You hear this question a lot in Philadelphia these days:
How does Howie Roseman keep his job?
One answer: He does what he’s told.
Ever since Jeffrey Lurie fired coach Chip Kelly late in the 2015 season, he has become ever more involved with personnel and staff decisions. Two league sources no longer with the team say that, for the last five years, less and less happens at One NovaCare Way without Lurie’s direct oversight and input. Eyebrows raised in 2016 when Lurie led the six-man, three-city tour in 2016 to evaluate quarterback prospects Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Paxton Lynch. Lurie’s voice has grown much louder since the Eagles’ playoff loss at New Orleans after the 2018 season, sounding more and more like his NFC East nemesis.
The owner who once hired Andy Reid to be Mike Holmgren Lite and just hired Nick Sirianni to be Frank Reich Lite is slowly turning into Jerry Jones Lite.
All of the recent poor draft picks; all of the more disastrous trades, signings, and extensions; and most of the coaching staff issues had Lurie’s fingerprints on them, not just Roseman’s.
This is nothing new. Ever since he bought the team in 1994, Lurie’s meddlesome ways have chafed Eagles front-office staff and coaches. He always has fought that stigma.
“You never want to be too involved,” Lurie said Jan. 11, the day he fired Doug Pederson. “You never want to micromanage, and I’m very, very sensitive to that. You’ve got to trust the people around you, and first bring in the right people around you, and then trust them.”
NFL executives all over the league snorted their milk out of their noses when Lurie said that. In that same Zoom conference, coming off a 4-11-1 season and in possession of an aged roster with little young talent, Lurie actually lavished Roseman with praise and expressed rock-solid confidence in the ability of Roseman and the rest of the front office to rebuild the Eagles.
That confidence makes more sense if you consider Lurie’s increased involvement; it’s merely self-confidence.
Contacted this weekend for a more recent comment, in light of the new assertions, the team declined, and referenced Lurie’s response from Jan. 11. Notably, though, the team did not deny the assertions. Why bother?
After the 2019 season ended, Lurie forced Doug Pederson to fire offensive coordinator Mike Groh the day after Pederson guaranteed Groh’s job. The staff was one of the major issues that led to Pederson’s firing last month; Pederson wanted control. Lurie denied him that control.
Jerry Jones controls his head coaches’ staffs, too.
How did this evolving culture in the Eagles organization affect the catastrophic trade agreement Thursday that will send Wentz to Indianapolis for a bag of hammers?
It was first assumed that Wentz wanted to leave Philadelphia because he couldn’t stand Pederson. This was true, said a former employee. Then, when Lurie fired Pederson, it was assumed that Roseman was Wentz’s problem, but Roseman is replaceable, too. If Wentz rebounded in 2021, there’s a chance he could have forced Roseman out.
Wentz reportedly determined that the franchise was a hopelessly bad fit for him, but, bottom line, there’s only one person who cannot be removed.
How ‘bout them Eagles
The Jerry Jones comparison requires these qualifiers:
1. Lurie is, at his core, a pretty good guy who does very good things because he thinks he should. These words are not often written about Jerry Jones.
2. Lurie is in no way as involved as Jones, who holds weekly postgame press conferences and has a weekly radio show in Dallas. We see Lurie about as often as we see Punxsutawney Phil.
3. Lurie’s writes the checks. As such, he can do anything he wants with his football team.
And he does. Roseman does nothing without Jeffrey Lurie’s permission. When Lurie says that the Eagles’ decisions are “collaborative,” it implies that Roseman, his top scouts, and the coaches huddle and decide what the best option is. The reality is, these days, Lurie more often is part of that huddle.
The big moves
Roseman’s most controversial move since the Super Bowl came when he selected Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 draft. He did so with Lurie’s complete blessing, a former Eagles staffer said.
Roseman also used a first-round pick on left tackle Andre Dillard in 2019, with the full intent of stashing him, with Lurie’s complete blessing. Lurie, remember, is a close personal friend of Jason Peters and was fine with Peters returning, even at age 37. Peters played awfully. Dillard has played 62 snaps.
Roseman drafted JJ Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf in the second round in 2019 with Lurie’s complete blessing. Lurie prefers the refined type.
Roseman took three receivers who can’t run routes in the 2020 draft. Why? Speed.
A source says that as Lurie watched the Chiefs and 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, he fell in love with the Next Gen Stats graphic that showed them to be the fastest teams in the league. He saw the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill and the 49ers’ Raheem Mostert (once an Eagle himself; oops) and told Roseman, “I want that.”
So, when Jalen Reagor ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds and 4.22 seconds at a virtual pro day in April, the Eagles slotted him ahead of Justin Jefferson, a more productive college receiver but whose 4.43-second sprint at the NFL scouting combine seemed ordinary by comparison. Fast-forward 10 months: Reagor’s 396 yards, 31 catches and one touchdown seem ordinary next to Jefferson’s rookie record 1,400 yards, as well as 88 catches and seven TDs.
You might accuse Roseman of many things, but nostalgia isn’t one of them. He learned at the feet of Joe Banner, the brightest NFL executive of a generation, and Banner was cold-blooded and practical, and Roseman learned well.
It was Lurie, not Roseman, who loved Peters, both in 2019 and as a last-second replacement in 2020.
It was Lurie, not Roseman, who longed to reacquire DeSean Jackson despite Jackson’s having missed 21% of his teams’ games the previous four seasons. And so Roseman in 2019 traded for Jackson, and he gave Jackson a three-year, $27 million contract extension. Jackson was fully healthy for just four games in two seasons.
Of course, nostalgia isn’t always a bad idea. It was Lurie who, in 2017, thought it was a great idea to spend a whopping $12 million on the backup quarterback spot for team that went 7-9 with a rookie coach in 2016.
Because Jeffrey Lurie absolutely adores Nick Foles.
Roseman has made plenty of mistakes with minimal oversight from Lurie: receiver Alshon Jeffery’s extension; drafting cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas on Day 2 of the 2017 draft; signing defensive lineman Malik Jackson in 2019; replacing Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins with converted cornerback Jalen Mills in 2020.
But Lurie is more heavily involved in the big stuff.
The most pressing question of the moment, of course, is:
Why would Roseman draft a quarterback in the second round before Wentz even began his four-year, $128 million contract?
Answer: Because Lurie owns the Quarterback Factory. Roseman’s just the foreman.
Lurie became fixated on quarterback depth long before Roseman rose to power. The Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb in the second round in 2007 as Donovan McNabb, the franchise’s greatest quarterback, entered his ninth season, fully in his prime. Lurie signed Michael Vick in 2009 with McNabb and Kolb both still on the roster. And Lurie hit the jackpot with Foles.
So, after 40-year-old Josh McCown flopped in the 2019 playoffs — playing in place of Wentz, who’d been injured for a fifth consecutive season (counting college) — it was no real surprise that Lurie demanded a viable replacement, Wentz’s tender feelings be damned.
Roseman delivered. He gave Lurie a quarterback who ably replaced Wentz, the worst starter in the NFL in 2020, in Game 12, and played passably well the rest of the season. Hurts enters 2021 as a real candidate to be the starter, at the very least. The cost: The 53rd pick in the 2020 draft, and just $883,871.
Yes, Wentz is gone, and Hurts’ presence played a part in that, but Hurts didn’t nearly cost Howie Roseman his job. To the contrary: Hurts probably saved Howie Roseman his job.
Come to think of it, you know who Hurts reminds you of?