Eagles Wake-Up Call: Raising Questions About Howie Roseman
The Philadelphia Eagles’ recent struggles have raised questions about Doug Pederson’s job security moving forward.
The Eagles are 2-7 in their last nine games. The team’s latest loss was to a bad Bengals team. Despite the game being a must-win affair, Pederson admitted “not everybody” played hard. That’s clearly an issue.
If Pederson’s words are any indication, he’s not going anywhere, though. Does he feel like his job is secure beyond this season?
“For sure. Yeah”
And has the Eagles’ front office assured him he’s safe?
That may very well be the case. It doesn’t seem likely the Eagles are going to bail on Pederson after just one season. For as much as the Eagles have struggled in their last nine games, it’s not like this season has been a total disaster for Philadelphia. The Birds have three convincing wins over potential playoff teams. They’ve won five games with four games still remaining.
But there are still big concerns about this team as they enter the final quarter of their 2016 schedule. One of those concerns is the effort of the players. If the Eagles’ effort in the final four games resembles the (lack of) effort from the Bengals game, Pederson’s job security should not be guaranteed. It’s one thing to give Pederson some slack since the Eagles lack talent, but a lack of effort is inexcusable. Keeping a coach around whose players have visibly quit on him is a tough sell.
As head coach, Pederson’s struggles make him an easy target to focus on. But he’s hardly the only issue with the Eagles. When discussing Pederson’s future, one must also raise question about the people who hired him, including Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman.
The fact remains that the Eagles have not won a playoff game since Roseman was promoted to general manager since 2010. The team hasn’t been a total abomination during his tenure, but there has been a fair share of dysfunction since his promotion.
Let’s go back to 2013, when the Eagles were looking for a new head coach after parting ways with Andy Reid. At the time, there was concern that Roseman’s presence would prevent the Eagles from hiring a top coaching candidate. That concern appeared silly when the Eagles ended up hiring Chip Kelly, who had originally turned the Eagles down.
But just because the Eagles landed Kelly didn’t mean the concerns about Roseman weren’t true. Kelly didn’t come to Philadelphia solely to work with Roseman. He wanted his own personnel guy, so the Eagles brought in Tom Gamble (side note: Gamble and Kelly are back together with the 49ers now.) Kelly was also give full control of the 53-man roster upon his hire, which isn’t something all coaches are explicitly guaranteed.
The Eagles had a lot of success in Kelly’s first season. The team won 10 games and earned a playoff berth. The Eagles won 10 games again in 2014 but the team collapsed down the stretch and failed to qualify for the post-season. After the season was over, Gamble was fired and Roseman essentially got demoted despite earning a “promotion” to his current title. Jeffrey Lurie gave Kelly full control over the team’s player personnel department.
Kelly didn’t even last the entire 2015 season. Lurie fired him. At the same time, it became clear Roseman’s power had been restored. The former general manager was heavily involved in the Eagles’ coaching search to replace Kelly.
It was odd, though, because Lurie tried to downplay Roseman’s revival at first. Lurie had talked about searching for a new head of player personnel, but that search was never really serious and got put on hold until after the 2016 NFL Draft. It was clear Roseman was running the show once again.
It was only fair to wonder if the same concerns about Roseman during the 2013 coaching search still applied in 2016. It’s not like Roseman’s image had improved since then considering he lost a power struggle to Kelly.
Credence was given to the concerns about Roseman when the Eagles seemingly failed to hire one of their top coaching candidates earlier this year. It’s very hard to believe Pederson was their first choice. After interviewing Pederson, the Eagles oddly revisited talks with former Giants coach Tom Coughlin. The Birds also reportedly wanted to hire current Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. No joke, they even had gift baskets waiting for him. But New York kept him and the Eagles were left with Pederson.
The fact that Pederson wasn’t the Eagles’ top choice doesn’t necessarily mean he’s doomed to fail. But it’s hard to feel great about his chances of succeeding, especially given some of his rookie struggles. Game management has been an issue at times and has potentially cost them wins this year against division rivals. It’s hard not to question Pederson’s leadership abilities given how awkward and uninspiring some of his press conferences can be. Players not playing with effort only adds to concerns about Pederson’s motivation techniques.
Pederson really hasn’t been all bad this season. The feeling here is he’s actually shown some promise as a play-caller. It’s only fair to point out how Pederson really doesn’t have much offensive talent to work with.
The issue of talent brings us back to Roseman. And Kelly, too. Kelly left the Eagles in a bad spot by getting rid of some of the Eagles’ best offensive players in recent years. Kelly had a large role in cutting DeSean Jackson. He also traded LeSean McCoy away and he failed to re-sign Jeremy Maclin. Kelly didn’t draft a single offensive lineman after selecting Lane Johnson in 2013. And so on.
So far, Roseman hasn’t been able to replace that talent. In fairness, it would be hard to expect him to fix all of the Eagles’ needs in one offseason. He certainly needs more time to do that. But he might not be the right man for the job. Some of Roseman’s moves since getting the job back haven’t been great.
The in-house contract extensions Roseman handed out earlier this year haven’t been slam dunks. Zach Ertz still hasn’t broken out. Vinny Curry plays 43% of the team’s snaps despite being paid like a starter. The tape shows Fletcher Cox has played well but the $100 million man has gone eight straight games without recording a sack. Johnson, set to be the left tackle of the future, is now one failed drug test away from being suspended for two years.
Roseman’s free agency signings went a little better. Brandon Brooks has been a solid starting right guard and safety Rodney McLeod has made some big plays this year. But the signings of veteran wide receivers Rueben Randle and Chris Givens, despite being low-risk deals, turned out to be total flops at a position where the Eagles desperately need any help.
The most critical move Roseman made in the offseason was engineering a trade up to No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft in order to select Carson Wentz. The rookie passer has certainly shown franchise quarterback potential so far. He’s also struggled, though, and it’s clear he still has a lot of growing to do.
Wentz’s success (or lack thereof) will likely be the make-or-break factor for Roseman’s tenure. (Then again, sometimes it feels like almost nothing could make Roseman fall out of Lurie’s good graces.) But Pederson is a big factor in Wentz’s development. The Eagles often touted the head coach’s former experience as a quarterback a big selling point.
If Pederson proves incapable of developing Wentz, though, the Eagles will have to hire a new coach. And if that’s the case, what gives anyone faith that the current front office, Roseman included, could pick the right coach after failing to choose correctly twice since 2013?
The truth is some of these concerns might be premature. Again, Roseman isn’t all bad. The Sam Bradford trade, for example, was a masterstroke. The Eagles’ executive also deserves credit for luring Joe Douglas away from Chicago to be the team’s vice president of player personnel. Hiring Douglas could serve as evidence to dispel the aforementioned notion that no one wants to work with Roseman.
With that said, Roseman (and Lurie as well) certainly shouldn’t be above criticism when it comes to analyzing the Eagles’ recent failures. Pederson has taken a lot of heat lately, and some of it is deserved. But the bottom line is the Eagles need more talent, and it’s ultimately up to Roseman to make that happen.
This upcoming offseason is going to be very critical for the Eagles. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to upgrade the roster in order for the team to show progress next season. It still remains to be seen if Roseman is the right man to lead the Eagles to success.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“He’s not the biggest guy on the field, but that guy is a warrior and he’s going to do everything he can to win that game.” A day after Doug Pederson questioned the effort of some players in Sunday’s loss, Jim Schwartz defends Rodney McLeod‘s effort.
Where do the Eagles stand in this week’s NFL Power Rankings?
“With his long arms and that motion, [it’s] very hard to be accurate. Especially on the move.” What They’re Saying.
“It’s just things that we learn and we continue to work on.” Pederson explains Carson Wentz‘s mechanical issues, such as still throwing on his back foot.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The inflexibility by Schwartz is hurting the team, especially at the cornerback position, opines Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com.
Back in the spring, when this Eagles coaching staff still felt fresh and new, and OTAs were just getting underway, it was easy to explain away Schwartz’s decision to bury Eric Rowe on the depth chart behind Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. Looking back on it now, after Rowe was traded and the Eagles cornerbacks are decimated, it seems more like an example of the defensive coordinator’s inflexibility and arrogance.
Rowe was a second-year player with five NFL starts under his belt, and a second-round draft pick who only converted from safety to cornerback as a senior in college. McKelvin and Brooks knew Schwartz’s defense having spent a season in the system in Buffalo in 2014 — also a career year of sorts for McKelvin. It seemed like a classic case of letting veterans show a prospect the ropes while he earned his place in the lineup.
Except Rowe never really got a chance to start for the Eagles this season. By the time training camp rolled around, he still was only getting very limited looks with the first-team defense. McKelvin, who at one point was benched in Buffalo and and later moved to safety, was handed a starting job without question. Brooks, a 2012 fourth-round choice with three career starts in four seasons with the Bills, was regularly playing ahead of Rowe as well.
Since he wasn’t going to play here anyway, Rowe was traded for a conditional fourth-round selection in 2018 from the Patriots, where he is starting and playing well, mind you. According to charting numbers by Pro Football Focus, the 24-year-old is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 46.4 completion percentage, 10.9 yards per attempt and one touchdown in six games, five starts when targeted in coverage this season for New England.
Losing is starting to get on Carson Wentz, according to offensive coordinator Frank Reich, pens Bob Ford of the Inquirer.
“For a while, I thought he seemed unflappable,” Reich said Tuesday. “Now, in some of the more recent losses, . . . you sense that this is, ‘OK, he’s feeling this one, he’s feeling this one.’ Yeah, we’re all feeling it.”
Wentz is feeling it particularly because that’s what quarterbacks do. They are the focus of every team. In the last stretch of losses, to Seattle, Green Bay, and Cincinnati, just as the Eagles season was there to either save or sacrifice, Wentz has played poorly. His quarterback rating hasn’t been above 75.5 (it was a season-low 58.2 against Cincinnati) and he has thrown three touchdown passes and six interceptions. The overall rating, which was 103.5 four games into the season, is now 80.1, which puts him 28th in the league.
It is an unfair measure, for a lot of reasons, to say Wentz couldn’t keep pace with Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Andy Dalton in these last three games. None of them look around the huddle and see the same anchors that weigh down Wentz, but quarterbacks are wired to feel responsible, regardless of the circumstance.
“I think he was that young, naive, in a good sense, but still very mature guy who came in and it was like, ‘Nothing is going to get this guy down,’ ” Reich said. “But it wears on you. It wears on you. Losing wears on you in this league.”
Doug Pederson will speak with the media at 10:50.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.