PALM BEACH, Fla. - This is old ground, but I'm going to turn it over one last time, not because it's a big deal, but because it isn't and you need to finally get over it.
Howie Roseman never played the game. The 36-year-old Eagles general manager didn't play football in high school, didn't play it in college, didn't play it in the NFL.
If you think that somehow makes him less qualified to evaluate football flesh than a guy who played Division I ball or led an NFL team in special-teams tackles, well, you're wrong.
"Everything you're looking for, from what I've seen in successful general managers around the league, I think he has," Eagles president Joe Banner said earlier this week. "It starts with work ethic. Understanding of the game. There's no doubt from those of us internally that he's a talented, talented evaluator.
"And he understands the [salary] cap and the role it plays in building a team probably better than any GM in the league. We're all very confident about where he's headed."
Matt Millen was a hard-nosed Pro Bowl linebacker who spent 12 seasons in the NFL and played on four Super Bowl champions. Made a seamless transition to the broadcast booth where he was one of Fox's top NFL analysts.
Then he accepted the Detroit Lions' invitation to become their general manager in 2001 and spent the next 8 years proving that just because you were good at knocking the snot out of ballcarriers didn't mean you had any clue how to build a football team. The Lions never won more than eight games under Millen, who had a miserable 31-97 record when he finally was shown the door.
Which brings us back to Roseman.
All things considered, he has done a very good job of helping rebuild an Eagles team that has just five starters left from the '08 team that made it to the NFC Championship Game. Has he guessed right on every draft pick and every free agent in his 2 years on the job? No.
But he added three key free agents last summer - cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. He fleeced the salary-cap-squeezed Houston Texans last week for a Pro Bowl middle linebacker. He's coming off a successful draft that landed the Eagles three starters, including two on the offensive line, and their kicker for the next 10 years. And he seems to have brought a kinder, gentler approach to the team's contract negotiations that both players and agents are finding very appealing.
"Regardless of what your background is, this is a high-profile position," said the Brooklyn-born Roseman. "I feel very fortunate to live in a market where there's so much passion. I feel a great obligation to our fans, and to our ownership and to our team to do the best job we can and put the best possible players on the field.
"That doesn't change regardless of how you came up. My career goal is to win a world championship, just like everyone else. I'm going to do whatever I can to make that happen."
That includes learning from his mistakes. In an hour-long interview Tuesday at the league meetings, Roseman acknowledged that when he and the Eagles have made mistakes in the draft the last 2 years, it often has been because they've focused too much on positional needs and not enough on selecting the best player, regardless of position.
"At some point, you get entrenched into what your team needs," he said. "And because we're so determined to win a championship as quickly as possible, we wanted to address those [needs] as quickly as possible.
"When you look back at the moves, particularly in the draft, that we've made successfully, it was situations where we took the best players [rather than the best player at the position of greatest need]. It's something I believe in."
Roseman also said the Eagles are making a conscious effort to be less influenced by what they see at the postseason all-star game workouts and scouting combine and Pro Days and focus on a player's game tapes. He said they have made minimal changes to their draft board since January.
"We didn't realize that some of these things were having a bigger effect than we wanted," Roseman said. "We want to make the all-star games and the interviews and the combine part of the process. But it certainly shouldn't be a majority of it. And it certainly shouldn't be given any sort of equal weight."
Roseman has had to rebuild much of his scouting staff since taking over for Tom Heckert, who left after the '09 season to become the general manager of the Browns. Several scouts went with Heckert to Cleveland. Then, in January, Roseman's top scout, director of player personnel Ryan Grigson, left to become the general manager of the Colts. Grigson's replacement won't be hired until after the draft.
"When Tom left, and with some of the defections we had after that, we really had to rebuild our staff," Roseman said. "That takes time to find the right people and get permission to get the right people. Then Ryan left for Indianapolis. He was someone I relied on a lot and was really close to."
While head coach Andy Reid still has final say over all personnel issues and Banner still is the team's primary cap strategist, Roseman clearly has taken on a bigger organizational profile in recent months. He, rather than Banner, was the point man in re-signing defensive end Trent Cole, offensive tackle Todd Herremans and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Roseman also has been handling the negotiations with All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy.
"Howie and I have always worked as partners [in contract negotiations]," Banner said. "We work on every deal together. In terms of strategizing and figuring out what our arguments are, what their arguments are. But he certainly has led more of the recent negotiations."
Said Roseman: "We've always figured out a way to split it up. In the course of your evolution as general manager and kind of getting used to it more, you try to take on more as you go. We're not doing anything differently than we've done in the past. I just think that more people are paying more attention to it."
Roseman, who has a law degree from Fordham, started with the Eagles as a contract negotiator and cap specialist before moving over to pro and college scouting. Before replacing Heckert, he would scout 25 to 30 colleges in the fall. But since becoming GM in 2010, he's had to cut back significantly on his road scouting.
"During the fall, there's constantly issues cropping up that need your attention," he said. "Player transactions. Contract extensions. Injuries. There are fire drills every day. You can still get out [on the road]. But it's been hard to do as much as I did before I got the job."
That hardly puts him in the minority. Because of the demands of the job, not a lot of club GMs are able to get out on the road much during the season. Heckert always was a stay-at-home GM with the Eagles, relying on tape and the input of his scouting staff.
"You don't want to take away from your strengths," Roseman said. "I do feel that my ability to do deals and get on the phone with agents is a strength I have. If I'm on the road all of the time, I can't do a lot of that. And I don't want to take that part of it away."