The Eagles made a really interesting move on Wednesday. They hired Tom Gamble to be the VP of Player Personnel. Gamble had worked for the Niners since 2005, as both a college and pro scout. He’s got a lot of experience and a strong reputation around the league. This appears to be a great move.
My only hesitation is trying to understand why Gamble would make a lateral move to the Eagles. He was the Director of Player Personnel in SF and worked closely with GM Trent Baalke. Gamble had worked his way up the ladder there. He was talking to the Jags, Jets, and Chargers about their GM openings back in early January. His interview with the Jets reportedly did not go well. This could mean that he didn’t do a good job of giving them answers or that he was too blunt and they didn’t like what he had to say.
Per Geoff Mosher’s report, it could be that Gamble wanted to move back to Philly for family reasons. His father Harry worked for the Eagles in the Buddy Ryan era and Tom still has family in the area. Tom also worked for the Eagles back then. Why would SF let Gamble leave? We can only guess. They do have a strong GM in Baalke. I would imagine Jim Harbaugh is heavily involved in things. Maybe they’ve got some young guys they’re looking to promote.
Gamble did most of his work in SF on the pro side of things. He has done plenty of college scouting over the years. He worked as a college scout for Bill Polian in Indy when that franchise was elite. Gamble did get more college responsibilities in the last couple of years in SF as they were trying to expand his duties and area of influence.
One thing must be understood here and this ties into the earlier post I did on the Eagles roster. It wasn’t just great scouting by the Niners that led to their recent success. It was a marriage of scouting, drafting, and coaching. Mike Iupati was a 1st round OG. So was Danny Watkins. Iupati has played in the NFL for 3 years. His team has thrown 1,387 passes in those 3 seasons. Watkins has been an Eagle for just 2 years. His team has thrown 1,172 passes. Both guys are gifted run blockers and inconsistent pass blockers. Which player was put in a better position? Iupati is a much better player and was a better prospect so I’m not trying to compare them as equals, but the point is that the Niners organization has better symmetry between the scouting, drafting, and coaching sides. Take players who fit what you do. Use them in a way that they can thrive.
Too often I think fans assume personnel guys are good or bad evaluators based on how things turn out. That’s not always the case. Howie Roseman will get blamed by many for the Jaiquawn Jarrett pick, but I found out in Mobile that he wasn’t the person who made the pick. I can’t give full details, but you probably can guess who did make the pick. (No, it wasn’t Kurt Coleman). Jermane Mayberry looked like a bad pick until Andy Reid got here. Andy didn’t do anything magical. He just realized that Mayberry wasn’t meant to play OT so he moved him to RG and Mayberry was right at home for the next several years, even making a Pro Bowl.
Gamble was part of a very good situation in SF. Things have been somewhat dysfunctional in Philly for the last few years. Part of that is due to switching systems. Sean McDermott wanted a hybrid cover LB like Keenan Clayton. Juan Castillo didn’t seem to have much use for him. Antonio Dixon was terrific for parts of 2010, but never fit into Jim Washburn’s desire for attacking DL. And so on.
The Eagles need to stick with some systems for 3 or 4 years, no matter what. That will give the scouts time to find the players who fit them. it will give the assistants time to develop the players to play in those systems. It makes the scouts and guys like Gamble and Howie look a lot smarter.
Howie says that Gamble isn’t here to be a “yes man”. That’s good news. I wish Gamble was here in 2011 to tell them the idea of Nnamdi, Asante, and DRC was a disaster waiting to happen. Chip Kelly and Howie will still control the roster, but you can bet Gamble would not have come here unless he was going to have a vote at the table. In doing some reading on Gamble, a few people mentioned the fact he’s not in this for glamour or ego. He’s just a football guy.
I think this is an outstanding move by Howie to add a smart, veteran personnel guy to the mix. Louis Riddick runs the pro side of things. Anthony Patch is the head of college scouting. I think pretty highly of those guys. Gamble will now be their boss and help each of them. Because of his background and track record I don’t expect any bruised egos or hurt feelings. Things might be different if Howie was pushing a buddy or someone who was unqualified. Gamble and Howie have a professional relationship, but aren’t going to get together to chug beer, eat Funyuns, and listen to Zeppelin bootlegs (which is why I don’t fully trust them).
Howie is very aggressive when it comes to personnel moves. He’s desperate to get the Eagles to win big. He wants to do anything in his power to help the team win. That’s great, but it can lead you to maybe do too much at times. Gamble might be a good sounding board for him. Just because a move sounds good in theory doesn’t mean it will work in reality. Under Gamble’s watch, the Niners made a lot of smart free agent moves. Some were big, some small. He had a knack for knowing what the right moves were. We’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team. Fit matters. Get the right guys.
Some people see this hire as a sign that the Eagles are going to really gut the roster. I’ve already covered that topic. I don’t think it will happen or that it needs to. The Eagles were one of the youngest teams in the NFL this year. The key for the Eagles is identifying who needs to stay and who needs to go. Gamble will bring an outsider’s perspective and that’s a very good thing. I hope his first advice to Howie is to get rid of Mr. Grey Poupon, aka Nnamdi.
There will be plenty of roster change, but that’s true every year. Adding a quality talent evaluator like Gamble can only help as the Eagles make their decisions.
I do think this move says a lot about Howie Roseman. He hired someone with outstanding credentials. It would have been easy for Howie to hire a young guy that would be extremely loyal. Instead, Howie hired the best guy available. I really don’t think the average fan understands just how bad Howie wants to win. He’s got veteran personnel guys like Tom Donahoe, Rick Mueller, and Greg Gabriel helping the Eagles prepare for the draft. Now Gamble will help in FA and the draft. Howie will do anything he can to help get this team back on track.