burressing themselves has been their handling of the quarterback position from the NFL draft onward.

There are those who will interpret Carson Wentz's struggles this season as evidence of the wisdom of spending a second-round pick on the position. Those people fail to understand two things. One, there is no evidence that Jalen Hurts is actually a viable NFL quarterback. Two, unless he steps onto the field at some point this season and immediately shows that he is a potential franchise player, the Eagles have guaranteed themselves a quarterback controversy that will only diminish the likelihood that either player is here for long.

The odds are certainly against Hurts. Since 2001, when the Chargers drafted Drew Brees at No. 32 overall, there have been 19 quarterbacks drafted in the second round, and only two (Colin Kaepernick and Jimmy Garoppolo) who have started a Super Bowl. Of the remaining 17, only Andy Dalton and Derek Carr have spent more than three seasons as a starter, and neither of those players qualifies as anything greater than barely competent.

Of the three quarterbacks drafted in the second round between 2016 and 2019, two are out of the league (Christian Hackenberg, DeShone Kizer), and one is Drew Lock.

Pederson has been around football long enough to understand that quarterback transitions do not work this way. Likewise, he has to understand that his team is well into a state of decay that only good drafting can fix, and that the front office's failures on that front are the reason the decay exists.

The Eagles could need to rebuild their entire offensive line this offseason, depending on the recoveries of Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, and Andre Dillard as well as Jason Kelce's perpetual uncertainty about his future. They need a legitimate weapon at wide receiver while potentially absorbing the loss of their top pass-catcher (Zach Ertz).

In order to accomplish all of this, they need a front office that has the willingness and ability to give the head coach the talent that he needs to run the offense that he wants to run.

It's no coincidence that the most recent spate of coaching changes across the league have been coupled with a change at general manager. Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn. Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen. The 49ers' rise has coincided not just with the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, but also John Lynch. Building a football team is a partnership. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome. Pete Carroll and John Schneider.

If Lurie wants to enjoy watching his team again, he should look at Howie Roseman and his front office and consider one thing. Apart from one magical season, the last 10 years in Eagles history have been marked by mediocrity and dysfunction. There has been only one constant throughout. It isn't the quarterback. And it isn't the coach.

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