Neither Chip Kelly nor Howie Roseman wants to answer the question directly.
Who has final say on decisions during the draft?
Really, all it would take is one or two words. But the head coach and general manager prefer to leave some wiggle room with their responses.
“We haven’t really gotten there,” Kelly said. “I think everybody wants to know that, like really what happens in there. But it never gets to that point. I think we look at it, analyze it and kind of come to the same conclusion. But I haven’t yet sat there and I want him and he wants him and then, you know, are we going to box for it? You know what I mean? It just hasn’t gotten there.”
The reality is there’s plenty of truth to what they say about collaboration. Roseman is in charge of scouting and football operations. Kelly is the head coach.
The key is Jeffrey Lurie has said all along that he wants the Eagles to be a coach-centric organization. That’s not specific to Kelly; that’s the owner’s overall philosophy on what works best. So when Roseman and his staff are doing year-round work on the draft, the goal is simple: find players that fit what Kelly wants.
“The funny thing and the lucky thing is we see a lot of players the same way,” Roseman said. “I think that’s probably because our job as a personnel staff is to find players with the traits that our coaching staff is looking for, how they fit in the scheme. We could find really good players that don’t fit our scheme, and they’re not going to play very well for us, and they’re not going to look very good for us. They do a great job of giving us a description of what they’re looking for, and then it’s our job to find them. We’re hopeful that the guys that we’re finally funneling down and bringing to them are guys with traits that they’re looking for.”
His comments fall in line with what he’s said before. The Eagles shrink the draft board and want to reduce variables when making their selections.
What happens though when there’s a disagreement? The Eagles use tiers, and there are trades, along with unexpected picks. In other words, nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. For example, in the first round, when the 20th pick came up, the Eagles probably felt good that either Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Oregon St. WR Brandin Cooks would fall to them.
That didn’t happen. And a decision needed to be made on what to do next. They chose to trade down, pick up an extra pick and select Louisville OLB Marcus Smith at No. 26.
“I think we can sit down and reason with it,” Kelly said. “But we disagree a lot, and I think that’s a good thing. This isn’t a building of yes men. We really go through it and then we’ll ask questions. Well, tell me your view. Why do you feel this way about him? And maybe I didn’t think of it that way. Have you ever looked at him like this? I think his value here is bigger than that value there. We’ve come to logical conclusions on it. But since I’ve been here, I know it’s only Year 2, but have we gotten to a point where we’re adamant about one and Howie is adamant about another? It hasn’t worked that way. I don’t know if we get to that point what’s going to happen, but we haven’t gotten there.”
Later in the draft, Kelly was ready to pull the trigger on defensive end Taylor Hart. Roseman convinced him to instead hold off until the fifth round. That example provides a pretty good glimpse of how the process works. Putting together the draft board is a collaborative effort. Roseman’s staff works on it year-round. Kelly watches college film on Saturdays during the season, but gets heavily involved form January through May – at the Senior Bowl, the combine, Pro Days, etc.
During the actual draft, Kelly listens, but he ultimately makes the final call on who to pick. Given that the team (and really, the whole organization) is clearly being shaped to fit his vision and knowing that Kelly has final say on the 53-man roster, it stands to reason that he wants to be the one making those decisions.
What about Oregon players? Guys that Kelly has coached and has insider knowledge about? Roseman used Josh Huff as an example.
“I know coach got up here and he says he stays away from the [Oregon] evaluations, and it’s the truth,” Roseman said. “He really does. I know when I started with Oregon in August, I don’t ask for his opinion, I tell him mine, and then if we have a difference of opinion, we kind of talk about it and he tells me what he sees. Obviously [he] really liked Josh, but as an evaluator of the personnel staff, we really like Josh because it’s easy to see what he does in our offense, so it’s an easy transition for us.”
Again, though, if Roseman’s job is to find players Kelly likes, targeting someone like Huff seems like a no-brainer.
One of Roseman’s primary responsibilities during the draft was to maneuver in a way that allowed the Eagles to maximize their resources. In other words, you could argue that picks like Jordan Matthews, Huff and Hart carried a “gotta have ’em” feel. That can be dangerous. But from this perspective, that’s on the head coach. He targets the players he really wants, and it’s the GM’s job to figure out the best way to get them.
In that respect, it seems Roseman had a good weekend. He convinced Kelly to hold off on Hart. He picked up an extra third-rounder before the Eagles picked Smith. He got (at worst) fourth-round value for Bryce Brown. And he found a way to get Kelly the receivers he wanted (even if the team might have taken Huff a little early). You can argue with the process and even the picks, but there’s no evidence that Roseman played his hand incorrectly with any of those maneuvers.
There could be hurdles down the line. What happens when the two sides adamantly disagree about a player? What happens when Kelly really wants to hold on to a veteran at a high price when it doesn’t make cap sense? What happens if Year 2 is a step back after a successful Year 1? Does the structure change?
Roseman would likely love to have the same control as some of the other GMs around the league. But for now, he said he doesn’t view the situation as Kelly usurping any of the power he’s gained over the years.
“I never thought of it that way at all,” he said. “It’s no different… I may go to a school after three of our scouts, and I know the running back coach, and all of a sudden he gives me a different piece of information, and that helps us circle back. So what we do is we accumulate all of that information, we see if it’s consistent. If it’s inconsistent, now we’ve got to figure out why it’s inconsistent. We’ve got to ask more questions. I think that’s part of the piece of the puzzle. We all know it helps schools… I don’t think it’s any secret, it helps schools to get kids drafted higher. So who are you going to trust there? Who are you going to listen to? We utilize everyone in trying to get information. No. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”