The Aftermath: Five Thoughts On the Eagles
We’re not even a week removed from the Eagles’ final regular-season game, yet the franchise that is still in search of its first Lombardi Trophy has already had an eventful offseason with the moves that have taken place in the past 72 hours.
Below are five thoughts on everything that has happened and what it means going forward.
1. The Eagles sent out two different statements Friday evening. One contained Jeffrey Lurie’s announcement of new roles for Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman. The second contained expanded thoughts from Lurie on the future of the franchise.
In that statement, the owner offered the following on how the new setup came about.
“I have a very good relationship with Chip that continues to grow stronger and stronger,” Lurie said. “When we spoke, he was thoughtful, thorough and professional. There were no demands, no threats – quite the contrary – he was passionate, engaged and articulated a dynamic and clear vision on how this fully integrated approach will work. We look forward to seeing it come to life over time.”
No demands? No threats? On the surface, maybe that was true. But the potential of Kelly bolting – maybe not immediately, but in the near future – must have had a significant impact on Lurie’s decisions.
Just think about the timeline. On Sunday, Lurie scoffed at the idea that Roseman might not return as the GM. On Monday, Kelly pointed out that Roseman’s strength was in cap/contracts. On Wednesday, Tom Gamble was fired. And on Friday, Lurie called an audible and handed full personnel control over to Kelly.
“When I said – after the Giants game – that Howie was returning as general manager next season, I meant that,” Lurie said. “But after carefully listening and reflecting on the lengthy discussions that I had with our senior team, I changed my mind.”
In other words, Kelly must have been pretty convincing. And while Lurie is certainly close to Roseman, he decided that giving way to Kelly’s vision was in the best interest of the franchise.
2. On the day the Eagles announced Andy Reid’s firing two years ago, Lurie spent part of his press conference answering questions about Roseman.
“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,” he said. “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.
“I want everyone to understand: Howie is accountable, responsible and that’s the way it is. But I’m looking at the 2012 draft and offseason as the beginning of when he was given enough responsibility to put his mark on the team in a very dramatic way.”
Compare those comments to how Friday’s statement described Roseman’s new role:
Howie Roseman will be elevated to the role of Executive Vice President of Football Operations and will continue directing contract negotiations, salary cap management, and NFL strategic matters, while overseeing the team’s medical staff, equipment staff and more.
I understand the Eagles had to spin this a certain way, but the idea that Roseman has been “elevated” to anything is laughable. He has been with the organization for 16 years, starting out on the business side before moving over to the personnel side. And now, Roseman finds himself with zero say on personnel matters.
He wanted to move from cap/contracts to talent evaluation. He outlasted other execs and had the owner’s ear. He became the youngest GM in the league and often talked about how much he loved the draft process.
Yet here he is. Three years after taking a leading role in the 2012 draft, Roseman is no longer part of the process, and his job description includes overseeing the team’s equipment staff. Instead of trying to prove that someone from a non-traditional background can assemble a Super Bowl-caliber roster, Roseman will be separated from the football guys.
In exchange for the decreased control, Lurie rewarded him with a contract extension – a financial apology of sorts.
What’s the end game for Roseman? Maybe he explores opportunities elsewhere on the personnel side. Maybe he waits it out, dutifully serves his new role and eventually gets a chance to go back to talent evaluation down the road in Philadelphia.
But let’s be clear: Other than some financial security, this is a clear step back for Roseman.
3. Most of the feedback I’ve received from readers has been positive. Many seem to think this is a great move for the Eagles franchise.
But I’m not sure I see it that way.
After two years and one playoff appearance, Kelly is now one of the most powerful coaches in the NFL. He will oversee talent acquisition, trades, the draft, free agency, re-signings, etc. And to this point, I haven’t seen a whole lot of evidence that he’s skilled in those areas at the professional level.
There is less ambiguity now. In 2014, Kelly’s fingerprints were all over the draft. The Eagles took Oregon WR Josh Huff in the third round and Oregon DL Taylor Hart in the fifth. At the time, Kelly explained that Roseman had to convince him not to take Hart sooner. In other words, Kelly was still calling the shots, but others at least had some influence on the process.
The Eagles have made some nice additions on defense in the past two years (Connor Barwin, Malcolm Jenkins, Bennie Logan), but the best players on offense (LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce) are largely leftovers from the previous regime.
From the DeSean Jackson release to the Riley Cooper re-signing to the lack of O-Line depth to the Huff pick to the addition of Mark Sanchez, there haven’t been a lot of hits. The Jordan Matthews pick looks like a winner, and Darren Sproles was a nice addition, but the jury’s still out on Kelly’s ability to find the right players for his offense at the NFL level. In our year-end evaluation of Kelly, we noted that player development has been a strength, but talent evaluation (so far) has not.
Interesting nugget here from Les Bowen of the Daily News:
Sources with knowledge of the situation have said that last May, Roseman’s scouting staff was really ticked when the coaches were allowed to change a draft board that the scouts had set – part of the ongoing conflict that led to yesterday’s restructuring.
Kelly will be allowed to hand-pick a personnel executive who will help him in these matters, and that hire is crucial. But the setup doesn’t appear to have a system of checks and balances in place. The new exec will presumably report directly to Kelly. And Kelly reports directly to Lurie.
Is there anyone around to tell Kelly no? Will the new guy be skilled in evaluation and have Kelly’s ear?
Could the owner ultimately put his foot down? Sure. But if this week’s events are any indication, that’s unlikely to happen. And even if it does, Kelly will always have other options. What would keep him here under what he might perceive to be unfavorable circumstances?
Bottom line: The Eagles will sink or swim under a singular vision, and that vision will be Kelly’s. I don’t know right now if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I also don’t know what other options Lurie had if he wanted to retain his head coach.
4. I think to some degree Reid’s shadow looms over these moves. The former head coach had power struggles of his own when he was here, and don’t forget that he spoke with Kelly before Kelly accepted the Eagles job.
“One person that I really want to thank, in terms of advice in this whole thing, was Andy Reid,” Kelly said on the day he was hired. “And the fact that Andy reached out to me and told me about his experience here just told me what this organization’s all about. There’s not a classier guy.”
On the same day that Lurie fired Reid, he praised Roseman.
Is it a coincidence that Kelly didn’t seem to respect Roseman’s football acumen from the jump, and the Eagles brought Gamble in?
The end of Reid’s tenure also serves as a reminder of what can happen when a head coach who has full control gets in over his head. The only example we really need to cite here is the decision to move Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. At the time, no one was able to convince Reid that he should go in another direction. He made the decisions, and he did what he wanted.
To be clear, the Eagles won a lot of games with Reid calling the shots. But the end also showed what can happen without the proper checks in place when a head coach (who already has a lot on his plate) is asked to take on added responsibilities.
5. Ending with some leftovers:
* The Gamble firing is the equivalent of The Nisha Call here. If Kelly is going to add a personnel evaluator, why was Gamble shown the door? A couple theories. One, the decision to fire him was Roseman’s, and Kelly convinced Lurie of this new setup after Gamble was let go. Or two, even though bringing Gamble on board was really Kelly’s move, perhaps he decided that having Gamble as his right-hand man going forward was not in the best interest of the team, and it really was a unified decision.
* What’s going to happen when the Eagles have to cut a well-respected veteran or ask one for a pay cut? Will this set up a good cop/bad cop situation where Kelly can say: “We want to keep you, but Roseman and the guys upstairs are giving me a hard time about the contract.” Will players see right through that, knowing Kelly has been handed full control of personnel? Will the Eagles hang on to veterans longer than they should (#culture) and suffer from some unwise financial decisions? This is an aspect of the organization to monitor closely this offseason.
* Kelly loves to redirect the narrative, and sometimes it can come back to bite him. Here’s what he said during his introductory press conference two years ago.
“I’ve heard questions [indicating] that I want control over this, control over that,” he said. “That has never been an issue, never is an issue for me. I’m a football coach. I’m not a general manager. I’m not a salary cap guy. I coach football. I need people who can go out there and say, ‘Hey this is what you want. These are the people.’ And it’s going to be a collaboration. We’re all going to be on the same page. I’ve got no delusions of saying that I want all these different titles. I just want to coach football.”
Maybe that was true, and Roseman just wasn’t the guy he wanted to work with. Or maybe he believes he needs that full control to be successful.
* And finally, some Tweets that stood out:
Still feel the best GM/HC dynamic is when their fates are linked. Ship rises or sinks together. Otherwise one will always throw water off it
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) January 3, 2015
.@SheilKapadia he just has to announce the uniforms are back to Kelly green and he’ll walk on water — Ball Dropper (@ViceCityEsq) January 3, 2015
Can’t argue with this:
The biggest winner in this news is clearly Will Murphy.
— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) January 2, 2015
Translation: Chip was very ticked off and we gave him what he wanted. — Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) January 2, 2015