Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie gave a commencement speech at his alma mater Sunday, and it’s clear that even without naming him, he was eager to graduate from his Chip Kelly years.
Lurie referenced how forward the Eagles are with analytics and data, but made it clear that he human element was the way they wanted to set themselves apart. That was clearly part of his “emotional intelligence” message upon firing Chip Kelly and replacing him with Doug Pederson, and as time has passed, Pederson has justified the decision.
“We use data analytics as much as any professional sports team — and I’d be the first to tell you that crunching the numbers can tell us a lot about performance,” Lurie told the graduates at Clark University. “But in the end, you have to make a judgment about human character that no algorithm can really capture. When we decided to hire Doug Pedersen as our new coach, we got plenty of criticism for what seemed like a completely unconventional choice based on his career experience at that point. But what I saw in Doug was someone not just with expertise about football strategy and tactics, but a unique level of empathy for players as individuals — and real insight about how people work together as a team.
“That kind of leadership and the success it generates isn’t about sports. It’s about trust. To be sure, healthy competition can make us all perform better as individuals as we strive to improve. But when it comes to solving problems, study after study shows that the most effective organizations aren’t built on individual genius, but on diverse groups who trust and respect one another.”
He also mentioned then-quarterback Nick Foles telling his teammates he loved them during the Super Bowl as an example of what they want to be.
“Not ‘let’s go do this’ but simply, ‘I love you guys’,” Lurie said. “’I love you.’ Maybe it sounds hokey, but what could be more freeing of the best you have inside you than knowing you’re loved regardless of what happens?”
The Eagles have been successful because they found many good football players, but they’re also willing to look at the whole person they’re working with, rather than just a collection of numbers, and they’ve found a formula that works for them.