Joe Douglas could be the Eagles' next hot commodity
With Jim Schwartz, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo likely to be on the radar for head coaching vacancies, the Eagles also have a possible GM candidate in Joe Douglas.
There's a saying that feeding others' success fuels your own, but that isn't always the case in the NFL when winning teams have their coaching staffs and personnel departments ravaged by other teams looking to copy the formula.
The 12-2 Eagles could be bitten by that paradox this offseason with as many as three assistants and one scout up for head-coaching and general manager vacancies.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and offensive coordinator Frank Reich's candidacies have been well established over the last few months, but drifting under the radar is the possibility of the Eagles losing vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas.
If it were any other year, Douglas, considering the Eagles' evaluating triumphs, would likely be gone. But there is currently only one GM opening (New York Giants) and possibly only a few more (Buccaneers? Bears?) once the regular season ends.
Even if Douglas were to draw interest, Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman would have a couple of cards to play to appease the 41-year-old scout. But one thing the Eagles executives will never offer is final say – that belongs to Roseman – and the first offer Douglas gets to call the shots, he's likely going to take it.
To some surprise, Douglas wasn't among the 14 prospective general managers on the list of recommendations the NFL sends out to teams every December. The lists – there's one for head coaches, as well — are meant simply as a guide.
Doug Pederson, for instance, wasn't on the list two years ago, and he's in the running for Coach of the Year honors.
But the gathering of names, compiled by NFL elders like former GM Charlie Casserly, does offer a glimpse into some of the possible contenders. There are two tiers – those with prior head-coaching and GM experience and those without – and Schwartz is on the former while Reich in on the latter.
DeFilippo wasn't mentioned, but positional coaches hardly make the list. Nevertheless, the quarterbacks coach will draw interest with a possible eight vacancies, and teams aspiring to replicate the Eagles' blueprint in drafting, developing, and coaching Carson Wentz.
Checking for prints
Friday April 28, 2017 The Philadelphia Eagles officially introduced their number one draft pick Derek Barnett, to the media at an afternoon press conference at the teams NovaCare training complex. Here, Derek Barnett poses for a picture with members of the Eagles management , left to right, Howie Roseman, ]executive vice president of football operations, Barnett, Head Coach Doug Pederson and Joe Douglas, vice president of player personnel.Douglas' contributions are a little harder to quantify, even if, like Reich and DeFilippo, he doesn't have full authority. He was hired in May 2016, after Wentz was drafted, and has had only one offseason of running the Eagles' personnel department.
But Roseman's right-hand man had quite a 2017 if Lurie's comments from March — "The hiring of Joe Douglas, I thought, was the pivotal moment of the last year," the Eagles owner said – are to be taken at face value.
Roseman deserves ultimate responsibility for personnel decisions. It comes with the territory. But Douglas' fingerprints were all over several acquisitions, and most prominently, on the draft that was carved from his board.
Free agent wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith came from organizations – the Bears and the Ravens — where Douglas had previously worked. He knew both well and Jeffery's familiarity with Douglas played a role in his decision to sign with the Eagles.
Smith has been a minor disappointment. But Jeffery, even though he hasn't met expectations in terms of catches (56 through 14 games) and receiving yards (781), has been instrumental in the overall success of the offense. He signed a four-year, $52.25 million contract earlier this month.
A few weeks earlier, the Eagles extended another of their offseason additions –Tim Jernigan – to a four-year, $48 million extension. Douglas, who had helped scout the defensive tackle before the Ravens drafted him, had a strong voice in Roseman's trade for Jernigan in April. While his impact as a pass rusher has been mild, Jernigan has been stout against the run.
As far as the Eagles' other major moves from the start of free agency right up until the Oct. 31 trade deadline, there have been more hits than misses. Quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, cornerback Patrick Robinson and safety Corey Graham, another from Douglas' past, have mostly exceeded expectations.
Cornerback Ronald Darby and running back Jay Ajayi, acquired in trades after training camp, had made relative contributions this season and are potential building blocks for the future. Poaching kicker Jake Elliott from the Bengals practice squad was a steal.
But the draft was Douglas' baby, and while it takes at least three years to make proper assessments, the early returns on the class have been mostly positive. Defensive end Derek Barnett, cornerback Rasul Douglas, and receiver Mack Hollins have shown promise. Running back Donnell Pumphrey, receiver Shelton Gibson, linebacker Nathan Gerry, and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls less so.
"I was very happy with the whole process in the draft this year," Lurie said in September when he last spoke publicly. "I thought it was very thorough. It was very strategic. We knew exactly what we would do if 'X' player wasn't there."
'X' player was there in the second round, or at least that's the way it was told, and the Eagles selected Sidney Jones. Roseman wasn't simply checking the next name off Douglas' board in drafting the injured cornerback. He had to intercede. But the gamble on Jones, who is unlikely to play this season, could ultimately decide the overall worth of the class.
"That was an upside decision, obviously, with the organization," Lurie said. "It hurt the short-term, but … we don't expect to be drafting in the top 10 for a while, hopefully for a decade or more."
It's difficult to imagine Douglas remaining with the Eagles for even half that span. Wentz makes Lurie's optimism a likelihood. The team should be a playoff contender every year, especially if the personnel department keeps surrounding the quarterback with talent.
Douglas is already held in high regard in certain NFL circles, but he is still viewed by some as strictly a "football guy." The modern-day GM job encompasses more than just traveling to college games and watching film.
"It's not simply, 'OK, this is your scout or this is your GM, or whatever,'" Lurie said in March. "Football operations requires enormous processing and identifying of key data. If you don't a have great player personnel department, an excellent analytics department, really good sports science, top-notch player development, excellent teaching, you're not going to be the team you want to be."
Roseman fills that role as the executive vice president of football operations, but giving Douglas the empty GM title, and maybe a raise with additional responsibility, could be a way of rewarding the senior scout and maintaining continuity – at least for now.