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PHILADELPHIA – Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles was more appealing over the past decade than coaching them might be now.
With seven teams looking for a new coach, the Eagles might end up having to compete for a guy who will get multiple offers. Owner Jeffrey Lurie made quite a sales pitch after firing Andy Reid. He highlighted everything from the fans down to his hands-off approach.
"I'm very confident that this is the most attractive place for a head coach to work in the National Football League," Lurie said. "We have an incredible fan base. This one's amazing. They want what we want and that's an obsession not just to be good, but to be great and that's big."
There's no denying the Eagles have passionate fans who aren't afraid to express their opinion. They'll boo vociferously whenever they feel a player isn't giving his best effort and when the team plays poorly. They'll also demand the coach gets fired if he's not getting the job done. In Reid's case, they wanted him gone because he couldn't win a Super Bowl.
But Eagles fans also have a way of loving a guy unconditionally if he completely wins them over. Dick Vermeil led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 1980 and also lost. Buddy Ryan never even won a playoff game in his five seasons as coach. Both men are still revered in this city, maybe more for their personalities than their accomplishments.
After lauding the fans, Lurie pointed to the fact Philadelphia is a "huge" media market.
"If you want to be at the forefront of NFL in America, this is a top-four, top-five media market. That's great," Lurie said.
Of course, he didn't mention the intense scrutiny that comes with coaching here.
Lurie called the team's practice site the "best facilities" in the league. The NovaCare complex certainly is top-notch, but Vermeil and Ryan worked successfully at the downtrodden offices at Veterans Stadium, and Reid started out there.
Perhaps Lurie's best selling point is that he stays out of the way and allows the coach and personnel department to make all the football decisions. He also is willing to spend the money it takes to get big-name players, though a few recently have underachieved.
"History of an owner-coach relationship, I think virtually unmatched," Lurie said. "I think that the resources, any coach coming here knows there's no limitation on the resources in any direction, financial or otherwise, that's put towards the football program. Everyone knows that in the league."
Lastly, Lurie talked about the winning culture Reid created. A new coach wouldn't have to infuse that into the franchise because it still exists, according to Lurie. Considering the last two seasons, that point can be argued.
"To come into an organization that is used to winning, used to winning big and it's part of the mantra and the culture in an organization, that's huge," Lurie said. "When Andy came, we had to change the culture, turn it around and that's a much harder job. This job is taking a culture that exists. There's been some negative turns in the performance of the team, especially this season and last, and I think that it's ripe for a real smart, forward-thinking coach who wants to get his hand on a great situation.
"To me, this is the best situation for a coach to look at."
Lurie builds a strong case to promote his team to candidates, but the one area where the Eagles lack most is talent. Everyone overevaluated the "Dream Team" that went 8-8 in 2011. The group that finished 4-12 this season was even worse.
On offense, there's no clear franchise quarterback. Veteran Michael Vick's days in Philadelphia are numbered. Rookie Nick Foles may be the answer, but he's still an unknown with potential.
The Eagles are set at running back with LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. That's about it. They must get a bigger, stronger wide receiver because DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin can't handle the load. Their offensive line was a mess. Only Evan Mathis started every game and three starters are returning from season-ending injuries.
The defense has decent depth on the line, though it lacks a consistent pass-rusher. The secondary was awful and their linebackers were so-so. The Eagles forced just 13 turnovers, a sign they don't have playmakers on defense.
"I think we have a lot of good young players on the team," Lurie said. "That doesn't mean we don't have significant holes as well."
It's not just a matter of finding good players, either. The Eagles don't seem to have enough character guys. That was evidenced by the way Vick and McCoy criticized their teammates after the season.
"It's all about focus, dedication and commitment," Vick said. "Until you get guys who are willing to better themselves week in and week out and want to win, you're not going to win. And I haven't played with guys like that. It's unfortunate for Coach things turned out the way they are. It could have been a lot better. This locker room could have dictated that."
McCoy was equally critical.
"I think guys made a lot of excuses," he said. "Guys maybe weren't playing up to par. Guys weren't focusing enough. Guys making money and not putting out. Guys were looking for excuses."
Excuses won't cut it. The new coach has to make sure of that.
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