As Jeffrey Lurie’s overvalued trinity of millionaires wallow in their manufactured angst, Lurie should realize the proper thing to do:
Not one little thing.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman assembled a team for 2020 that was a little too old and a little too thin on the offensive line. So what. He also assembled teams the three previous seasons that overcame age and went 4-2 in the playoffs, with Philadelphia’s only Super Bowl win.
Roseman’s head coach, Doug Pederson, beat both COVID and the New Orleans Saints this season, and he did it with Jalen Mills starting at safety. Give Pederson some credit.
Roseman’s franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, turned out to be elite only when protected by the Swiss Guard. Fine. Protect him. But, dear God, don’t trade him. Talent like his comes along once every two decades or so.
Keep them all, and keep them close, because this too shall pass.
Any fair evaluation of Roseman begins with how he addressed the positions that play every snap – the defensive backfield, the offensive line, and the quarterback.
Roseman traded for lockdown cornerback Darius Slay, who didn’t exactly lock many top receivers down but who didn’t stink, either. After years of ignoring the offensive line in the draft Roseman drafted Jack Driscoll in the fourth round as a project, but, playing in place of right tackle Lane Johnson, Driscoll was the team’s third-best linemen before he was lost to a knee injury in Game 13. And, of course, Roseman took Jalen Hurts in the middle of the second round, ignoring needs at linebacker and defensive back, but anticipating a need at quarterback. As it turns out, Hurts might be the steal of the draft.
There have been misses. Roseman clearly seems to have missed when he picked JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round last year, now that JJAW can’t get on the field, and D.K. Metcalf, the 64th pick, taken seven picks later, is the most feared receiver in the game. What’s more, Bill Belichick in New England, Chris Ballard in Indianapolis, and Steve Keim in Arizona all took receivers before Metcalf was drafted.
Why didn’t Roseman land Cardinals star DeAndre Hopkins? Because the salary cap burdens of DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery (popular deals when they were done), and the plan to draft cheaper, younger receivers in April prevented Roseman doing the deal in March. Further, no one could have predicted Hopkins’ availability when the Eagles locked themselves into Jackson and Jeffery. (And consider this: had Kiem in Arizona drafted Metcalf with the 62nd pick in 2019 instead of drafting Andy Isabella, Kiem could have saved himself the second- and fourth-round picks Hopkins cost, along with solid veteran running back David Johnson, who, if the Cardinals wanted to move him, could have brought them a pick.)
And, to be fair, we don’t yet know if Roseman missed with Jalen Reagor, the 21st overall pick. Reagor’s game speed convinced Roseman that Reagor was a better long-term bet than Justin Jefferson, a more polished receiver whom the Vikings took 22nd. Jefferson has 73 catches and seven touchdowns. Reagor has 27 catches and 1 TD. Reagor also has a punt return for a score, and he missed five games due to injury, but Jefferson looks like the best of a spectacular receiving draft class. At least, he does for now.
Don’t forget the 2014 draft. Chip Kelly, in the first steps of his two-year ascendancy over Roseman, took Jordan Matthews 11 picks ahead of Davante Adams, who landed in Green Bay. In their first two seasons Matthews caught 152 passes, 16 for touchdowns, and looked like the superior player; Adams had 88 catches and four scores. On Monday, Adams made his fourth straight Pro Bowl. Matthews is out of the league.
Roseman’s awkward defensiveness does his public face no favors. He is not well-liked by other executives, who continually snipe at him. His inaccessibility wins him no friends in the press. And yes, he struggles to find the best receivers.
On the other hand, he seems to have an eye for quarterbacks.
We’re not saying he should be executive of the year. We’re saying he shouldn’t be fired, and you shouldn’t want him fired.
Don’t ditch Doug
Pederson’s detractors will argue that he runs too little and passes too much and takes far too many risks. He does sometimes pass to excess — on first-and-5 to start the Seahawks game three weeks ago he called three straight (incomplete) passes — but it’s a passing league, by trend and by rule. He occasionally says wild stuff, and he’s horrible after a regular-season bye (1-4), and I don’t know what his problem was against the Giants in Game 9, but hey, every coach delivers a clunker now and then.
This season, however, Pederson has been historically undermanned. The Eagles have had 29 different players on some sort of injury or COVID-19 list through 14 games this season. Of his 24 frontline players, only five have been available for every game: Wentz, Mills, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham. The last three made the Pro Bowl.
If you want to fire Roseman because he can’t find athletic trainers to keep players healthy, that’s a discussion worth having. But between the injuries and his hardheaded quarterback, Pederson shouldn’t lose his job.
Carson Wentz is a healthy, driven, clean-living, 27-year-old football nerd who compiled a 98.3 passer rating from 2017-19. A new father and a relatively new husband, his Christ-led life has a strip-club-free quality to it that ensures that his focus will remain on being the best football player he can be. Wentz might have ego issues, but he’s 6-foot-5, weighs 240 pounds, and he can throw a football through a block of cheese. You don’t quit on a player like that.
Has Jalen Hurts been outstanding in his two starts? Yes. Is Wentz acting like a baby, letting it be known that he wants to be guaranteed the starting job next season? Yes, but, considering the locker room issues to which he’s admitted (selfishness, favoritism, bullying), this should surprise no one.
Wentz signed a contract. Grow up, show up, and do your damn job.
Can Wentz be good again? Of course. Everybody slumps.
Can Wentz be good again without former coordinator Frank Reich? Of course. He has been. Wentz compiled a 102.1 passer rating in 2018 without Reich, and was at 93.1 without Reich in 2019, when he set the Eagles’ record with 4,039 passing yards despite not having a single 500-yard wide receiver. Pederson coached Wentz to the record with a bunch of kids.
Payroll implications should not matter. Wentz counts about $34.7 million against the 2021 salary cap. Hurts counts about $1.4 million. Together they’re about a $36 million cap hit no matter who starts, and that’s still $10 million less than Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are costing the Colts this season. If Roseman truly believes that the second-most important player on a football team is the backup quarterback, then he shouldn’t mind overpaying his, regardless if that quarterback feels loved.
Much has been made of Wentz losing “trust” in Roseman, Pederson, and Lurie, as leaked through the NFL’s media outlet last week.
He’d better trust those checks don’t bounce.