PHOENIX — If you are a Patriots fan, you assuredly have heard his back story many times.
He has been an NFL owner since 1994, but he grew up a diehard fan of the Patriots and all Boston sports. He was an original season ticket-holder who went to the Patriots’ first game in 1960 at Nickerson Field. He remembers sleeping on Causeway Street to get standing-room tickets for Bruins playoff games. He was in the stands in January 1986 when the Patriots lost to the Bears in their first Super Bowl.
“It was the first Super Bowl I ever went to,” the owner says now with a chuckle. “We were even a little optimistic after the Pats scored first. I remember, I couldn’t believe I was there rooting for the team I was a fan of.”
Except this story isn’t about Robert and Jonathan Kraft. It’s about Jeffrey Lurie, the Philadelphia Eagles owner who is a Newton/Chestnut Hill native and whose football dreams, like the Krafts’, were shaped in those metal bleachers decades ago at Nickerson Field and Schaefer Stadium.
Lurie’s fandom, of course, took a divergent path in 1994. After dropping out of the bidding for the Patriots, who were ultimately purchased by the Krafts, Lurie, a Hollywood producer and executive, bought the Eagles several months later.
“I was obsessed with the Pats,” said Lurie, whose Eagles will battle the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday. “I was at virtually every single game in the stands for, I don’t know, 20-30 years. I was an obsessed NFL fan and Patriots fan, but quickly lost that when I bought the Eagles.”
Lurie’s Eagles haven’t had quite the success of Kraft’s Patriots, but he is certainly the envy of many NFL owners. The Eagles are making their third trip to the Super Bowl under Lurie’s ownership (fourth overall) and first in that time where their opponent isn’t (who else?) the Patriots. Lurie’s Eagles lost their first trip in 2005, but won the franchise’s only Super Bowl against New England five years ago.
The Eagles have the NFL’s seventh-best win percentage (.557) since Lurie bought the team. Since 2000, their 15 postseason trips are third-most behind the Patriots (18) and Packers (16). Their seven trips to the conference championship game are second behind the Patriots (13).
Most impressive, though, is how they have done it — with different coaches and different quarterbacks. Not to compare the Eagles’ success to the six Super Bowls won by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Krafts in any way, but it is still impressive that Lurie’s Eagles went to four straight conference championship games with Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid, then won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles and Doug Pederson, and five years later are back with Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni.
Lurie and Al Davis are the only owners in NFL history to reach three Super Bowls with three different head coach/quarterback combos. Lurie doesn’t want to give away any secrets.
“I don’t want to say too much,” Lurie said. “I guess a common trait amongst all three was that nobody wanted to interview any of them. In all cases, it wasn’t kind of going in a conformist way with who the hot coordinator is. That’s so dependent on the players you’re coaching that it skews analysis.
“So I never was one to adopt that; if it turned out the best person happened to be the hot coordinator, then excellent. But in Andy’s case and Doug’s case and Nick’s case, I think we were the only people to interview them all.”
There have been some rough times. The one time Lurie did hire the hot candidate, Chip Kelly, he wasn’t fit for the NFL and was fired after three seasons. Lurie also demoted general manager Howie Roseman before Kelly’s final season in 2015, literally moving his office to the other side of the building, before restoring Roseman’s power and eventually his title during the Pederson years.
Roseman, who started as an intern in 2000, has twice won the Pro Football Writers’ Executive of the Year award (2017 and 2022) and this year probably will win his third.
The Eagles are 16-3 and the NFC’s No. 1 seed heading into the Super Bowl, and Roseman’s free agency moves turned to gold: A.J. Brown (1,496 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns), Haason Reddick (16 sacks), James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson (nine combined interceptions), and more. Roseman also lined up the Eagles with multiple first-round picks in the 2023 draft, including the 10th pick from the Saints.
Roseman and Pederson built the Eagles into Super Bowl winners two years after Kelly’s firing. Roseman and Sirianni have them back in the Super Bowl just two years after hitting rock bottom at 4-11-1 under Pederson and Carson Wentz.
“It took a stroke of luck that Howie is still there,” said Joe Banner, the Eagles president from 1995-2012. “Fortunately, no one offered Howie a job, and he was willing to come back. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a situation like that, but fortunately it all worked out and here we are.”
Lurie said it was “really hard” to fire Pederson after the 2020 season, just three years after he brought Philadelphia its only Super Bowl trophy. The Eagles also shipped Wentz off to Indianapolis two years after signing him to a $128 million contract extension.
But Lurie said he gave no thought to moving on from Roseman, and knew he would be a big part of the rebuild.
“There was, I think, a lot of noise to not keeping Howie employed or whatever,” Lurie said. “I never wavered whatsoever with Howie. I think he’s superb. I’ve worked with Howie for over 20 years.
“He has the ingredients to just work really well with all elements that it takes to build a team – coaches, player personnel, football operations, analytics if you want to separate that out — we don’t. And he has all the ingredients to try to maximize all those areas at the same time.”
Lurie has reason to gloat that his moves at quarterback, coach, and the front office have all panned out. But he has too much respect for the Chiefs, and he learned from a certain Boston sports icon not to celebrate too soon.
“Like Red Auerbach, the cigar is only lit after you win it,” Lurie said. “No cigars for me yet. It’s really a singular goal — try to be world champions again.”
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.