Leadership

Posted: January 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 72 Comments »

How does a team go from 12-4 to 2-14 in a single year? The Houston Texans did that from 2012 to 2013. The biggest problem was that Matt Schaub completely fell apart and threw pick-6′s at an alarming pace. One other issue is that the Texans had slowly let go of a lot of key leaders. They traded/released/lost RT Eric Winston, MLB DeMeco Ryans, OLB Connor Barwin, TE James Casey, WR Kevin Walter, NT Shaun Cody and Glover Quin.

Not all of the players left between 2012 and 2013. The exodus took place over a couple of years. Each of those players started at least 3 years for the Texans. Some were really key players. Others were more of the role player variety, but were important for their intangibles and helping team chemistry.

A team can move along smoothly when things are going well. Leaders and high character players are important when things start to go awry. The Steelers started off 0-4. They were able to rely on key leaders and rallied to finish 8-8. Houston started off 2-0. They lost the last 14 games.

So often we think of leadership as rah-rah stuff. Most of the time it is more about doing the right thing and players holding one another accountable. That doesn’t make for compelling storylines, but it’s the truth.

I’m talking about all of this because the Eagles have some tough choices coming up. Players like Todd Herremans, Brent Celek, Jason Avant, Trent Cole and DeMeco Ryans have been important for the Eagles on and off the field. They are now getting to the point in their careers when the team has to start looking into replacing them.

It is easy to think about how great it would be to add an explosive LB to replace Cole. Or a speedy LB to replace Ryans. Or a receiver with RAC ability and kick return skills to replace Avant. Having better athletes in those spots would help the Eagles in some key situations. But you have to weigh that against the intangibles that the veterans bring to the table.

Chip Kelly praised Celek every chance he got. That is clearly a player he holds in high regard. Bill Davis praised Cole every single week. That’s not someone you cut loose in a casual manner.

Every football team is a balance of the past, present and future. You have the head coach, assistant coaches, scouts and GM all looking at things differently. They want to reward the players who have done well for the team. Then money comes into play. How much money is a player worth? What value do you put on intangibles? And the worst thing you can do is let a team get old. The GM and coach must always keep an eye to the future.

The Steelers have probably kept too many veterans in recent years. That team has a lot of key players getting old at the same time and that’s dangerous. The Cardinals are one of the oldest teams in the league. That helped them have a breakthrough season, but now they have to look at which players need to be replaced. Do they count on John Abraham to be just as good in 2014, at age 36, or was 2013 just an anomaly? Answer too many questions like that wrong and the coach/GM will be getting replaced.

I think Jason Avant needs to be replaced. I love the guy to death, but in this offense I just don’t think he’s a great fit or highly valuable player. I love his blocking and everything he does off the field. Avant was important for the team in 2013. He helped to calm the waters after the Riley Cooper incident. Avant set a good example for the young guys every day. Remember how he worked with rookie Russell Shepard? They spent time working with the JUGS machine every day after practice. Shepard didn’t make the team, but the only reason he came so close to doing it is Avant’s work with him. Would any of the other receivers have filled that role?

By the 2015 offseason, we could see Herremans, Celek, Cole and Ryans all gone. The Eagles need to start looking for replacements for them in terms of position, but also in terms of leadership. Connor Barwin has quickly made an impact on the team. Bennie Logan could end up being a leader. Jason Kelce is becoming an important leader. Nick Foles could be the most important of all, because of the position he plays.

We know Chip Kelly places a lot of importance on player interviews. This should help him find some new leaders in upcoming draft classes. The Eagles will need that help.

_


  • http://iKillRats.com/ Charlie Kelly

    Hmmm.. idk.. i mean i can def understand getting rid of avant for the reasons stated, but if we draft a WR who better to show him the ropes then avant?

    • Cafone

      Bob Bicknell?

      • http://iKillRats.com/ Charlie Kelly

        Jason Avant?

    • Anders

      That is the question, do you pay Avant 1 mill (roster bonus 15 march) where you go into the draft and TC and know you most likely are going to cut him?

      • guestpeace

        Hire Avant as assistant coach?

        • JJ_Cake

          eventually, but he’s still got some tread on the tire.

  • shah8

    The story that’s not emphasized enough is the loss of veterans on the OL. Not just Winston, but a guard as well. The replacement just wasn’t as good, and little things went wrong in the run game. Add to that, injury to the LT. On the other hand, if they keep the ZBS, the replacements should get better, and hopefully for them LT Duane Brown has a healthy year. Some of this was just an Eagles 2012 year for them. Bad/unhealthy OL makes everything work less. What made it worse was the inability for Schaub’s internal clock to cope. The replacements didn’t play badly, but the skill players outside of Johnson required much more than Eagles 2012 did.

    • anon

      Not sure the line caused schaubs stream of pick 6s. I don’t think the coach did a great job of adjusting. They also completely wore down their best back. Time for an offensive rebuilding and a new secondary

  • Kristopher Cebula

    So what you are saying is that the Eagles had a big hand in destroying the Houston Texans? Nice

    • Anders

      A lot of Texans players thought losing Ryans was the FOs biggest mistake ever. Sorta like us letting go of Dawkins.

      • Mac

        Yes but letting Dawkins go made room for us to bring in… wait, nevermind.

        • D3FB

          I mean the Texans traded Meco and brought in that future HOF’er Joe Mays.

    • Sb2bowl

      Yes– we have (by my count) 4 starters (Casey as a hybrid starter) signed from the Texans. I’m hoping that we ask Ryan’s to restructure, and at that point extend his contract for 2 additional years. I could see him staying with us 2 more years, while our Defense grows, new leaders step up, and we become formable again on that side of the ball.

      Exactly like Dawk leaving, only Ryan’s was 7/8 years younger…..

  • Baloophi

    RE: Avant’s leadership and the WR’s

    To your point about Russell Shepard, Avant is not just a leader on the team, but specifically within the WR group. If we don’t bring him back (and I agree – the tough-yet-correct decision is probably to part ways) there will be a leadership void at that position. I think Avant is the glue that kept that group going. I don’t know how important it is in the grand scheme of things, but between Jackson, Cooper and Maclin, I wonder who – if anyone – will step up… especially since we only know for sure one of those guys will be back.

    Jackson: I’m sure new players look up to him because of “star power” but I don’t get the sense that he’s a natural leader, nor do I think the team benefits from having that be a guy who admitted to being distracted in a contract year. As a guy who seems to be fueled by slights (real or perceived) he might not always set the best example. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of talk from him about “stepping up” and that’s good to hear, I just don’t think that’s who he is. Also, I wonder if he’s a guy who plays better when he’s not worried about carrying the leadership mantle and can just focus on running fast and catching balls. (That Pro Bowl catch was surprising, huh??)

    Cooper: We don’t know how his “redemption” is actually playing in the locker room, but I imagine trying to step into a leadership role might be tough sledding for Riley. Ironically – as we talk about potentially losing Avant – Cooper owes whatever happens to the rest of his career to him. Also that “What’s the plan now, coach?” clip with Chip on the sidelines struck me as bizarre. I can’t even say why. And – most importantly – I don’t want our young receivers thinking it’s okay to drop passes when you’re wide open against the Saints in the playoffs.

    Maclin: Hard to get a read on Maclin. Teammates probably have seen a guy rehabbing hard (or at least I hope so) but he hasn’t really played in this offense, so I can’t imagine he’d be correcting guys or anything… at least early. Also, if he comes back on a one year deal we might see an even more contact-averse Maclin… if that’s possible. He’s had a tough go with the mystery illness and the ACL, and seeing as he’ll be as raw in this offense as the others, I doubt he becomes a leader.

    Again, I don’t know how much it matters within a positional group, but losing Avant could be rough on the WR’s.

    • Daniel

      Don’t forget Maclin’s lack of effort the previous season. Alligator arms all over.

      • Sconces

        he was also playing hurt much of the time, and I don’t blame him with the contract situation

      • Anders

        Marvin Harrison had HOF career playing like Maclin did (in terms of going down fast and not sacrifising his body)

        • Michael Winter Cho

          Also had a HOFer throwing to him who maybe didn’t hang him out to dry too much?

    • P_P_K

      Great post. Cooper definitely owes Jason.

    • TheRogerPodacter

      hmm. i wonder if an advantage of bringing back both Mac & Coop would be that Coop could help Mac transition into the offense. Not sure why he’d want to do that since theyre fighting for the same position, lol.

  • Maggie

    I like the reference to past, present and future. In a diferent sport, Glen Sather, who coached the Edmonton Oilers to 5 championships in 7 years, (sorry Flyers’ fans) used to say that as much as 20 percent of the team should be replaced every year or so. And he was very loyal to his players as long as possible. Several of them ended up on the NY Rangers a couple of years later, when he was GM.

    • anon

      Too bad geagle isn’t here to debate merits of continuity. Not sure what the right answer is.

      • Andy124

        Boring answer: Strike the right balance.

    • RobNE

      First, let’s leave out bringing up Philly title loses. But since you did, I counter offer that Sather won those titles by having the most talented starting lineup maybe EVER, not by turning over 20% of the bottom of the roster. Messier, Coffey and that Gretzky oh my we don’t even need commentary. Kurri and Fuhr also in the hall of fame. Tikkanen won league best defensive forward 3 times. It’s like having an all time line up starting for you.

      • Maggie

        I lived in Edmonton then. Worked at a local newspaper. Went to some games. Know who the talent was. I even have a picture of myself holding the Stanley Cup. Was just quoting Sather himself. And Gretzky was never my favourite player.

        • Vink

          Someone should have told him they have toothbrushes in Hawaii too.

  • mtn_green

    Strange but I don’t see chip Kelly allowing any player to play with little effort. A big part of veteran leadership is that they don’t let players slack. Chip creates such a whirlwind that it becomes very clear who is giving full effort. Chip is also fully willing to have competition at all positions.

    • anon

      Winning helps

  • Anders

    I think having guys like Logan, Barwin and Kelce who are all young(er) guys who are team leaders will help the transition.
    I love Cole to death, but there is no way his leadership is enough to pay him 11 million in 2015

    • HipDaDip

      These guys are in the media a lot and there’s evidence of them being high character, but what is the support for them being leaders? I think it’s easy to assume the guys doing interviews are good leaders. The only players for whom I can recall seeing any good evidence that they lead are Demeco and Jason Avant, and maybe Mike Vick. How do the listed guys lead? I’m perfectly willing to believe they lead, I’m just not sure I’ve seen enough to believe it.

      • D3FB

        Barwin helped to organize group dinners for the front 7, which is helpful for guys getting to know each other better off the field.

      • mtn_green

        Logan was first defensive player to wear lsu jersey of character number 18. He is a rookie now but was a leader in college.

        Kelce has been called a leader by most of his teammates, he is the second best interview on the team, and he calls the protections. Cary Williams is the best interview, that man has no filter.

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  • Mark Sitko

    Very sad if Avant has to go – that block he made in the snow game – CB into S – was my favorite block of the year. Do you know what he is set to make next year? The following year as well? Could he be a 4th or 5th Receiver? We never seem top have depth beyond the top 3 guys (sometimes the top 2) – I would much rather have someone like Avant than a Damaris Johnson, but does salary make that impossible?

    • Anthony Hart

      He counts 3.9 million dollars towards the cap. That’s way way too much for a 4th or 5th receiver.

      • Mark Sitko

        Definitely – do you think he will be able to get paid to be a 3rd WR somewhere else? Any chance he takes a pay cut and stays?

        • ICDogg

          wouldn’t rule it out

    • Mac

      And, lest we forget, Avant made the game winning play in the Miracle at the Meadowlands part 2. His crushing block took out 2 players to help spring D Jax.

      • Michael Winter Cho

        Getting rid of Avant would be like an 80s hair-metal band getting rid of the glue guy dork bass player because he doesn’t fit the image! :)

  • Andy124

    I agree that Avant probably needs to be replaced… on the field.

    But if we’re upgrading DJ2 and Maehl, I don’t know how much of our resources we want to allocate to upgrading our WRs in one offseason. Maybe we replace Jason on the field, but not on the roster.

    • D3Center

      The only issue I have with what your saying is for Avant is that he probably can’t play special teams anymore which is where Maehl’s value is. I doubt Chip Kelly will be willing to allocate a roster spot for a back end WR who can’t even play on special teams.

      • Andy124

        You sure he can’t? Given Avant’s personality, I wouldn’t be surprised if he embraced the responsibility were it asked of him.

        • D3Center

          Its not a question of him embracing the responsibility if asked its a question of ability. If a guy is here simply for special teams he has to be on most of the units whereas Avant at this stage in his career is probably only capable of playing on the return units because his speed probably won’t allow him to cover kicks.

          • Andy124

            I think that’s a legitimate concern and I figured that’s what you were getting at, but I never thought of Colt Anderson as being fast.

          • D3Center

            That’s true and I’m not sure what the speed difference right now is in the two guys but imagine Colt has to have a slight speed advantage on Avant

          • Steag209

            Who says he can’t be one of the safety players on kickoffs/punts?

          • D3Center

            I don’t know if he could or couldn’t be. And I may be wrong in saying this but I’m not sure that’s a job that usually goes to a receiver as I’d want one of my best tacklers for my last line of defense.

    • A_T_G

      This brings up an interesting question. Does a veteran leader still gave the juice to be a leader if he is on the bottom of the roster? Does exemplifying the practice methods lose its effect if they don’t lead to the exemplar seeing the field?

      • Andy124

        Interesting thought. I think within a small group, like the WRs specifically where he gets a lot of one on one time with the young guys to help teach them and set an example, the fact that they may be playing over him wouldn’t diminish his leadership, simply because of his personality. I don’t think you can work closely with that guy and not listen to him when he speaks.

        But this may be a bit more idealistic than reality.

      • anon

        One down year. Plus he was never no. 1 or two. Think he’s just a great pro,and he does leadership stuff off the field.

  • bsuperfi

    I think a lot of people discount leadership because it’s not as measurable as most of the other qualities we talk about around draft time. Clearly Chip and the gang don’t discount it – we keep hearing about how important the interviews are.

    For what it’s worth, there’s also some serious “science” behind it. There have been tons of studies in various areas of social science about the importance of not just leaders at the top in organizations, but also having “distributed” leadership. Part of being a good top-level leader is cultivating distributed leadership – it’s an important factor in maintaining a productive culture. Organizational researchers can actually measure some aspects of this – some organizations help their employees perform better than equally situated employees in other organizations because of leadership. This isn’t to say that Kelly and the gang can get quantitative data from the interviews on leadership, but they’re sure getting good qualitative data.

    There’s probably much more science to this approach than drafting people with big hands and playing loud music during practice.

    • Maggie

      Apparently playing loud music and having distractions during practice is in use with the Seahawks too. Maybe it’s a Pac-12 thing.

  • eagleyankfan

    *cough* bullshit *cough* ….
    Texas got rid of a line backer and MS decided to start throwing pick six’s? Please. Their issues were far greater than letting those guys go. So EVERY team that stunk(like the Giants) were terrible because they let go of leaders?
    Don’t get me wrong — leaders help. Avant helps. That’s about it. So, where was Avant last year when the Eagles stunk?
    This team will win/lose because of Chip Kellys leadership. I don’t think this team is built with a separation of coaches and players where Chip tells his “captains” to go give orders to the players. Chip got this. In Chip I trust.

    • bsuperfi

      For what it’s worth, that’s the whole point of distributed leadership. It’s not a top down model with a chain of command. It’s about having a culture permeate an organization. There are just certain people who are better carriers of the message than others. Celek, avant, and Ryan’s aren’t players who bark orders. They exemplify chips philosophy, in large part by example.

      You’re right that these sorts of players weren’t enough last year. This kind of leadership is just an important factor. Probably necessary but not sufficient to win a ton of games. If the physical talent isn’t there it won’t matter. But I wouldn’t discount its importance.

    • Mac

      Did you read what people were saying when the Texans let go of DeMeco Ryans? And by people, I mean players… players on their active roster.

      When the Patriots were a dominant force, it wasn’t just Brady and Belicheck (and cheating) it also had to do with key locker room guys pushing the whole team to play their very best.

      The foundation of a culture can be laid by one man, but others have to support and build on it for an entire group to buy in on the culture.

    • Tumtum

      People ALWAYS discount the importance of player leadership on NFL teams. That *is* bullshit, no cough needed.

      The Eagles lose Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, and McNabb all in a few short years. The team did okay for a year or two, but became very inconsistent, and fell off. Some of these guys had replacements that werent up to snuff but mostly Lesean McCoy, Jason Peters, Mike Vick…. were pretty solid.

      Last season the Ravens won the superbowl. This season they lose Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Boldin, and Pollard. There was pretty unanimous thinking that their talent level improved. They floundered at 500, and there was some very uncharacteristic public grumbling from players.

      Its pretty well documented what happened to the Colts without Manning. Of course a ton of that was talent but if you think it didn’t have a ton to do with his ability to hold guys accountable you are kidding yourself.

      Talent and leadership are 1 and 1a in importance level on any team.

  • Christopher Miller

    My question is who will be this year’s ex-Texan on the roster? Have we picked that carcass clean yet?

    • TommyLawlor

      I love that description.

  • CrackSammich

    I almost feel bad for Cooper after the whole preseason incident. After he started going off this season, he would have been universally loved in this town. You’d be hearing “COOP!” as often as “HEATH!” or “CRUZ!”. Now, nobody wants to be associated with the racist guy. Oops.

    But like I said, “almost”.

    • Sokhar20

      Heading down the stretch at the end of the year I recall hearing some pretty loud “COOP!” cheers on the TV broadcast. Can’t say what it was like at the stadium, as I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend an Eagles game this season. But I remarked to my dad (who is a Packers fan) that maybe we were starting to sound like Packer fans with their “KUUUUUUHNNNNNN” chant whenever the fullback touches the ball.

  • ICDogg

    Another year, another Wing Bowl…

  • Tumtum

    PFF may have Ryans listed poorly in ILB rankings, but I think anyone who watched the Eagles play would disagree with that evaluation. Sure he got beat to the outside by fast TEs or RBs from time to time when his recognition was a tick slow. I can’t think of a player on defense that played as consistently as Ryans.

    He’ll be 30 this year, but ILBs pretty frequently play well into their mid 30s. Sure Wade Phillips ran a 3-4 in Houston but it was 1 gap. I really have a hard time believing his 2nd season in the system would not be appreciably better than his first. I think it would be foolish to move on from him.

    As far as Avant… sure if there is a better option in camp, make that move. Don’t just do it to do it though. If he is gone I want to see *improvement* from that position. Same goes to the rest of the guys you listed. Other than Ryans none are breaking the bank. Sure Herramans is paid well for a guard but he certainly isn’t squeezing the wallet.

    • D3FB

      Todd will be on the team this season. However he is getting long in the tooth and ideally the coaches should be grooming his replacement this season.

    • bentheimmigrant

      The most impressive thing about Avant is that he’s shown himself willing to train up his replacement. That still blows me away.

  • JJ_Cake

    Some of you guys touched upon this, but the biggest name to throw against getting rid of the old and going with the new… Dawkins.

    He would have been better for two years than what we had following him. He could’ve perhaps taught a young up and comer as well.

    You got to keep some of the leadership. Maybe not all, but some, even if they don’t have the speed that the younger guys do. Maybe they aren’t playing all the snaps, but we should’ve have kept Dawkins until he was ready to retire.

    Ditto for Reggie White. Some dudes are just worth it.

    • bentheimmigrant

      We did offer him a deal, but the Broncos gave him more years.

      • JJ_Cake

        I thought he said that he wanted to play in Philly, but that the deal we offered was significantly worse than what Denver offered? Even if the Broncos gave him more years… I don’t think he played the length of that contract. It would have been worth it to keep him; even if he didn’t play that much.

        That’s not hindsight (like saying we wasted money on Namdi), many of us were clamoring for us to keep Dawkins.

        • bentheimmigrant

          I was desperate to keep him.

          From what I remember, he said he wanted a team to believe he could play for a long time. I think we offered 1 year with a 1 year option, and they went 4.

    • Maggie

      I’m pretty sure that Reggie White was ready to leave. People can blame the GM all they want, but Reggie made the choice – said God called him to Green Bay. Also, maybe Philly just wasn’t the same for him after Jerome Brown was gone?

      • JJ_Cake

        I don’t remember clearly, but got the feeling that Brahman was being cheap and wouldn’t pay Reggie. He loved Philly.

        But I’m sure Reggie was pretty happy to get that SB ring.

      • bentheimmigrant

        No, people blame the owner. Reggie was ready to leave because Brahman was openly hostile to him, because Reggie was the union rep. Brahman basically announced he wouldn’t pay anyone big money.

  • mtn_green

    Demeco Ryan’s is staying. He will be an eagle until he has trained his replacement.