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Inside the Eagles: It's all on Chip now, but Lurie made right choice in demoting Roseman

PHOENIX - After cutting through what's truth or fiction in the Eagles Front Office Power Struggle of 2015, the bottom line is that Jeffrey Lurie, when faced with the prospect of choosing between Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman, made the correct final call.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)Read more

PHOENIX - After cutting through what's truth or fiction in the Eagles Front Office Power Struggle of 2015, the bottom line is that Jeffrey Lurie, when faced with the prospect of choosing between Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman, made the correct final call.

"I changed my mind," Lurie said after nearly three months of public silence on why he gave Kelly final say over football operations only five days after he scoffed at a question on whether Roseman would return as general manager.

"I'm an owner that tends to absolutely be supportive of a coach and his vision if it's a real sharp and smart vision," Lurie said later during a 40-minute news conference at the NFL meeting. "I really believe in that. I'm probably influenced by some of the people that we all respect, with Bill Walsh, Jimmy Johnson."

Kelly, of course, still doesn't have what Walsh and Johnson won as NFL head coaches - Super Bowls. But after two 10-6 seasons with players he largely inherited and quarterbacks who were less than elite, Kelly earned the right to ask for full control over personnel and a right-hand executive of his own choosing.

Did that mean Lurie had to give unprecedented power to a coach for the first time in his 21-year tenure as owner? No. He could have forced Kelly, as he did with Andy Reid, to work with Roseman in a Joe Banner-like role. Or he could have had Kelly hire a general manager with more authority than Ed Marynowitz has as vice president of player personnel.

But Lurie was pot-committed with Kelly. He gambled on hiring a college coach with zero NFL experience two years ago. And with Roseman, whose track record as GM was unexceptional at best, in the way, the 63-year-old owner had little choice but to double down on the "football guy."

It's a risk handing so much authority to one man, especially after Reid and Ray Rhodes fell short of winning championships after Lurie gave them almost as much control. But to quote the 19th-century writer David Grayson, "We fail more often by timidity than by over-daring."

Kelly has already proved to be a daring GM. He has let his starting quarterback, running back, and No. 1 wide receiver leave this offseason and acquired a handful of players via free agency and trades who have been injury-prone during their NFL careers. It may have been shocking to some, but Lurie said Kelly's vision was clear.

"When we hired Chip, his style of play is very different than what we had before," Lurie said. ". . . We had to over two years understand where we're at: Where are we going to maximize Chip Kelly's vision and system - or were we going to counteract it?"

Let's be clear: Kelly's vision didn't include Roseman in the picture when it came to selecting players. The coach didn't respect the six-year GM as an evaluator. He likely wanted Tom Gamble to replace him, but Roseman fired him Dec. 31 after a contentious year.

"It was a long time coming," Lurie said of Gamble's ouster.

But Lurie said Gamble's firing - one that Kelly has distanced himself from - didn't set off a chain of events that led two days later to Kelly's official ascension and Roseman's fall. That's a hard idea to buy, especially when Gamble was hired shortly thereafter by the 49ers.

If Lurie made the only feasible decision in giving Kelly final say, he lacked conviction in keeping Roseman. Kelly has said that he has a productive working relationship with the former GM, who supposedly remains in charge of the salary cap and contracts. But of course Kelly would - he makes all the decisions.

Roseman, meanwhile, remains silent, likely plotting his next move. Lurie gave him more money and a contract extension, but he also has publicly cut off his friend at the knees. GMs don't typically get second chances, and Roseman will also have to fight the perception that he isn't a "football guy."

"It wasn't Howie," Lurie said. "I think it was much more Chip's requirement to sort of have a football guy that he was comfortable with in terms of helping him day to day and minute by minute."

So Howie's not a "football guy"?

"That may have been the interpretation," Lurie said. "But I don't think that's how any of us really see it."

You can be sure the rest of the league sees it that way.

Roseman was especially adept at engineering successful trades and crafting a draft board that generally reflected leaguewide opinion on prospects. He knew how to get great value. Kelly doesn't seem to care as much about getting the most for his dollar. He wants specific players for his specific system and he's willing to give up a little extra to get them.

"It's a different form and structure than most organizations have in the NFL because it's so tied to a particular series of requirements and modes of play," Lurie said.

Lurie said that Kelly wants to "integrate scouting with coaching," which basically means he wants the coaches to have more say in evaluating and choosing players. That's an uncommon practice as well, and could make it difficult for Marynowitz to recruit experienced scouts.

There isn't a team in the league with less NFL experience at the top. Kelly, who will meet with reporters Wednesday morning, would probably say that football is football at any level. But Lurie has certainly ventured into uncharted waters.

It's a boat of his own making, and he made the right choice in tossing Roseman overboard. But there isn't a life raft if Kelly fails.