THE NEW COACH will be a huge piece of the puzzle, obviously, but one thing that emerged with crystal clarity from the Eagles' news conference and various hallway confabs that followed is that when it comes to building the roster, Howie Roseman will be entrusted to fix this mess.
Roseman's public stature has taken a horrible beating as the team's fortunes have declined; his youth and lack of a pure football background are easy targets, and as the Eagles slid to 4-12 this season, Roseman was dinged by repeated verbal grenades lobbed anonymously by people who lost power as Roseman ascended in the Birds' hierarchy.
It's easy to sneer at team chairman Jeffrey Lurie's assertion that he doesn't hold Roseman completely accountable for anything that happened before the most recent offseason and draft.
"The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie's evaluations," Lurie said.
That's quite convenient for the front office and personnel staff moving forward, with Andy Reid and Joe Banner jettisoned. Roseman ascended to the general manager role in 2010 when Tom Heckert left, and the general assumption was that he was in charge of the draft from that point, although Reid retained ultimate veto power as head of football operations.
But the truth is, we really don't know and have never known exactly how the process worked during the 14-year Reid era, which is why it has been so hard to get an accurate fix on who was responsible for what. Lurie said Monday that last year he went back and looked at draft and personnel evaluations over the past few years from everyone involved, and that Roseman's recommendations were "by far" the most accurate. Roseman sketched out a process in which, until last year, he was among several people giving input, presumably to Reid, who made the final call, on draft picks, free agents, and so on.
We do know that the 2012 draft, at first blush, looks better than the previous two, and that this past offseason, the Eagles moved to smooth relations with the locker room by signing key players to lucrative extensions, something that might not have happened when Banner was team president. (We don't know whether all those deals - including contracts done with DeSean Jackson, Trent Cole, Todd Herremans - were smart investments. And limiting responsibility to 2012 still leaves Howie to blame for Demetress Bell.)
It was Roseman, a year ago this month, who talked more openly than anyone in the Reid regime ever has about how drafting for need in 2011 was a huge mistake, and how the organization needed to change.
Roseman told reporters Monday that in 2012, "they gave me the opportunity to lead the [draft] process, as opposed to being just part of the process, more."
Roseman seemed uncomfortable Monday with the implication that he was being completely absolved.
"Listen, our season that we just went through, it's unacceptable. So whatever has happened here, it's not good enough for the fans, we're not happy about it, we're not happy about the chemistry of the team. I'm not trying to shirk any of that responsibility," Roseman said. "It's going to stop. We've had a chance to meet with a lot of the players today. We're going to get to the bottom of the things that don't work, and that do, and we're going to get better."
Roseman announced a new emphasis on "people who are born and bred with us and drafted by us, as opposed to people who come from different cultures and try to fit in. We've got to get back to having a core group of guys that are Eagles, that bleed green, that are passionate about this city, that are passionate about playing here, and really, genuinely care. When you bring in players from other places, you think that maybe they're good fits, but you don't know until they're here. And it affects the chemistry."
Roseman reiterated a point Lurie made earlier: "Part of [the reason the Eagles turned more to free agency] was that we were so close for so long, we were desperately trying to win a championship. You gotta do it the right way. There's no [substitute] for doing it the right way, and you learn these lessons. That doesn't make it right, what happened here, but we learned some very hard-and-true lessons."
Roseman said he believes even more strongly that "the draft is a long-term solution for our franchise."
He said that at 4-12, it was clear the Eagles "overrated the talent on the roster, overrated the chemistry on the roster, we overrated the potential."
Roseman said a team's character is revealed when it faces adversity. He noted that when the 3-1 Eagles faced adversity in October, they responded by losing 11 of their final 12 games.
From Roseman's remarks and from the stark characterizations that emerged from the box-packing players in the locker room Monday, it was clear the Eagles need to do much more than tweak their roster.
A bitter-sounding Michael Vick recounted how he called a team meeting to get players to recommit, when things started going south.
"And it was still the same thing over and over again," Vick said. "I'm not going to tell a grown man anything twice . . . the reason I ended up incarcerated was because people told me the same thing over and over again, and I didn't listen. I feel like if you don't learn on the first go-round, then you just disregard it. So you just deal with the consequences. There's gonna always be consequences."
Vick, who turns 33 in the offseason, almost certainly is headed elsewhere, though Lurie and Roseman said that will be the new coach's call. The Eagles can release him within a few days of the Super Bowl, after the waiver period starts, with no financial obligation.
Running back LeSean McCoy was asked if he thought his teammates all laid it on the line for Reid.
"No, I don't think so," McCoy said. "That's obvious, man . . . you've seen the games."
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said that if anyone doesn't feel they let Reid down, "maybe they just weren't coach Reid guys. But I definitely feel like personally, as a team, we let him down."
Center Jason Kelce talked of how young the team was, and said it was, "in desperate need of leadership, on both sides of the ball."