Roseman Reflects On What Went Wrong With Watkins

Danny WatkinsHowie Roseman had a few different options in attempting to answer a question he clearly knew was coming.

Hours after the Eagles decided to release 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins, Roseman sat at the head of a conference room table at the NovaCare Complex and was asked to set the record straight on what his role was in selecting the offensive lineman.

“As you’ve seen here, a lot of the leadership positions and the responsibilities have changed in our organization,” Roseman said. “So when you have changes that are so drastic in an organization, there’s also going to be drastic changes on the field and the way you do things. We’ve obviously changed a lot of people in our personnel department. We’ve changed the way that we look at things because we have new people in place. I think that’s gonna be different just because the nature of personalities and people trying to do their own things and whether that’s me and our personnel staff or Chip [Kelly] and his coaching staff or Don [Smolenski] as the president of the team, it’s gonna be different.”

The message was clear: No trip down memory lane, but we’re not going to make the same mistakes again.

As Tim pointed out last week, Andy Reid gave Roseman credit for the Watkins pick shortly after the draft.

“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top,” Reid said at the time. “This was a guy that he really wanted and liked.”

But when owner Jeffrey Lurie addressed reporters earlier this year, he absolved Roseman of blame for the 2011 draft.

“I keep voluminous notes on talent evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each person that is in the organization that’s working here,” Lurie said in January. “I came to the conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation in the building was Howie Roseman. I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason and that’s the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for. The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations and I think it was important for me to own up to the mistakes that were made and understand where they were coming from, and it was awfully clear.”

Lurie had the scorecard. He sent Reid and Joe Banner packing. And he decided to keep Roseman as he ushered in a new era with Kelly.

As for Watkins, we pointed out earlier that many scouts, analysts and personnel people thought he was a good prospect coming out of school. The issue for the Eagles was more about deciding to take a 26-year-old guard in the first round than mis-evaluating a prospect.

Asked what he remembers about his personal evaluation of Watkins, Roseman said: “When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia. And that’s one of the things I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer. And he never let himself go here on that. And I don’t know why that was. I told him that was part of the thing that I was the most confused by because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw in his play on the field. And I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here.

“Part of his personality, and you talk about him being a firefighter, is that he feels like he has to help save people, and he put a lot of pressure on himself and he couldn’t just go out and play. I think getting away from Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him.”

As for the need to take age into account during the draft, Roseman made it sound like the Eagles learned multiple lessons from the Watkins pick and looking back, probably should have seen some of the warning signs.

“There have been some guys in the last couple of drafts who have been over-age, and we’ve spent a lot of time just looking at that,” he said. “And I think I’d answer it this way: When you’re successful in anything, especially in football, a lot of times coaches are selfish, they want to win games. So they’re going to put you out there really early. You’re gonna play at a really young age. And you’re gonna play a lot at a young age. So when you look around the NFL at the successful players, there’s not a lot of guys that are one-year starters and are seniors or playing at a later age. And it makes sense because if you’re really that talented, people find you.”

The Eagles’ expectations when they selected Watkins were for him to step in and play right away at a high level. But that didn’t happen. He did not play well in 12 starts as a rookie. Going into his second season, he didn’t take well to the coaching of Howard Mudd and struggled again through six starts. He suffered through what Reid called a “chronic” ankle injury and then was benched for journeyman Jake Scott.

Now, Watkins, who turns 29 in November, is left to figure out what’s next for him. The Eagles, meanwhile, will move forward with hopes of not repeating similar mistakes in the future.

“You’re disappointed,” Roseman said. “You’re disappointed when any of your players don’t work out obviously. And when they’re first-round picks, it’s more of a disappointment. I think if there’s a positive to it, in the last couple of years, we were able to really evaluate ourselves and make some substantial changes in how we do things. Going forward, I think that’s really gonna benefit us. And I think it’s benefited us already.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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