We love to analyze draft picks and free agent signings, trying to figure out who to give credit to for the good ones and who to blame for the busts. The truth is that rarely is one person to blame, or credit. NFL teams are just that…teams. Scouts do the grunt work. Personnel executives make the picks. The head coach and coordinators build gameplans. Positional assistants hone specific skills and teach players how to perform in their specific roles.
It is easy to blame Howie Roseman for some of the problems of recent years. It would be so convenient if all that had to be done was getting rid of him and the Eagles could magically go back to being a 12-4 team and title contender. That’s not reality.
The Eagles have failed as an organization.
Howie Roseman has been a key part of the personnel department since 2008. He has worked with the following defensive coordinators:
You went from a 4-3 zone blitz scheme under JJ and McDermott to Castillo’s version of the Wide-9 to a 2-gap version of the 3-4 under Davis and now to Schwartz’s version of the Wide-9. That’s a lot of change. Roseman and the scouting staff have had to find different players for all of those systems. That’s very difficult. You really need stability so players can develop.
Beyond schemes, you have personal preferences. Castillo put Mychal Kendricks at SAM and wanted him to be the key to the LB corps. Davis moved him to ILB. Schwartz moved him to WLB and didn’t play him much at all. Chip Kelly wanted tall, long CBs. Schwartz needs CBs who are supremely confident and aren’t scared to make mistakes.
There is a union between coaching and personnel where both sides help each other. The personnel department brings in the best possible players. The coaches then do their part to get the most out of the players they have to work with. The Eagles failed with Jerome McDougle, but succeeded with Trent Cole. Who do you blame for McDougle being a bust? Who do you credit for Cole becoming a star? Same scouts. Same coaches.
When we talk about how good the Eagles were from 2000-2004, there was scheme stability and Andy Reid had a great coaching staff. The Eagles could draft and develop players.
Recent years have been anything but stable. The Eagles had 3 head coaches in a 5-year span. I already noted all the different defensive coordinators and defensive systems earlier. The Eagles have had a lot of player changes. Key players like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Evan Mathis were let go while the Eagles brought in outsiders like DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso, Sam Bradford and Byron Maxwell.
The best thing for the Eagles right now is stability. Stick with the same systems. Keep most, if not all, of your assistants. You can tweak the staff, but not in a hugely impactful way. You want to let Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl and the scouts find the players to fit this team. The coaches then need to develop those players so that you have a strong core of young talent to build around.
Don’t run off every player who isn’t a star. You never know if another year could bring out more from guys like Marcus Smith, Jaylen Watkins and Nelson Agholor. You don’t want to keep underachievers too long, but there is something to be said for keeping players around to make sure one of them isn’t a late bloomer. As long as the player fits the system and you think there is potential for the guy to contribute, see what happens. Obviously money plays into this. If cutting a player will save you enough money and he’s replaceable, that changes things.
The point of all this is that the Eagles need to have organizational vision.
I thought they had that with Chip Kelly, but that proved to be false. I’m not sure who is more to blame, Kelly the coach or Kelly the GM, but he had too much of a Larry Brown thing going on. It seemed like he wanted to tinker because he had this idea in his head that made sense at the moment. The problem is that he either didn’t have good long term vision or didn’t have good discipline.
You need to come up with a plan and you need the whole organization on board. That way the scouts, coaches and personnel department can all work together to build up the roster and put together an outstanding team.
There is a notion with some people that a personnel guru can make a few picks or sign a couple of players and turn a team around. That’s just not the case. There needs to be the whole organization for things to really work. When Ron Wolf put together the great Green Bay teams, he had Mike Holmgren running the offense and Fritz Shurmur running the defense. There were great assistants all over the place.
Jimmy Johnson used the same philosophy when running the Dolphins that he did in Dallas. The results were very different because he didn’t have the same set of assistant coaches. He also had changed as a head coach. He couldn’t drive players the way he did earlier in his career. He got tired of being the relentless taskmaster who got the best from his players.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll do a great job in Seattle because they are on the same page. Schneider knows how to find the right players for Carroll. And Carroll knows how to use those guys. Both of them are also willing to take chances and fail. They have missed badly with draft picks, trades and free agent signings. They have also hit some home runs. They continue to swing for the fences and it works for them.
Howie Roseman is not the best GM in the league. Doug Pederson is not the best coach. But right now the best thing for the Eagles is to have those two men work together to build the core of this team. They worked well over the past year. They focused on the OL and getting a QB. Both areas are better now than they were a year ago.
Now we’ll get to see how Joe Douglas affects things. He and his scouts will be identifying the right players for the Eagles. It will be up to Howie and Doug Pederson to make the right choices and get this team back to being a contender.
Some of you will moan and groan about a 5-year plan and how this is all just an excuse so Howie can’t be held accountable. Look at Dallas. Look at Jason Garrett’s coaching record.
Old Jerry Jones would have fired Garrett and gone after the hot name in the football world. New Jerry is patient. He let his coach build something. He didn’t force Johnny Manziel on his team and let the personnel guys build up a great O-line. That wasn’t sexy or fun, but it has worked really well.
Dallas has used coaching and personnel stability to develop a good roster. They were smart and patient. They didn’t panic when a pick went wrong, a signing went wrong or even a whole season went wrong. And that drives me nuts. I miss the old Jerry Jones who flew off the handle on a regular basis and who drove his coaches/personnel guys crazy with his tinkering and splashy moves.
There are no quick fixes. There are no magic answers. The best way to succeed in the NFL is to build a team. That takes time and smart moves. It sounds like the Eagles are committed to taking their time and doing this the right way.
I don’t know if Joe Douglas and Howie can make the right moves, but I do know that roster, schematic and coaching stability is needed for them to have the best chance to succeed.