I understand if you want the Eagles’ general manager more than fired. Also, tarred and feathered. Drawn and quartered. Exfoliated, even, head to toe.
But Jeffrey Lurie isn’t going to fire Howie Roseman.
And so, since the Eagles’ owner won’t dethrone Roseman then he should let King Howie rule. Give him a free and terrible hand. Diminish his “advisors.” Give Howie the scouts’ information, let the coaches have their input, then sit back and let Roseman reign.
Lurie is fixated on having wise voices guide his golden boy, but there’s a reason why nobody wants John Dorsey or Tom Donahoe running their personnel departments. There are so many egos in the NovaCare Center, Jim Schwartz’s couldn’t fit any more.
There is room for only one voice in an NFL front office.
Even if it’s squeaky.
On Day One of the 2021 draft I want to hear Howie Roseman say, “I drafted receiver DaVonte Smith out of Alabama because I have a fetish for skinny fast guys,” and then see highlights of Nelson Agholor, Jalen Reagor, and Sidney Jones.
On Day Two I want to see Roseman say, “I drafted center Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern because he was smart enough to opt out of the COVID-2020 season, and because the warranties on Jason Kelce’s bionic parts expire in December.”
On Day Three I want Roseman to explain, “I drafted this safety and these three linebackers because I clearly devalue those positions.”
No more collaboration. I want accountability. Clarity. I want Roseman to completely own whatever successes or failures result. I want one vision, and I want it to come from the 2017 Executive of the Year.
Yes, the Eagles’ roster is littered with problems. And yes, the buck stops at Roseman’s oversized desk.
But not all of the issues are of Roseman’s making alone. In fact, many of the Eagles’ issues exist because Howie 2.0 has been far too diplomatic. And we know where nice guys finish.
When Lurie returned Roseman from exile in 2016 he did so with the caveat that Roseman would be less dictatorial in his management style, more inclusive in his decision-making.
This system has been ... imperfect.
The Birds reportedly hired Dorsey, the abrasive former Chiefs and Browns GM, as a consultant before the 2020 draft. Which might explain why the 2020 draft was so weird -- not unlike the 2017, 2018, and 2019 drafts. It’s how the owner wants it to be, apparently.
Lurie said in January of 2016 that Roseman would return from his one year of administrative exile and run the football operations but only if Roseman was willing to collaborate with lieutenants, who would be named later. Five months later, Lurie hired Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl as Roseman’s No. 2 and No. 3. Both made their names scouting college players. Lurie also moved Donahoe, the former Steelers GM, from player personnel director (a post he’d held for six months) back to senior advisor, the post to which he was hired in 2012 and occupies today.
So, how did the front office actually work?
According to current and former Eagles front office sources, Roseman largely retained power to extend contracts, to pursue free agents, and to make trades. As for the draft, he shared power with coaches, scouts, and, of course, with Douglas and Weidl.
How did that division of power manifest itself?
Credit Roseman with: extending Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson, departed Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, signing linebacker Nigel Bradham, signing Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks, signing receiver Alshon Jeffery, signing safety Rodney McLeod, signing defensive ends Chris Long and Michael Bennett, signing running back LeGarrette Blount, trading for running back Jay Ajayi -- and, of course, for engineering the 2016 trade sequence that landed the No 2 overall pick, which became Carson Wentz.
Roseman ran the 2016 draft. Wentz led off the Eagles’ 2016 draft and made the Pro Bowl in his second season, and he was followed by linemen Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Jalen Mills, all drafted in the third round or later, and who have combined for 120 starts so far.
Spread that blame and that credit. Douglas ran the scouting department that gave the Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett, cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, receivers Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, as well as left tackle Andre Dillard -- all disappointments to date. Douglas left for the Jets after the 2019 draft. Weidl was in charge of the 2020 edition, and Dorsey was in the virtual draft room when the Birds took speed receiver Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson in the first round.
To be fair, the assessments on Reagor and Dillard are extremely incomplete: Dillard sat, as scheduled, for most of 2019, then missed 2020 with an injury. Reagor also lost time this season to injury, and, like Dillard, always was considered a project. Further, tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Mile Sanders have been home-run second-rounders from 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Roseman’s unorthodox choice to draft Jalen Hurts in the second round as a four-year injury insurance policy for Wentz turned out accidentally brilliant as Wentz transformed into the NFL’s worst quarterback. Hurts replaced Wentz as the starter three quarters into the 12th game.
For anyone who believes Hurts’ presence spurred Wentz’s demise, rememeber that the Packers did exactly the same thing with Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Rodgers sat for three years behind Brett Favre, who wound up making three more trips to the Pro Bowl.
Roseman’s most controversial transaction might turn out to be his most important.
In fact, in this moment, it might be the main reason Roseman still has his job.
The Eagles’ most glaring and definitive issues lie at the receiver position. Here, Roseman & Co. drafted Arcega-Whiteside over DK Metcalf in the second round in April of 2019. Metcalf turned into a star, JJAW into a bust. A month earlier Roseman traded a sixth-round pick for DeSean Jackson, and he has since spent almost $20 million on the 34-year-old wideout, who has caught 23 passes and played just eight games.
Similarly, Jeffery, 30, missed about half of the Eagles’ games the past two seasons, in which he earned $23 million and caught just 49 passes. To be fair, both the Jackson and Jeffery deals were largely applauded when they were done. So were the signings of defensive tackles Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson, who cost the Birds more than $23 million this season and combined for just six sacks.
Receiver is a pretty simple position to fix; see what Dallas, Arizona, and Buffalo have done. The Eagles’ most complicated issue lies on the offensive line, whose depth Roseman mostly ignored until 2019. The line’s incompetence was the biggest reason for Wentz’s collapse this year, the first year the Eagles will miss the playoffs since 2016. This shortcoming is the most serious of Roseman’s sins, but one for which he seems eager to atone. He drafted Dillard in 2019 and promising fourth-round tackle Jack Driscoll in 2020.
Roseman’s other habits won’t change much. Bradham was Roseman’s only real hit at linebacker, whom he signed in 2016 and retained for four seasons. In fact, much of the wrath Philadelphia feels for Roseman emanates from the city’s long love affair with linebackers, from Chuck Bednarik to Maxie Baughan to Bill Bergey to Seth Joyner.
Roseman doesn’t value safeties either, but we all have our blind spots. Here’s a compromise: Let Dorsey draft a linebacker on Day Two. Dorsey used be a linebacker.
Otherwise, if you’re not going to fire Howie Roseman, just leave him the hell alone.