Published: Saturday, November 10, 2012
By ROB PARENT,
There are differences between the Jeffrey Lurie of today and the Jeff Lurie of 14 years ago, but let’s exclude age, weight of wallet and changed marital status and focus on the way the Eagles owner is handling his head coach.
Not only does the relationship between Lurie and Andy Reid seem to have taken a hairpin turn, but it seems fairly familiar. It’s in the way Lurie seemed to lay the groundwork for his head coach’s fall before the season began, and now is proceeding silently as the Eagles and Reid essentially die on the vine.
It really can’t be very easy for Lurie to do that. As still-head coach Andy Reid said earlier this week, Lurie "is a competitive guy."
You know, when it comes to sports, not movie-making.
But Lurie has proven time and again that he’s not the type to air out dirty laundry, even when his team suddenly shifts into a season on the stink. Make no mistake, the Eagles are altogether odoriferous as they prepare for the similarly smelly Dallas Cowboys Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Nobody likes to lose," Michael Vick said Friday, "especially at this stage of my career. Even though there are going to be some losses, there should be more wins than losses. That’s what we plan on. But as frustrating as it may be, you’ve got to find some type of joy and some type of fulfillment. Everybody individually is different, but you’ve got to find what brings out the best in you. I’m trying to continue to bring out the best in myself and play the best football I can."
Might as well. This is his last year in town, after all, just as it likely is Reid’s last go-round.
That has increasingly appeared to be the case as the season has worn on. It’s not just the 3-5 record, or the spate of offensive line boo-boos that have turned Vick into a nervous wreck that has endangered Reid’s job status. It’s him. It’s the way he soldiers on without much enthusiasm, the way he is coaching a team that has seemed to lose its soul — one and all contractually motivated but no longer emotionally invested.
The ground under Reid has been shaky since last winter, anyway.
Lurie made that clear during his postseason presser in January, essentially ripping the way Reid and his staff handled things in 2011. Then, he laid out what essentially amounts to a one-year, last-chance plan in which Reid would be mandated to lead his team to a whole lot better than an 8-8 record.
Lurie’s feelings were further revealed in August, when the owner’s annual training camp media show featured him shooting down a backhanded attempt at a contract extension by Reid’s agent, Bob LaMonte.
Said Lurie at the time: "We have a very good team on paper, and paper doesn’t get you that far if you don’t maximize it."
It all harkened back to 1998, when a less-than gifted Eagles team would or could do nothing to prevent the ouster of head coach Ray Rhodes. With the Birds just 3-11 with two games left in that season, the always loose-of-tongue Rhodes publicly admitted he expected to be fired. There had been talk for months that he was on the hot seat after a disappointing 1997 season, but with two years left on his deal, that younger Jeff Lurie just turned the heat up on his coach without turning the coach’s office key over to anyone else.
He also didn’t come out with many if any statements of support for Rhodes.
So how different are things now, with Reid signed through 2013 but this older Jeffrey Lurie saying Reid’s contract won’t be assessed until after the season?
Not very. Of course, Reid’s team could always win 7 of its last 8 games of the season to turn it all around and get into the playoffs. But no one really believes that ... even if they say they do in their respective press conferences.
Follow sports editor Rob Parent on Twitter @ReluctantSE