The offseason is officially here. Howie Roseman came out of the shadows to meet with the media and share his thoughts on the 2016 season, the state of the team and the future. He spoke for about 30 minutes. While Howie didn’t say anything mind-blowing, he did offer some interesting comments and gave us some hints about what to expect.
My biggest takeaway is that Howie is trying to build something. He admitted that in recent years the Eagles got too much into trying to find “band-aids” to help get the team back to the playoffs. As he said, “10-6 isn’t good enough.”
Howie made it a priority last year for the Eagles to find a long term answer at QB. He didn’t get into specifics, but you can look at recent years and see where the Eagles had the wrong thinking. Michael Vick had a good stretch in 2010, but that proved to be lightning in a bottle. Nick Foles just wasn’t talented enough to be a guy you build a franchise around. Sam Bradford was more talented than Foles, but still not good enough. There was more hope than proof when it came to those players.
That isn’t to say Carson Wentz is guaranteed to pan out, but he fits the bill when you think about everything you want in a QB. If you are going to take a chance on a player (which all picks/signings are), you want it to be someone you believe in on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom and at home. Wentz was that guy so the Eagles moved up to get him and now plan to build the team around him.
Howie brought up the position of CB as a spot where the team had tried to find too many stop-gap solutions. I won’t get into discussing the position at length (that’s a post of its own), but the Eagles haven’t had good long term vision there for a while. It sounds like CB is going to be a position that will be addressed this offseason in a way to try and solidify it for multiple years and not just 2017.
I liked the fact Howie had some moments of honesty. It is one thing for a coach or GM to admit mistakes in a general way, but it feels a lot better when they offer a specific example. That helps you to understand they aren’t just saying things for the sake of good PR.
Reporters did try to get Howie to talk about positions that need to be improved. He wouldn’t say anything. Howie didn’t want to broadcast his intentions to the rest of the league. The other 31 teams can look at the Eagles and see some of what needs to be done. So can you and I. Still, I don’t blame Howie. When you say something, you can try to make a bland, general statement and still say more than you want. Better to say nothing at all and just assume everyone with a pulse knows WRs and CBs are needed.
Obviously any discussion of CB brings up the question of why Eric Rowe was dealt so early in his career. Howie said that after talking to the coaches and evaluating the situation, the Eagles didn’t see him as a long term answer. They didn’t anticipate giving him a contract extension. Rather than just keeping him around, they decided to get something for him so they could use that resource to try and find a player who could be a long term fit.
I liked Rowe a lot as a prospect. I thought he showed good promise in 2015. Rowe did not handle the coaching/scheme change well. He really struggled to fit into the scheme and had a bad spring and summer. Rowe was drafted for one system. He didn’t fit into the new system. You can question how the coaches and personnel people could see that. Good football people can sometimes see things very quickly.
I remember a scout once telling me that a really gifted prospect (DL Jeremy Staat) was going to be a bust. I asked the guy to explain. Staat was terrific at Arizona State and I thought he was a stud. The scout said he could just see Staat was going to fail. He couldn’t put it into words. Size, strength, speed and all the physical tools appeared to be there, but something was missing. I thought the scout was nuts and told him I still thought highly of Staat. The scout was right. Staat, taken 41st overall, played 29 games and had 20 tackles in his career. He was a major bust.
Patience is a virtue, but there are times when you can just see something isn’t going to work. Rather than wasting time, you move on. The point here isn’t that Rowe can’t play at all. He wasn’t going to play well for Jim Schwartz and in the Eagles current system. Trust me when I tell you this wasn’t a casual decision. Schwartz doesn’t get rid of players he thinks can help him. He would not have told the Eagles to move on if he didn’t believe very strongly that the situation couldn’t work.
Disagree with the move all you want, but history is filled with good coaches who got rid of guys who didn’t fit their system. Buddy Ryan cut Mike Zordich, who then came to the Eagles and started for 3 years. Bill Parcells rebuilt the Dallas defense from undersized and speedy to big and physical because that’s what he wanted. They were #1 in the league in 2003 and he overhauled the group in 2005. Jon Gruden got rid of Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams because he wanted physical WRs. The Eagles signed Irving Fryar and he was great for a couple of years. Coaches must have players they believe in and they must have the right kind of guys to make their systems work well.
Howie talked about Joe Douglas. Paul Domowitch wrote a good piece on that.
“The first thing he did was bring in Andy to have someone who spoke the same (scouting) language,” Roseman said. “They’ve both got tremendous presence.
“Joe’s got a way of looking and evaluating players that is different than what we’ve done in the past. And quite frankly, we needed that. He has full rein to set the draft board. He’s involved in every discussion we have about building this team. And I think we’ll start seeing dividends.”
I asked Roseman to be a little bit more specific about the difference in the way the Eagles have evaluated players in the past and the way Douglas evaluates them. His answer, though, didn’t really address the question.
“I think when we look at the success the Ravens had – and certainly they’ve won two world championships (in 2000 and 2012) since the start of the century – what they’re looking for and the trades they’re looking for in particular positions fits the way that this city is built, too,” he said.
Douglas is worthy of a post of his own, but I think the kind of players he will bring in to Philly are going to be big, strong, physical guys that are ultra-competitive. The Ravens aren’t always the most talented team, but there is a mental, physical and emotional toughness to that group. They play hard, often with an edge. They want to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Douglas is here to evaluate players. He will grade them and work with the scouts to set the Eagles draft board. Actual picks will be more of a collective decision, with Howie, Douglas and coaches/scouts involved. Howie has final say, but he will lean on Douglas in a big way.
Some critics will think this is all a bunch of bull. “Here’s another new guy to save the day. Blah, blah, blah.” I get that. It is easy to read the situation that way. I think this is different. Howie has to work well with Douglas. They have to get along. Howie has his share of critics in/around the league, but no team has made a move to hire Louis Riddick since he was pushed out. Jason Licht is now the GM in Tampa, but he’s had some issues with other teams. Chip Kelly’s credibility isn’t sky high right now.
Douglas is someone that is universally liked and respected. He worked with Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta for years. If Douglas gets the shaft in Philly, that could do huge damage to Howie’s reputation. The Eagles would struggle to hire good scouts and/or personnel guys. I also think Jeffrey Lurie is sincere when he says Howie is going to be held accountable for what happens. Lurie has been very patient with Howie, but this feels different. You can hear that in some of Howie’s comments.
“It will be a collaborative effort when we talk about who we are picking,” Roseman said Wednesday. “But at the end of the day, the responsibility is mine.”
The guessing game of who to blame is over. This is on Howie, whether good, bad or in the middle.
I liked the fact that Howie was generally positive, but also realistic. Doug Pederson over-praised his team and players during the season and I think that sent a bad message, whether intended or not. Howie talked about some of the good aspects of the team, but wouldn’t buy into the mantra that the Eagles are close. He wouldn’t talk about when this team will be ready to be a Super Bowl contender.
Howie is trying to build the Eagles. He wants this team to be a perennial contender. That’s the right mindset. He admitted there could be some short term deals if they make sense, but the offseason is going to be about the future as much as the present. The Eagles are going to look for ascending players. This team isn’t one acquisition away from the Super Bowl. They need talented guys that are young or in their prime.
Whether you love, hate or just tolerate Howie, I think you should come away from his press conference feeling the team is headed in the right direction and they have the right outlook.
Now they just have to go find the right players.
We’ll find out how good Douglas is at player evaluation and how much Howie has truly learned from past mistakes.