Eagles GM Howie Roseman is a really interesting guy. He should be someone that fans admire because of the way he’s climbed the ladder despite not having the typical background. Because of that background, he makes some fans nervous and they don’t feel comfortable with him as GM.
I think Howie controls his own destiny. He needs to do 2 things. First, he must get the team back to winning big. Second, he must find a franchise QB. If he can do those things, I think fans will start to embrace him. If the team continues to struggle and QB remains a weak spot, Howie’s background is going to be a huge target for his critics.
If Howie can ever deliver a Super Bowl title, there will be some serious revisionist history going on and the history books will talk about the fact he’s been loved by everyone since Day 1. The argument would then switch to who loved him the most.
Howie is far from perfect, but I am very much on board with the direction of the team right now. Chip Kelly was the coach I wanted. That’s who the Eagles hired. The team had multiple holes to fill. I wanted them to use free agency to add potential starters (but not stars) for those spots. The team did just that.
I’m impressed by the way Howie has adjusted on the job. In 2011, he had the Eagles adding talented players left and right. That didn’t work out. I think he fell into the trap that the Patriots talk about. “We’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team.”
Howie and the Eagles added high character veteran players to put the team over the top. Things had gone well in 2010. The Eagles had a ton of cap room and there were lots of available players (at good prices). The team then went on a shopping spree. On paper, things were great.
Too bad that wasn’t the case in reality. The team had zero chemistry and blew up. I think Howie made some assumptions that proved to be false. He signed players who fit the schemes. They were team leaders and good people. They were coming here to play for a proven, smart coach. The players wanted to be here. What could go wrong?
Howie’s plans were logical, but he failed to understand the dynamics of a team. You can’t bring in that many guys and have them all swallow their egos and still get along well and play their best football. Ronnie Brown was a workhorse RB. Steve Smith was a workhorse WR. They came here and got minimal touches. That was a huge adjustment for them. Trying to play Nnamdi, Asante, and DRC together was a disaster. The 2011 Eagles were very talented, but the players just didn’t fit their roles very well.
Compare that to this year. Bradley Fletcher is a former starter that was the #3 CB last year. He can start or function as a role player. Isaac Sopoaga was heavily rotated last year. Jason Phillips was brought in as a backup and STer. Safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips are both here to prove something. Kenny wants to show he’s healthy and can still play. Chung wants to show that NE made a mistake by benching him and then letting him leave. Cary Williams has a permanent chip on his shoulder. James Casey was under-used by the Texans and wants a bigger role.
We’re not asking this class of FAs to do less and try to fit in. We’re asking them to do more and be important parts of the team. At the same time, they aren’t getting paid huge money. They won’t become fat cats that obsess on their bank statements more than their playbooks.
I think Howie learned a huge lesson from 2011. That’s good. Think about how many teams make mistakes and don’t learn. Howie did very little in FA in 2012. This year he ramped things back up, but with a different approach. This isn’t Dan Snyder saying “Well, that group didn’t work so let’s pay a new group even more money and that will solve the problem.”
Some of you wonder why I refer to Howie as being so aggressive. In 2 of the last 3 years, the Eagles have been super-aggressive in FA. I’m sure Joe Banner had some hand in the 2011 spending spree, but I think a lot of that was Howie’s idea. He saw a chance to add talent to a good team and maybe put us over the top. He had a good basic idea, but chose the wrong type of players. We needed more Evan Mathis and Derek Landri types.
In 2012 we didn’t go sign other players, but did aggressively re-sign our own players. I had serious reservations about keeping DeSean Jackson. Howie got that deal done. He got Shady and Mathis to sign long term deals. There was a bit of risk with the Djax and Mathis deals, but both players played well in 2012 and we’re happy to have them on board as we start the Chip Kelly era.
Back in 2010, Howie coveted DE Julius Peppers. That was the FA he wanted to sign and be the foundation for the offseason. It would give the Eagles freedom in the draft. Instead, the Bears had Lovie Smith stalking Peppers and they got him signed right away. That completely changed the Eagles plans. The Eagles then traded up from 24th to 13th and drafted Brandon Graham. I don’t know who in the organization was pushing for the pass rusher, but Howie made it happen.
Last year Howie traded up to draft Fletcher Cox. I thought we might have to go as high as #6 to get him, but instead Howie played it cool and only had to move up a couple of spots.
In 2 of the last 3 years. the Eagles have been very aggressive in free agency. In 2 of the last 3 drafts, the Eagles traded up to get a player they targeted. That’s why I’m telling you Howie is an aggressive GM.
I’m not saying that’s always the right approach. Ted Thompson is patient and committed to the draft. That strategy has worked brilliantly for him. Tom Heckert was patient. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. Think back to 2005. We went into the season with Stephen Spach, an undrafted rookie, as the backup TE to LJ Smith. Under Roseman, the Eagles have been cutting backup TEs that other teams signed away.
At the same time, team chemistry was worlds better under Heckert than Roseman (except for 2005 and the TO debacle). Heckert, like Reid, was patient and believed in giving players a chance to develop. Roseman isn’t as patient and to this point, has shown a willingness to add veterans. I didn’t think Reid did enough with signing veteran FAs to fill depth spots. You can question whether Roseman does that too much. Finding the right balance is the tricky part.
I think Howie did a terrific job with the 2012 draft. I think Howie can scout players and evaluate talent. We do need to see him add a major star to the lineup and also a QB. Maybe Foles is that guy. Time will tell on that. Fletcher Cox might prove to be the star player. He was good as a rookie, but we need a flat-out difference maker.
Howie still does an outstanding job of negotiating deals and getting players under contract. Agents seem to like him. Players seem to relate to Howie. That’s a good thing.
The upcoming draft and season will be huge to Howie’s future. If Chip Kelly and Nick Foles lead the Eagles to a 9-7 record and playoff spot, life will be pretty good. If Kelly is lost, Foles is terrible and the draft produces minimal results, Howie might be hanging out with me next year at the Senior Bowl as we stalk Eagles scouts and coaches for scoops on what the team wants to do.
Kelly could prove to be a boost to Howie. Chip has specific types of players that he wants. Andy Reid was more erratic. If Howie is able to find the guys Chip wants, that helps the team’s chances of succeeding. Of course, Chip must show that he’s got Reid’s ability to coach players and win at the NFL level. Andy had his faults, but the man only had 3 losing records in 14 seasons. He knew what he was doing, even if he confused us more than a couple of times.
If a coach and GM can get on the same page, the team can really thrive. The one bit of advice I’d offer Howie is to focus on fit more than raw talent. Demetress Bell has the talent to be a starting LT in the NFL. He was solid (or better) in Buffalo. Bell just wasn’t a good fit for the scheme. You can’t always make talent fit what you do. Forcing the issue can prove to be a waste of time and resources. I can’t specifically blame Howie for Bell. That might be a player that Reid or Mudd pushed for. I know Howie stayed in touch with his agent and hoped Bell could come here. Whether Howie was the driving force or not, he signed off on a player that proved to be a complete disaster.
I certainly don’t expect Howie to be perfect. Ron Wolf wasn’t. Ted Thompson isn’t. No GM or coach is. You are going to draft and sign some duds. That’s just reality. I do think Howie has done a good job this year and that he’s got the Eagles on the right track.
Is Chip Kelly going to be a home run hire? Can we find a QB? These questions will play a huge part in deciding Howie Roseman’s legacy.