Eagles Add Some Football Guys

Posted: May 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 237 Comments »

No matter what you think of Howie Roseman, he’s not dumb.

Players get all kinds of chances. Coaches sometimes get a second chance. If not, they can become a coordinator or go to college and try to start over at that level.

GMs and personnel executives are not so lucky. For some reason, they don’t usually get that second chance after being fired. Tom Donhaoe did a great job with the Steelers in the 1990’s. They drafted as well or better than any other team in the league. Unfortunately, Donahoe got into a power struggle with Bill Cowher and lost. Donahoe then went to Buffalo, where the team struggled during his tenure. After the Bills fired him in 2005, Donahoe waited for years until the Eagles hired him as a consultant in 2012. NFL teams went through all kinds of hot shot young executives, while a proven talent evaluator was completely ignored.

Rich McKay went from being a GM to more of an administrative executive.

Bill Kuharich has a terrific track record, but was unemployed for years.

Mark Dominik went from being the Bucs GM to an ESPN analyst.

Phil Savage went from being the Browns GM to running the Senior Bowl (where he’s done a brilliant job).

If Howie Roseman is fired or let go by Jeffrey Lurie, that’s it for him. He won’t be getting another GM job. He can’t go to USC and try his hand at the college level. It is NFL or bust for him. And GM jobs are hard to get. Becoming a GM is the football equivalent of winning the lottery. It takes special circumstances to get a second chance. I don’t think Howie has the kind of connections where that will happen. He might get some type of executive position with another team, but not to run the show.

In the past, Howie ran the Eagles with a desire to win, but also with an eye over his shoulder, wondering who in the organization might be angling for more power. Chip Kelly might have done Howie a huge favor by stealing away his power for a year.

I believe Howie is a changed man. I think he now understands he is living on borrowed time, as all coaches and executives are. Rather than obsess on playing politics to keep power, he now seems to get the fact that he needs success. That will help him keep the job. And the best way to do that isn’t with a group that you can control. Rather, you surround yourself with the best people.

In this interview with Dave Spadaro, Howie talked about the fact all the responsibility lies with him. It sure feels like one of the big issues Lurie had with Chip Kelly is the fact Kelly kept using semantics to insulate himself from things that weren’t going so well. Lurie protected Howie in the past, but I think Howie knows that is over. This is sink or swim time.

With that in mind, he went and hired Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl.

It sure sounds like Howie made a couple of great hires, getting Douglas to be the vice president of player personnel and Weidl to be the assistant director of player personnel.

Some people have wondered why Douglas and Weidl would come to Philly. Doesn’t the rest of the league have something against Howie?

Douglas was a key scout for the Ravens, but had several guys ahead of him there. Last year he took a job with the Bears where he got to be the head of college scouting. He was still the number three guy in that organization. Douglas is now the number two guy in Philly. He will get to run the personnel department, but Howie still has overall control.

While that’s true, I think Douglas probably was given a lot of control in regard to the draft. He can shape the scouting staff the way he wants. He will meet with the coaches to learn what kind of players they want and then Douglas can figure out the best way to go get them. Douglas was instrumental in going after UDFAs in Baltimore. I can see Howie letting him totally control that.

Douglas and Weidl worked together in Baltimore. I think they loved the opportunity to work together. Weidl goes from being a scout to the number three guy in Philly. His direct boss is his long time friend, Douglas.

I would guess that one thing that attracts both Douglas and Weidl is that the Eagles offered a good opportunity. This isn’t a team that hit rock bottom and won 3 games. The Eagles just went 7-9. The Ravens and Bears had worse records than that. So both men got promotions, went to a team that had a better season and they can work together again. That makes a lot of sense.

Ozzie Newsome is a great GM and the Ravens have had a great personnel staff for years. Not everyone hired away from the Ravens has flourished elsewhere. I think one of the problems is that they have gone to some bad teams that needed to be rebuilt. The Ravens have only had 4 losing seasons since 1999. They don’t hit rock bottom. They usually struggle due to injuries, as happened last year. Douglas and Weidl don’t come to the Eagles needing to pull off any miracles. There is a solid core in place.

Douglas and Weidl are scouts. They aren’t going to dream up crazy scenarios to put the Eagles over the top. They will do research and grind away watching game tape. That’s what they do. And they’re great at it.

Spadaro also did a short interview with Douglas. It was mostly predictable stuff, but I thought Douglas gave one great answer. He was asked about success and answered that the key, as with all businesses, is people. This is something Howie did not get in the past and I’m hoping these hires show he does now understand that.

Go back to the Ravens for a second. Newsome is the GM. Eric DeCosta is his right-hand man. Joe Hortiz is the director of college scouting. Vince Newsome (no relation) runs pro personnel. George Kokinis is the senior personnel assistant. A little over a year ago both Douglas and Weidl would have been listed there as scouts.

Newsome has been a Raven since they started. DeCosta has been there for 18 years. Hortiz was hired in 1998. Newsome has been with the organization since 1996. Kokinis goes back to when the team was in Cleveland, but he did leave the Ravens for a short time. Douglas worked there for more than a decade. Weidl was there quite a while as well.

The point of this is that Newsome built up this family of scouts and got them to stick around for years. He was loyal to them and they were loyal to him. The scouts were given a voice in how things ran. They were treated well. They had no desire to leave.

The Eagles personnel department has been turning guys over for years. There is no continuity. There is no sense of family. Douglas philosophy is to hire the right people and keep them around for a long time. He wants to give them a good working environment and he wants to treat them the way Ozzie treated him.

If he can do that and the Eagles can develop a strong group of scouts, that will greatly benefit the organization moving forward. The draft is the lifeblood of any good organization and scouts are crucial to finding mid and late round talent, as well as good UDFAs.

I think Howie made a great move in hiring such strong-minded, talented and experienced guys as Douglas and Weidl. This isn’t the Howie of old, who had to balance protecting his job with winning. He’s now hiring strong candidates that can really help this organization.

While that’s true, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every draft is going to now be great. Douglas and Weidl are scouts, not superheroes. There are no perfect drafts. There are no magic solutions. You do your research, watch tape and find good players. Do that enough and you have a chance to be a good team, year-in and year-out.

Douglas and Weidl will be going to NFS (National Football Scouting) meetings soon enough to start working on the 2017 draft. Howie and the pro scouts will study the Eagles and the other 31 teams, constantly looking for upgrades.

Scouting is just about 24/7/365, which makes it all the more critical to have the right guys doing the job. Douglas and Weidl are the right guys for the job.

*****

I think the notion that the rest of the league looks down at Howie is really overstated. I’m sure there are some who don’t like him, but I think that is greatly exaggerated by certain individuals. Chip Kelly got in all his little digs, but you look at Howie’s ability to make deals with other teams and hiring guys like Douglas and Weidl and I think you can see that he’s got more respect than some people give him credit for.

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More Reasons to Like Carson Wentz

Posted: May 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 148 Comments »

QB is the most important position in pro sports, which makes it so crucial to have a good one. The Eagles spent the second overall pick on Carson Wentz because they think he can be a star and the key to the franchise for the next decade or so.

Robert Klemko wrote a great piece on the background of QBs and their families. Wentz was part of the story.

In North Dakota, they don’t share Ginn’s optimistic appraisal of high schoolers. In 2011, the year Carson Wentz graduated from Century High School in Bismark, there were two Division I recruits in the entire state, making it a boom year. The offensive lineman from Fargo signed with Missouri, and the defensive end from Wahpeton signed with Toledo. Wentz, who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Eagles, didn’t have a Division I offer.

Wentz had been groomed to be Century High’s quarterback since he was in the fifth grade: his throwing ability, leadership and football cognition made him a standout. “He always had that workman mentality that he wanted to get better every day of every practice,” says Nick Walker, former Dickinson State quarterback and Carson’s QB coach in high school. “The other thing is his intelligence was off the charts in terms of what you could give him. He was so smart, but his work ethic and leadership set him apart.”

Wentz’s model? His father was an all-conference linebacker at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Still, playing high school ball in North Dakota presented mountainous challenges. Hopping in a car for a tour of college camps was unrealistic, and there was no access to offseason football, but the biggest hindrance was a shoulder injury that Wentz suffered as a varsity baseball pitcher that prevented him from playing quarterback during his junior season. He played wide receiver and defensive back until finally getting the opportunity to start under center full-time as a senior. He capitalized, earning North Dakota 3A Player of the Year honors in 2010. He landed at North Dakota State and started winning national championships, passing for 5,115 yards in his season-and-a-half as the starter (he broke his wrist six games into his senior season).

For Carson Wentz, there was no offseason football in his formative years. No camps. No powerhouse high school program or influence-wielding coach. He didn’t have multiple college offers, which gives the quarterback an opportunity to pick the offense best suited to his skills and ambitions. It shouldn’t have worked out for Wentz, but it did. He refused to let his circumstances dictate what was possible, and his prodigious arm led the way.

“It was very clear to us, even at a young age, that he could make every throw we could ask him to make,” Walker says. “And that’s something that has carried him. He’s a leader, of course, and he can put the football wherever he wants.”

That piece has some really interesting info. Make sure you go read the whole thing.

*****

Some of you are numbers guys (and girls). I am not.

When you get into serious statistical discussions, I look on with no real sense of what is being presented. I had a similar feeling while reading this RotoViz story on rookie QBs and their likelihood to succeed. They used a variety of factors to figure out who is most likely to pan out.

Carson Wentz just barely beat out Jared Goff on this list.

Obviously it doesn’t mean anything, but it makes for some interesting reading. And you always like it when some study says your highly drafted QB isn’t going to totally suck.

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More on Bradford

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 234 Comments »

Football is a game. Professional football is a business.

You have to keep this in mind when discussing players and contracts. The Eagles have been an organization for a long time. Jeffrey Lurie has owned the team since 1994. Players only have a short time to be part of the NFL so they have to live in the moment more than the rest of us.

I don’t hate Sam Bradford. I’d drink a PBR with him and argue Terminator vs Terminator 2 or whatever interesting discussion we could conjure up.

I do hate stupidity. And I think Bradford and agent Tom Condon did some stupid things this spring.

We don’t know anything for a 100 percent fact, but it sure seems like Bradford saw an opening in Denver and decided he would rather be there than Philly. I don’t blame him for that. They have a better team and he would likely prefer living in the Rockies to the east coast. Fair enough.

I think Bradford and Condon botched the situation. Rather than working behind the scenes to create a trade, they went with the nuclear option. They backed the Eagles into a corner. John Elway wasn’t going to give up good compensation, knowing pressure was on the Eagles to move Bradford due to the holdout.

I’m sure Condon tried the subtle approach at first, but he sure didn’t seem to give it much time. As soon as Bradford’s holdout became public knowledge, Howie Roseman had no leverage. He was either going to give away his starting QB or keep an expensive distraction around.

Some of you have questioned just how much Condon could do. The Eagles didn’t give him permission to seek a trade. But you’re being very naive if you don’t think Condon talked to teams. Agents talk to GMs and coaches all the time. Condon is paid to know the market and to do the best for his client. The Eagles limited what he could do officially, but tampering goes on all the time.

Bradford and Condon tried to spin the situation in an utterly futile PR campaign that backfired and made Bradford look dumb and unsympathetic. Coaches and executives around the league were turned off because it sure appeared Bradford was scared to compete. That’s an oversimplification, but as Pat Shurmur so brilliantly said last year…this is a game full of PE majors. Sometimes simple becomes the truth.

And as for Bradford’s teammates, some of them were not happy with the trade demand. Teammates understand the business side of things, but they also understand the phrase “know your place”. Bradford was given a generous contract by the Eagles despite not being a star or anything close. If Bradford was an underpaid player, teammates would sympathize with him. If the team had somehow screwed him over, teammates would sympathize. That just wasn’t the case.

Let’s talk about Bradford’s treatment by the Eagles.

They went out and paid huge bucks to Brandon Brooks to make RG a strength. Stefen Wisniewski was added for OL depth and to challenge for a starting spot. They signed WRs Rueben Randle and Chris Givens to add depth. Givens best ever NFL season came with who at QB? Bradford. The team bolstered the defense with free agent moves and then added a pair of OL and a RB in the draft.

The Eagles did get rid of DeMarco Murray, Riley Cooper and Miles Austin. Is anyone gonna miss that trio?

It sure feels like the Eagles tried to fix the problem areas from last year. At the same time, they didn’t go nuts and make wholesale changes. They tried to upgrade rather than just making changes for the sake of making changes.

I don’t blame Bradford for wanting to go to Denver.

I do blame him for how he handled the situation and then how he and Condon tried to spin things. That just didn’t sit well with me. As I pointed out earlier, if Bradford plays well, all will be forgiven. If he doesn’t, the boos are going to be endless.

Who knows. Maybe the added pressure will  bring the best out of Bradford.

*****

Fletcher Cox is still staying away from the Eagles.

Cox is one of the best players in the league and is trying to get a long term deal. I have no problem with him or how he’s handling the situation.

*****

I’ll write a full post on Joe Douglas and the personnel situation once that becomes official news (and I finish all my research).

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He Caved

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

Sam Bradford changed his mind and reported to the NovaCare Complex on Monday. I wonder what made him do that? Did he talk to someone who offered new perspective? Did he have a drug-induced revelation? Did he see the light on the way to Damascus (or Delaware)?

No. Reality set in.

Sammy had no real choices. He could have retired. But that would have cost him precious time and money. He could have waited for the state of Oklahoma to form its own league, where he would lead the Oklahoma Awesomes to 3 straight championships. Or he could suck it up and come back to the Eagles.

Bingo.

Sammy badly misplayed his hand. He didn’t get what he wanted and now he has to deal with the fallout from those actions. The good news here is that Sammy quit being an idiot soon enough that no real damage was done internally. He missed one week of voluntary activities. The coaches can live with that. They are happy to have their veteran QB return.

Teammates will give Sammy a hard time for a bit, but most will forgive him the first time he hits Zach Ertz down the seam with a tight spiral. In the end, players want to win. Chase Daniel is the plucky underdog and knows the offense better than anyone on the team. Carson Wentz is super talented and the future of the franchise. But the QB who gives the Eagles the best chance to win games right now is Sammy.

Here is a statement from Bradford:

“I’m excited to be back on the field today with my teammates and coaches. The business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. My attention and efforts are focused on the participation in and preparation for a championship season: I am committed to my teammates and the Eagles organization for nothing less.”

So I guess we’re going to win the Super Bowl. That would be cool.

*****

Les Bowen offered his take on the situation and made some great points.

As we go forward, every interaction between Bradford and Wentz is going to be scrutinized endlessly. Everything Wentz says is going to be deconstructed to highlight any differences between his personality and Bradford’s, or any implicit criticisms of Bradford. We’ve already seen this dynamic at work, when Wentz was asked about quarterbacks he admired and he (gasp!) didn’t include Bradford.

Everything Bradford says will be parsed for digs at management, Pederson, or Wentz. Every Bradford incomplete pass, every stalled drive, will bring grumbles from the stands.

To an extent, all of this was on tap even before the trade request. But now, with agent Tom Condon having proclaimed that Bradford “doesn’t view himself as a stopgap quarterback . . . He doesn’t want to be there holding a placecard, and then wondering where he’s going to go at the end of the year,” the microscope will zoom in much tighter.

Boy is Les right about that. Bradford will be living under a microscope. QBs in Philly get a lot of scrutiny on a good day, but he’s about to deal with a level of scrutiny that will make his life fairly miserable. Bradford can work his way out of that by playing at a very high level, but anything less and he’ll be answering utterly inane questions all season long.

And…

The hand played by Bradford and Condon seems to have held some lukewarm Broncos interest, and . . . uh, nothing. Condon didn’t have a trade in his back pocket. Bradford, owed $18 million this season, wasn’t willing to sit out long term. And if he had been, it’s hard to see how some team picking him up late in the process, months from now, would present a better opportunity for Bradford’s future than could be forged by playing well as the undisputed 2016 starter here.

Yet, in a podcast interview with former agent and Eagles executive Andrew Brandt recorded on April 28, Condon openly questioned how much clout Bradford will have with his teammates and predicted he would only be the starter “until the rookie is ready to go.”

Just what you’d want your agent to say on your behalf in such a circumstance, no doubt. Yet Bradford continues to let Condon shape how he is viewed.

Finessing the minefield that lies ahead with the Eagles and Wentz is going to take a lot of savvy, thoughtful navigation by Bradford – a guy who two weeks ago decided the best way to get around a roadblock was to drive his career into a tree.

I don’t know who is at fault more, Bradford or Condon. I get that Bradford wanted to go to Denver. That’s closer to home and is more his type of place to live. The Broncos are the reigning Super Bowl champs. But you can’t hope your way there. You have to know for a fact they’ll make a move. Howie Roseman wasn’t going to just hand over a starting QB for nothing. Condon had to work the phones and do a better job of feeling out that situation.

Either Condon was giving bad advice or Bradford was being ridiculously obstinate. That’s over now and it is humble pie time.

Don’t just nibble. Dig in and eat the whole damn thing.

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The New Guys

Posted: May 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 41 Comments »

This certainly seems like good news.

Rather than do a bunch of writing on these guys right now, I want to share a good story I came across.

Here is an in-depth look at how Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl helped the Ravens scout Joe Flacco.

It isn’t a short piece and offers plenty of interesting details. I think you’ll come away impressed by Douglas and Weidl. I’ve got plenty more research to do, but it sure feels like Howie Roseman made a pair of outstanding hires.

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