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On the Eagles Structure, Power, and Jeffrey Lurie's Big Gamble

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The Eagles front office is suddenly in turmoil after the recent Tom Gamble bombshell. But is it possible the move was an attempt by Lurie to restore balance to the organization?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What a crazy start to the new year we've had. First, news breaks that Tom Gamble was fired. This was immediately followed by a slew of reports about Roseman: that he was "furious" with Chip Kelly's press conference remarks, that he had spoken with the New York Jets, and that Lurie views him as a "messiah." All of this was accompanied by speculation regarding the dynamics within the front office which generally reached the same conclusion: if it came down to a "Kelly vs. Roseman" ultimatum, Howie would be the guy left standing.

A common proverb goes, "There are three sides to every story: your side, their side, and the truth." Stories like the Gamble firing are prime targets for media sensationalism, where both reporters and their sources may be attempting to serve their own agendas. This may be a cynical viewpoint and I am not trying to suggest that writers are hacks, but it's also easy to get caught up in big news and neglect due diligence. In this post, we're going to take a step back and review this situation.

What We Know

When I say, "what we know," I mean facts, or at the very least educated inferences. And, in spite of all the news, we really only know three things:

Lurie believes in Howie Roseman. I'm not going to endorse the "messiah" narrative, but it's hard to look at Roseman and not conclude that he is on the good side of Jeffrey Lurie. Since joining the Eagles in 2000, executives such as Tom Heckert, Joe Banner, Jason Licht, and Louis Riddick have all seen their time with organization expire. Even Andy Reid was given the axe over Roseman, who was responsible for the disatrous "Dream Team" free agent signings in 2011. And yet Howie remains.

Chip Kelly was given an opportunity to exercise more power in 2014. Kelly's "culture-first" mentality was obviously the driver behind the DeSean Jackson debacle last spring which is the biggest piece of evidence behind this statement. The interest in Oregon players over positions of greater need also suggest that he had a larger say in the draft process.

Kelly and Roseman are not on the same page. The earliest signs of this were back in the 2014 Draft, when Roseman and Kelly disagreed on where to draft Oregon defensive end Taylor Hart. Since then, the only concrete evidence we have are the words of Chip, who described his relationship with Roseman as "good" and went on to describe him as a glorified CPA.

My Take

If we wind the clock back to 2012, I penned a fanpost discussing whether or not Andy Reid and his staff suffered from groupthink. In short, "groupthink" is when members of a team adopt a flawed decision-making process in order to maintain harmony within the group. In Reid's case, he had consolidated power within the organization and then surrounded himself with yes men who wouldn't question his actions or decisions. This resulted in the downfall of the team as they went 12-20 in Reid's last two seasons and had a completely dysfunctional locker room.

I suspect that Lurie learned a lot from this experience and possibly holds himself accountable for essentially allowing one person to run the entire team from top to bottom. This would make him hesitant to offer one person too much influence and gave Kelly a short leash during his opportunity this season. Kelly effectively wasted his opportunity with a weak draft and the Jackson affair and Lurie let him know by canning Gamble, whom he was reportedly "tight" with.

Now Lurie has made it clear that he wants Kelly and Roseman to work together as colleagues in spite of their differences. This can very well be a smart move, as differing perspectives can often lead to great decisions and ideas. When groups and teams are formed in the corporate world, they are rarely homogeneous because gathering together people who see things differently broadens the spectrum of thoughts and ideas. This is likely the model Lurie is following - he is hoping that the contrast between Chip and Howie will lead to better actions and decisions, in a "greater than the sum of its parts" sort of way.

Of course, this strategy does not come without its own risks. By structuring the organization this way Lurie is effectively hedging his bets on the maturity and professionalism of both his coach and general manager. In a traditional business setting, these traits are to be assumed, but football is different. We have lots of people testifying on Kelly's football prowess, innovation, and intellectualism, but we have few character witnesses. He seems like a nice guy, but perhaps he has a short temper or struggles with confrontation. On this topic, we know even less about Roseman, who has managed to stay out of the direct spotlight. If one or both of them have issues of this sort, putting them in this setup could make the situation toxic with an ending similar to what happened in San Francisco.

For what it's worth, I am inclined to believe that Roseman behaves professionally, given that his background is entirely in business. Additionally, Kelly seems like someone who is simply too smart to allow his emotions to dictate his actions. While the relationship between the two of them is probably not as strong as it could be I think the severity of it might be the product of media spin. But wherever the truth lies, one thing is for certain: Lurie has spoken on how he wants the Eagles to operate, and only time will tell how risky of a gamble that move was.