MOBILE, Ala. – As the Eagles decamped to this bayside city for Senior Bowl week, it sure seemed the brain trust was acutely aware of a lack of public confidence in the personnel acumen of de facto general manager Howie Roseman.
The team website's preview of this week of college all-star prospect evaluation was given by first-year player personnel vice president Joe Douglas. Douglas also accompanied Roseman to Monday's appearance on the 94WIP morning show, and when host Angelo Cataldi brought up Roseman's contention that most of his draft misses have been a result of reaching for "need" positions, Roseman quickly turned the conversation to Douglas, hired after last year's draft from the Bears, but boasting a long prior tenure in the highly regarded Ravens personnel operation.
"I've got this big guy here in front of me. His assignment is to make sure we don't make the mistakes of the past," Roseman said.
Douglas said, as NFL personnel people often do this time of year, that "I think we're always going to take the best available player."
That usually is the intention, but sometimes free agency doesn't reap the benefits you'd sought, and in the draft, the guys you were most excited about get taken before your spot comes up, and, well, you wind up with Marcus Smith.
Cataldi wondered if they would still take the best player available in the first round – the Eagles will draft either 14th or 15th overall, pending a coin flip with the Colts, to be conducted at the NFL Scouting Combine – if the best player were a quarterback.
Roseman indicated that wouldn't be the case, that he is "not even watching the quarterbacks right now."
It isn't exactly clear how the draft process will work in this latest Roseman regime. Roseman and team chairman Jeffrey Lurie have talked of collaboration among Roseman, Douglas and head coach Doug Pederson, but at the end of the collaborating, someone must make a decision. Apparently, that person will be Roseman, after Douglas has set the Eagles' draft board, establishing which players the organization likes best at which positions.
Douglas, 40, a former University of Richmond offensive tackle, was asked how the Ravens operate under general manager Ozzie Newsome. Newsome and Roseman have contrasting backgrounds; Newsome was one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, whereas Roseman started out as the Eagles' legal counsel.
"Ozzie's one of the most consistent people in the NFL, the way he treats people, just the way he goes about his business," Douglas said. "The biggest thing that he believes in is that if you do the work, if you put the time in on a player, everyone gets their say. So we have a great open forum in draft meetings. It didn't matter what level – personnel executive down to personnel assistant. You did the work, you have a say. He's a Hall of Famer.
"At the end of the day, he does make the final call, but it's such a collaborative effort, not only with the personnel guys but with the coaches . . . Everyone has an opportunity to speak their mind and give their opinion on a player. If there's a tie . . . He breaks the tie, but it rarely comes down to that."
Roseman has always valued Senior Bowl week, the opportunity to see draft prospects practicing and playing with and against other draft prospects, which isn't always the case during college football season. In the Eagles website preview, Douglas said he likes coming to Mobile because in the practices, "you get to see a person's competitive makeup."
"It's great to see how they prepare," Douglas said. "It's great to see how they take coaching. It's great to see them go through just the mundane things in practice. And then the game, to see them put it all together."
It's unlikely the Eagles' first-round target will be in Mobile this week, unlike last season, when Senior Bowl week became the catalyst for moving up to select quarterback Carson Wentz second overall.
Wentz was the kind of prospect this week is built for – he'd started just 23 college games, at Football Championship Subdivision North Dakota State. NFL teams were eager to see him contend with receivers and defensive backs from Ohio State, Alabama or LSU.
Often, though, the very top prospects skip Mobile, figuring they don't have anything to prove. This year, all best-available talk aside, the Eagles ought to be able to find a difference-maker at corner or wide receiver at 14 or 15, without having to reach. But the headliners there in mock drafts right now are junior-eligibles who can't participate in the Senior Bowl, such as Florida corner Teez Tabor and Clemson receiver Mike Williams. In fact, most media evaluations go four or five deep at corner or wideout before getting to someone who is on a Senior Bowl roster.
It's important to recall, though, that the Eagles have picks in every round, two in the fifth, and as seventh-round corner and Senior Bowl alum Jalen Mills showed last year, everybody gets the same chance once training camp starts.
Douglas said he wants "guys that are obsessed with winning, guys that are physically and mentally tough."
Asked what traits he values in a wide receiver, Douglas said: "I think the first thing you look for at specific positions is confidence. Just their competitive makeup, their confidence level, how they persevere through adversity. Those are some of the hardest things to find out. It doesn't always jump off the page. So you really have to dig, have to get to know the guy the best you can."
Listening to that description, it was hard not to think about 2015 first-round wide receiver Nelson Agholor, deactivated for a week last season because he was struggling emotionally.
Though corner is a priority, the Eagles' offseason will largely be about putting weapons around Wentz. Roseman made it clear Monday that he understands the stakes.
"We gotta make sure that we don't sit here in Philadelphia 5, 10 years from now and say, 'You know what? We did a disservice to Carson Wentz.' We take that very seriously," he said. "We wake up every day, we come in and we talk about making sure we surround this guy with the right talent, to give him a chance to play in games like (Sunday's conference championships)."
Failure to do so would probably put Roseman in the same boat as his close friend and former Eagles colleague Ryan Grigson, dismissed over the weekend by the Colts because in five years he failed to build a contender around Andrew Luck.
Roseman said Wentz "understands what we have and what we need," though "he would never throw his teammates under the bus."
"We're trying to make sure that we're going to surround him and do the right thing for that kid, so that when he looks back on his career, he'll know he had every chance to bring this championship to the city of Philadelphia," Roseman said.
Roseman indicated Wentz's input will be sought, "probably more in free agency than the draft, because it's hard for him to get caught up on the draft process."