PHILADELPHIA — In March 2017, just before the Philadelphia Eagles embarked on their first Super Bowl run in franchise history, chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie called the hiring of Joe Douglas “the pivotal moment of the last year.”
Carson Wentz was coming off a promising rookie season, flashing traits of a franchise quarterback, but Lurie said he was getting more props from general managers at the NFL owners meetings for attracting Douglas and his right-hand man, Andy Weidl, to Philadelphia than just about anything else.
“[Executive vice president of football operations] Howie [Roseman] and I discussed when he was going to be in the football operations role was he had to have a top-notch player personnel department or we were going to find somebody who could find a great player personnel department,” Lurie said. “That was his responsibility. He went out and recruited Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl, and they’ve put something together that I hope can be truly special.”
Eleven months later, after the Lombardi Trophy was secured by the Eagles, one of the many personal moments shared inside the U.S. Bank Stadium locker room was between Lurie and Douglas, who embraced in front of the banner that read “Super Bowl LII champions” as the party raged around them.
Lurie’s praise of Douglas was more tepid when he spoke at the league meetings this past March, calling Joe “terrific” before quickly turning attention to the “slew” of talented evaluators in the building that have the Eagles well-positioned for when they inevitability lose top executives.
In other words, he was preparing the public for the loss of Douglas.
Lurie is right about the Eagles having a deep pool of in-house talent to draw from. They hired Andrew Berry as the team’s vice president of football operations in February. The Harvard grad previously worked for the Cleveland Browns as VP of player personnel — the same title Douglas had with the Eagles. There is also a school of thought in the scouting community that Weidl, the director of player personnel, will get bumped up into his old partner’s role.
The loss of Douglas isn’t a death blow for Philly, but it shouldn’t be underplayed what the Eagles are losing — and the Jets are getting — in Douglas. Serving under Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, Douglas worked in the Ravens’ personnel department for 16 years (2000-15) and had a hand in obtaining players such as linebacker C.J. Mosley, guard Marshal Yanda and quarterback Joe Flacco. He spent a year as the Chicago Bears‘ director of college scouting before joining the Eagles, where he oversaw the day-to-day personnel operation and helped construct a Super Bowl roster.
Considered a scout’s scout, Douglas’ traditional approach to evaluating served as a nice counterweight in an increasingly analytics-driven organization. He values production over measurables, and character makeup above perhaps all else. He’s looking for leaders and he’s looking for players who are football-obsessed.
“At some point, these guys are going to be challenged,” he said prior to April’s NFL draft. “They’re going to hit rock bottom. And they’re going to have to be able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and show that they can withstand the adversity.”
Douglas is well-liked by his peers and is good for building morale. He is quick to give credit where it is deserved and checks his ego at the door. He has shown an ability to work in conjunction with a very present and powerful analytics arm, even though that world was somewhat foreign to him when he arrived in Philly.
“We’re big believers in how we’ve brought together a staff of different viewpoints and perspectives and all come to the same conclusion,” he said. “We all speak our minds and we all have strong viewpoints, but at the end of the day we respect each other’s work and respect each other’s decision.”
Weidl possesses many of the same traits and, having worked so closely with Douglas in Baltimore and Philadelphia, will likely have a similar approach and presence should he get Douglas’ gig.
It worked in Philly because Lurie and Roseman filled the room with gifted evaluators who came at things from different backgrounds, and worked to blend their findings in the name of making good decisions. Douglas’ part can be looked at as adding soul to the machine.
He’ll bring that and a sharpened scouting eye to the Jets. Whether his run there ends in success will depend on whether the other necessary components are placed around him.