It was Super Bowl week in Jacksonville, and the topic was how the Eagles’ enormous success in recent years was due in great part to the tremendous working relationship among head coach Andy Reid, team president Joe Banner and general manager Tom Heckert.
Banner: "We're not focused on getting it your way. We're only focused on getting it right."
Reid: "If you don't have coaches and scouts and cap people who have a positive working relationship, it's tough to win in this league. It's important that you have guys who communicate well, who aren't afraid to be honest with each other, and who respect each other."
Heckert: "It's rare in this league for everyone to get along so well and respect each other and work so well together and share a philosophy. If you don't have that, it can't work. It just can't work."
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie: "The way Andy, Joe and Tom work together and the job they've done is a huge part of the success we've had. There's just such a great sense of, 'We're all in this together,' and when you have that, you eliminate all the negativity that you find so often with the people running football teams. When you're not concerned with who gets the credit, you don't expend any wasted energy. You're just focused on doing the right thing for the organization and the rest is irrelevant.”
The Lurie, Reid, Heckert and Banner quotes are all from a story I wrote for The Burlington County Times Super Bowl week, a story that explored how the tremendous working relationship among the Eagles’ management team was crucial to the success we saw on the field from 2000 through 2004 -- a 59-19 record, four straight NFC Championship Games and that Super Bowl.
Remarkable to read those comments in light of what’s happened since.
There were playoff runs in 2006 and 2008, but most of the eight post-Super Bowl years have been hugely disappointing. After reaching the conference semifinal round six times in seven years, the Eagles have gone to the second round just once in the last six years.
Heckert left for the Browns after the 2009 season, Banner was ushered out the door in June and resurfaced in Cleveland (where he fired Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur, now the Eagles’ offensive coordinator), and Reid -- Lurie’s one-time “Coach for Life” -- was fired soon after the Eagles ended the 2012 season with another blowout loss.
The brain trust that brought the Eagles so much success the first half of the last decade was done in by in-fighting, egos and power struggles.
And, as Heckert, Reid and Banner all said eight years ago, without trust, without the absence of ego, without strong relationships among the people making the decisions, you can’t win.
“It can’t work. It just can’t work.”
Fast forward to 2012.
Banner, Reid and Heckert are gone, and Lurie has entrusted general manager Howie Roseman to return the Eagles to the NFL elite, and Roseman believes the only way that can happen is if the people running the franchise are able to work together with a single goal in mind, the way Reid, Banner and Heckert once did before it all fell apart.
New team president Don Smolenski, a marathon runner who piles up the miles before the sun comes up, is the anti-Joe Banner. Quiet, effective, unassuming, disinterested in the spotlight.
Then there’s the revamped scouting department.
Senior adviser Tom Donahoe helped build the Super Bowl champion Steelers. Player personnel executive Rick Mueller helped build the Super Bowl champion Saints. Assistant director of pro scouting Ed Marynowitz was in charge of recruiting for Alabama when the Crimson Tide won the 2011 BCS Championship. Director of pro personnel Louis Riddick and director of college scouting Anthony Patch are respected veteran scouts.
And now Roseman has added Tommy Gamble, the 49ers’ dynamic personnel chief who helped turn the 49ers from a franchise that didn’t have a winning season from 2003 through 2010 into a Super Bowl team.
Roseman has surrounded himself with quality people, and while the jury may be out on Roseman himself, people like Donahoe, Mueller and Gamble have impeccable resumes. They’re proven winners.
“The more good people that we have around us, the better we'll be as an organization,” Roseman said. “That was one of our goals here in the offseason, just to hire a lot of good people and surround ourselves with them and build it for the future and have the long-term goal of building a great organization.”
Roseman on Wednesday made it clear that he understands the connection between the Eagles’ decline in recent years -- a 66-61-1 record with only three playoff wins since 2005 -- and the disarray in the front office.
By bringing in new head coach Chip Kelly and now Gamble on top of the other front-office additions, Roseman in the past few weeks has given shape to his vision of the franchise’s future.
If it works, he’s a genius. If it fails, he’ll be fired.
But at least now there’s a plan. At least now there’s a philosophy. At least now there are exceptional people in place and not just a head coach, team president and general manager fighting amongst themselves while their team gets embarrassed week after week.
It’s a pretty simple equation. Good people who respect each other, work hard and know their stuff equals winning.
“We haven’t had a lot of continuity [in the front office],” Roseman said. “We talked about that a lot [during the head coaching search], how the teams that are successful have guys who’ve been together for a while, and we want to build that.
“Our goal was to bring people in here who are going to be together, who want to stay here, who speak the same language. ... We talked about how we wanted to build a great core of people, coaches and personnel people, and grow together as a staff.
"It's not about egos. It's not about, 'Who's my player, who's Tom's player, who's Patch's player.’ It's about finding the best players out there and putting a string of good drafts together and getting our football team back where we were ... and hopefully even further.”