Senior Bowl Diary: A Year Later, Eagles Feeling Settled

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MOBILE, Ala. – Five days after the Eagles hired Chip Kelly, he was in Mobile, Ala. attending Senior Bowl practices.

In less than a week, he had made a life-changing decision, delivered a tearful goodbye to his players at Oregon, addressed the fans and media in Philadelphia and gotten started on the scouting process for the 2013 draft.

And then there was Howie Roseman.

Andy Reid and Joe Banner were gone, but the Eagles’ GM was by Jeffrey Lurie’s side as the owner hand-picked the organization’s next head coach. Roseman was tasked with finding out what Kelly wanted from a personnel standpoint and getting the team back on track after a disastrous 4-12 campaign.

A year later, with an NFC East title under their belts, the decision-makers in the Eagles’ organization feel a much greater sense of stability.

“No question,” said Roseman, seated high in the bleachers at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “When the season ended last year, we were on a coaching search for three weeks and then went on assistant search, and it was hard to sit down and watch players. It was hard to sit down and meet as a scouting staff. Now we have everyone in place. We’ve been very fortunate at this point to keep all of our personnel staff together. I think we have a really good staff of people. That’s exciting for us all to be together and speaking the same language and then going through a season feeling more confident in what our coaches want and what they’re looking for really helps us.”

Kelly knew what he wanted right away when he became an NFL head coach. He went over specific measurables for each position as the Eagles installed a new offense and switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

But teams can’t completely overhaul rosters in one offseason. Now the coaches and personnel staff have had a chance to see which pieces fit and which don’t going forward.

“I think it’s natural for them too – going through the season and seeing our roster,” Roseman said. “We knew all along that last year was kind of a trial and error period for some of the guys on our roster and for some of the things that we were looking for.”

Another difference from a year ago is that the Eagles have vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble in the mix. Gamble was still with the 49ers at this time last year. Earlier this month, he spoke with the Dolphins and Bucs about their GM openings, but ultimately decided to stay put.

Gamble has been up for GM openings in each of the past two offseasons. Roseman’s happy he’s sticking around, but knows he needs to have a plan in place should Gamble decide he wants to move on in the near future.

“Selfishly I want to keep all our guys, but it’s important that they grow, and if they feel like they have an opportunity, we’re gonna support them in that too because they have families and they’re in this business to get promoted and get good jobs if we have success,” Roseman said. “So hopefully we’re in the position where we are having success and people are coming after our guys because that’s a compliment. That means we’re doing a good job.

“You talk about Tom and what kind of person he is and what kind of evaluator he is, it’s a big addition to our staff. At the same time, it’s like any position on your team. You better have depth at that spot. And you better be prepared in case somebody leaves. I feel really confident that if and when somebody leaves and gets promoted and gets a better job that we have guys ready to step in and take their place. But hopefully that doesn’t happen for a long time.”

Early returns on the 2012 and 2013 drafts are looking positive. The Eagles’ staff will finish up at the Senior Bowl, head back to Philadelphia and then move on to Indianapolis for the scouting combine next month. With free agency looming in March, there’s plenty of work to be done.

But Roseman, Kelly and company feel like they have a process in place to keep the arrow pointing in the right direction heading into 2014.

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