An ode to Jeff Lurie

An ode to Jeff Lurie

The Eagles had just gotten throttled at home by the Redskins. The loss, their fifth in seven tries, dropped their record to 6-9 and buried any faint playoff hopes for a second straight season. The year was 2015 and that would be the last game that Chip Kelly coached the team. The Eagles owner knew it was time for a change.

Chip Exodus
Jeff Lurie pulled the plug on the Kelly era less than three full years in. It was the best move he has made in his nearly quarter century owning the club. Kelly’s stubborn, know-it-all, abrasive, locker room fracturing personality has been well documented. Lurie knew he made a mistake and set about correcting it.

Roseman Remake
Re-enter Howie Roseman, who Lurie chose to marginalize in favor of Kelly, yet keep in the building. It was an unorthodox move to say the least. But Lurie trusted his gut and also knew the work that Roseman had done during his year-long hiatus as chief decision maker for the organization. Instead of stewing on his demotion, Roseman looked in the mirror and sought out input from others in similar positions in the sporting world and beyond. Lurie also smartly insisted Roseman bring in a respected personnel man. Joe Douglas, who spent years under the tutelage of Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore and a season in Chicago, was the choice.  

'Emotional Intelligence'
The next crucial decision was hiring the right coach. Lurie and Roseman knew they had to bring in someone polar opposite personality-wise from Kelly. Locker room, front office, and building fissures needed to be healed, that much was obvious. But the guy needed to be able to coach as well. Lurie knew Doug Pederson very well from both his time playing and coaching here under Andy Reid. Pederson’s embracing, players coach personality was apparent to anyone who had worked or spent time with him. The question was: could he coach?

Wentz Wagon
Roseman and crew’s bold trades to maneuver up to snag Carson Wentz second overall in the 2016 draft were a sign that they were going to be aggressive and unafraid in their approach. A trait we’d soon find out was shared by the new head coach. Teddy Bridgewater’s injury and Sam Bradford’s subsequent trade opened the door for Wentz to start as a rookie and recouped a first-rounder parted with to move up to grab the rookie signal caller. Pederson’s and Wentz’s rookie season had the typical ups and downs. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But you could see that with some more talent around both men, things could get righted quickly.

Moving and Shaking
Nick Foles, Alshon Jeffery, Tim Jernigan, Jay Ajayi, LaGarrette Blount, Ronald Darby, Derek Barnett, Corey Clement, Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, were all new faces in 2017. Each and every one contributed in a major way. Roseman and crew had the greatest offseason any Eagles front office has ever had. And it was on full display throughout this magical season and stunning Super Bowl win. It was also the moves they didn’t make. Mychal Kendricks, disgruntled and unproductive, stayed in midnight green instead of being dealt and had a monster, rebound season. Nelson Agholor appeared lost last year. A little tender love and faith saw him bounce back in a huge way. Emotional intelligence anyone?

All Roads
In a little more than two calendar years, this organization went from dysfunctional under Kelly to Super Bowl champions. And there are not enough fingers and toes in the Delaware Valley to point out the deserving parties for the transformation. From Pederson’s bold coaching, to Wentz's magnificent 13-plus games, to the defense, to Foles' incredible playoff run, to as fine of a coaching staf as there is in the NFL, to the unique camaraderie and selflessness in the locker room. This truly was a team effort. But it all starts at the top. The CEO, the man who put all of these moves in place. The owner, Jeff Lurie.

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

AP Images

Greg Ward still learning wide receiver position after great college career at quarterback

Greg Ward threw more touchdown passes in college than Carson Wentz and had a higher career passer rating than Nick Foles. 

These days, his job is catching passes, not throwing them. 

It’s quite a transition from big-time NCAA Division 1 quarterback to NFL wide receiver, but at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, the former Houston Cougar knows where his future is.

Ward spent all of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, learning the nuances of a new position and figuring out how to think like a receiver instead of a quarterback. 

He looked surprisingly polished at wide out in training camp, caught nine passes for 63 yards in the preseason and then spent the season focusing on getting better.

“I still haven’t 100 percent gotten the position,” Ward said after a recent rookie camp practice. “I always feel like I can get better, always feel like I can learn something new, feel like there’ll always be something to improve on. 

“Last year was a big year for me. Just learning a new position, learning football period, learning from Alshon (Jeffery), Torrey (Smith) and Nelson (Agholor), it was a very important year for me.

“Just gathering every bit of information I could watching those guys practice and watching them in games and then learning how to apply what you’ve learned to your game.”

Ward never did get a chance to play, but he said he felt himself getting better as the year went along.

“Everybody wants to play,” said Ward, who led Houston to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State in Atlanta at the end of his junior year. 

“You’re a competitor, that’s why we all do this. But I was humbled and thankful just to be on a Super Bowl team. Just to be in the NFL period. Some guys aren’t able to play football at all. I’m just grateful to be on a football team. 

“But this is not the end of my story. I am going to get out there and I am going to play.”

Ward was with the Eagles during their postseason run and he was there in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.

He used every moment, every day, as an opportunity to improve. Even if nobody could see it happening.

“The biggest thing I learned was just being patient, just being humble,” he said. “Our team last year, there was nobody that was selfish. Nobody who thought they were bigger than anybody else. I learned patience and the importance of doing extra. Getting extra work, studying more, watching more film. That’s what it takes to win a championship.”

The Eagles have quite a crowd at wide receiver, with Jeffery, Agholor and Mack Hollins back, Wallace and Markus Wheaton in the fold and guys like Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson and Rashard Davis all also in the mix.

But Ward doesn’t concern himself with the numbers.

“The next step for me is to separate myself,” he said. "As a competitor, especially coming from being undrafted, you have to separate yourself. You have to be different. 

“You have to catch whoever’s eye it is, head coach, position coach, catch everybody’s eyes. They have to see value in you. That’s where I am right now. Trying to separate myself.”

How long will it take?

“I’m leaving that up to God,” he said. “I know I’m putting in the hard work and I know one day it will pay off. I know that day will come.”

Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

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Jay Ajayi's publicist denies Eagles' RB trashed an L.A. mansion

Eagles running back Jay Ajayi is strongly denying accusations made in a lawsuit that he trashed a Los Angeles house after the Super Bowl (see story)

The lawsuit, as reported by TMZ earlier this week, accuses Ajayi of throwing three parties at the L.A. mansion he was renting even after the owner told him not to. Ajayi is being charged $25,000 by the owner. 

Shortly after the story broke on Monday, a representative for Ajayi claimed the lawsuit was bogus. 

Now, we have an even stronger detail from Ajayi’s camp. 

Ajayi’s publicist Melanie Wadden told the Miami Herald that Ajayi didn’t throw any parties and caused no damage to the property. 

Additionally, Wadden denied the home owner’s claim that Ajayi pushed him in a menacing manner after confronting him.

“Jay was not involved in any physical altercations,” she said. 

Ajayi’s publicist also told the Herald that Ajayi was a guest and not the renter and the owner wanted the group to pay cash instead of through Airbnb. 

"The entire group voluntarily left the property several days early — no security or police were ever involved or on-site," Wadden said. "They filed a complaint against the owner through Airbnb back in February that included screenshots of the owner asking for cash and trying to communicate outside of their platform [against Airbnb policy]."

Ajayi, who came to the Eagles in the middle of last season in a trade, has one year left on his current contract.