Very shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles released Chip Kelly on Tuesday evening, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported former general manager Howie Roseman was returning to running the team's player personnel department. Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie confirmed Philadelphia's new collaborative power structure during his Wednesday press conference. Lurie revealed that Roseman, along with newly promoted senior director of player personnel Tom Donahoe and the team's future head coach, will be in charge of personnel. Lurie also confirmed the team will not be hiring a formal general manager. Here's his exact quote:
In terms of the front office and the executives and all that, Howie Roseman will remain as executive vice president in charge of football operations. [Senior Director of Player Personnel] Tom Donahoe will run the day-to-day player personnel department, which is a crucial hire in a crucial position in terms of player personnel. Howie will be responsible for making sure our player personnel department is as good as it gets in the NFL and be accountable for that, and that's pretty much the way it would go.
Our new head coach, executive vice president of football operations and a player personnel head, they are all partners to collaborate and that's the structure.
This new structure does not inspire confidence. In fact, it could be a giant mistake.
The Eagles are relying on the man who lost his job to fix everything
It's pretty crazy to me how the Eagles are trying to sell this move to the fans. Why isn't there more outrage about this? You should be furious. Howie Roseman essentially got demoted last January. He was moved out of the team's player personnel department entirely. To reflect this, his office was even moved to the other side of the NovaCare Complex.
Roseman, whose lifelong dream was to be involved in player personnel, was removed in favor of Chip Kelly, a guy who had no real NFL personnel department experience. People will point out how Kelly forced Lurie into giving him the power. That's not untrue. Still, the bottom line is that Roseman was removed. Do you really think Lurie would have forced a top general manager like Ozzie Newsome to give up his personnel power? If Roseman was really so special, how could he lose his job so easily to someone so unqualified like Kelly?
Kelly is gone now. He left a mess behind for someone else to clean up. By putting Roseman back in charge, Lurie is telling fans the guy who wasn't even good enough to keep his job is now going to fix everything. That's insane.
Howie Roseman isn't held accountable
During his Wednesday press conference, Lurie said he wanted to hold Kelly accountable for his decisions. But for whatever reason, Roseman hasn't really been held to the same standard during his tenure. The Eagles had problems before Kelly arrived, and despite being the team's general manager since 2010, Roseman has never answered for them.
Last year, CSN Philly reported talked about highly Lurie views Roseman.
'But Lurie is fiercely loyal to Roseman, who’s risen through the organization from intern to GM and has been here since 2000. Lurie even kept Roseman over his boyhood friend, team president Joe Banner, when Roseman and Banner were locked in a power struggle a few years ago.
"Jeffrey sees Howie as a messiah," a one-time Eagles front-office exec said Wednesday. "Howie can do no wrong in his eyes."'
And more about how Lurie has created a toxic work environment which doesn't allow for success:
"According to multiple personnel men who have worked under Lurie and Roseman, the team’s unconventional front office structure has enabled management turmoil to prevail year after year despite the rash of changes around Lurie and Roseman.
The root of the problem is the flow of information from Roseman to Lurie, which is spun exactly the way Roseman wants it.
So although Lurie is known to take "voluminous notes" about the goings-on in personnel matters surrounding his franchise, he’s essentially scribbling down the lecture coming from Roseman’s podium.
"A toxic environment," as one former Eagles personnel executive deemed it.
Lurie trusts Roseman blindly and implicitly, which is the only reason to explain why he’s sat back and allowed several well-regarded football men to become fall guys when the Eagles didn’t win or made bad draft picks.
Someone always pays the price — Marc Ross, Lou Riddick, Jason Licht — and now Gamble.
Someone other than Roseman, of course."
These reports from last year line up with a recent one about how Roseman had a role in Kelly being fired:
There was also a war going on in the NovaCare Complex between Roseman and Marynowitz, according to several sources inside and outside the building.
"Howie has been poisoning Ed,'' one person with knowledge of the infighting said. "And he has his people doing the same.''
According to several league sources, the firings have Roseman's fingerprints all over it.
"I can't believe it,'' a long-time executive for an Eagles rival said when told of Kelly's firing. "They did what? Are you serious? No, you're kidding right? You can't be serious.''
When he finally realized it wasn't a joke, he put the onus on the former and probably future general manager.
"Howie got him,'' the executive said. "He won. It took him some time, but he got to the owner, and he won. That's just amazing. What is Lurie thinking? That place is just out of control.''
In fairness to Roseman, this information could be planted by disgruntled ex-employees. But there's too much smoke here for there to not be a fire. I can tell you that these unfavorable assessments of Roseman line up with what I've heard about him from sources inside the Eagles organization.
None of this can leave Eagles fans feeling great about the team's current power structure. There's just no accountability when it comes to Roseman.
Howie Roseman's presence could make it harder to attract a head coach
The lack of accountability in the Eagles organization could potentially scare some desirable head coaching candidates away. The fact that Roseman is part of the search counsel certainly doesn't help matters. BGN's Dave Mangels wrote about this recently:
When Jeffrey Lurie gave Chip Kelly the keys to the Eagles as a result of Kelly winning his power struggle, he made a potentially fatal mistake in not firing the loser, Howie Roseman. It immediately created toxicity that lurked around the team. As the 2015 season continued to spiral downwards, that toxicity started to show with curiously timed and phrased reports praising Roseman, and reports of player frustrations with Kelly after a big win. With Roseman back in the fold of football operations, it's more clear than ever that he is a favorite son of Lurie. Andy Reid, Joe Banner and now Chip Kelly lost their jobs in part because of a struggle with Roseman. A coaching candidate may balk at entering a situation where a non-owner superior is viewed, rightly or wrongly, as infallible.
This sentiment also emerged when the Eagles were searching for a coach in 2013. Remember that Jason La Canfora report?
And now, there is no longer anyone to hide behind. Say what you want about former team president Joe Banner and his quirky coaching search in Cleveland, but a certain degree of chaos has seemed to permeate the Eagles building since he left. And, no longer are there out-sized characters around, like Reid and Banner, to take all the bullets when things fail. It's all on Roseman now. No more whispers about, oh, that wasn't Howie's guy, that wasn't Howie's signing, he never wanted him here in the first place.
Rather, very different chatter has been growing in NFL circles for weeks. What's up with the Eagles job? Why don't guys want it? What are their concerns?
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me one esteemed coach or another advised one of the Eagles' top candidates not to take the job precisely because of Roseman's presence there. Roseman isn't the general manager they should tie their wagon to. It's clear Chip Kelly wasn't leaving Oregon for anywhere unless he had a large measure of control over the organization, and owner Jeffrey Lurie has already entrusted that to Roseman. There has been trepidation by some candidates to go all-in given the questions about this existing power structure.
The rumblings about Roseman lacking nuance and foresight, about him turning people off with how drunk with power he's become, only grow louder as his coaching search grows stranger.
We all laughed at La Canfora later because the Eagles eventually landed Kelly. But in hindsight, it seems like Kelly turned down the Eagles the first time because of Roseman. Kelly only reconsidered taking the job because he was allowed to bring in his own player personnel guy, which was Tom Gamble. When Gamble was fired last year, Kelly pushed for complete control of player personnel because he didn't want to work with Roseman.
Perhaps the Eagles can find someone who wants to work with Roseman. But it seems like having him around could potentially eliminate some top coaching candidates.
Howie Roseman wasn't THAT great of a general manager
I already talked about how Lurie essentially admitted Roseman wasn't special when he removed him in favor of Kelly last year.
Before analyzing some of the specific moves that Roseman did/didn't make, I have to note it's hard to even know what exactly to credit/blame him for. The Eagles' power structure hasn't always been so clear. Roseman has been general manager since 2010, but Andy Reid and Joe Banner obviously had significant power when they were still around. Kelly, too, had some level of power before he won the power struggle.
For what it's worth, Lurie absolved Roseman of the disastrous 2011 NFL Draft picks when the team drafted huge busts like Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett. It's hard to fully trust Lurie's assessment, though, considering the report about how Roseman shifts blame. In any case, Lurie did credit Roseman with Philadelphia's selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. A lot of Roseman defenders point to that class as a testament to Roseman's ability. While it surely wasn't a bad draft for the Eagles, it doesn't look as good as it was as time has passed. Yes, Fletcher Cox was a very good pick. But how about those other selections? Mychal Kendricks has flashed but was highly erratic in 2015. Vinny Curry is a valuable pass rusher but might only be a role player due to his struggles to defend the run. Nick Foles once looked like a franchise quarterback but now he's one of the worst passers in the league. Brandon Boykin has some talent but has struggled to get off the bench in Pittsburgh.
In hindsight, Roseman's 2012 draft class should really be remembered for a pick that wasn't made: Russell Wilson. Despite Wilson promising the Eagles he would lead them to championships if they drafted him, Roseman passed on him three times before Seattle took him in the third round. There were reports that the Eagles wanted Wilson, but Philadelphia tried to get too cute with "value" and missed out. The Eagles ended up taking Foles instead, and he's not even nearly close to being a franchise quarterback the way Wilson is. Roseman often gets credited for managing the salary cap well, which he did, but that was also because he never found a franchise quarterback to pay.
I don't want to make it seem like Roseman was all bad as a general manager, because he wasn't. But his track record doesn't indicate there's anything special about him. Here's a good assessment by BGN's Danta Klaus:
I've had Howie Roseman's back in the past and am biased because he treated me well during my time as an intern with the team, but he's the one common denominator from the last five years of bullshit. Regardless of the extent to which he's the snake people claim, there's no denying the amount of smoke that follows him around. Roseman was an asset when it came to maintaining a young roster and navigating the cap favorably, but he couldn't be classified as a strong GM due to some key draft errors. He was OK, with some flashes that made you hopeful but an overall body of work that left you relatively uninspired. Oh my God, Howie Roseman is the Sam Bradford of GMs.
Note that the Eagles have never won a playoff game in the Roseman era.
Tom Donahoe isn't particularly inspiring
It remains to be seen how much influence Donahoe will have now, especially in relation to how much he's been able to contribute as a "senior football advisor" in the past.
Either way, Donahoe isn't particularly inspiring. He hasn't held a general manager position in over 10 years. At his most recent job, the Bills went 31-48 during his four-year tenure with Buffalo.
In fairness to Donahoe, he did do some good work with the Steelers. Pittsburgh went 84-60 during his tenure from 1991 to 1999. The Steelers went to the playoffs six years in a row from 1992 through 1997. They went 4-6 in the playoffs with one losing trip to the Super Bowl. Donahoe eventually left the Steelers after losing a power struggle with head coach Bill Cowher.
I don't know enough about Donahoe to say he can't be part of the solution. If he's so good, though, why has he been taking a backseat in the front office since being hired in 2012? And is he out of touch with the game after not being directly involved for a long time?
Jeffrey Lurie is missing a key opportunity to tear down everything at once
For Eagles fans, this has to be one of the most annoying parts about Roseman sticking around. Lurie had the opportunity to clean house by removing Kelly and starting fresh with a new general manager (a REAL one) and a new head coach. This organization really could have benefited from external hires bringing in fresh perspectives. Instead, it's more of the same.
Hey, maybe I'm wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. Maybe the Roseman and Donahoe combination will work. Maybe Roseman will be able to have more successful drafts like the one he had in 2012. I try to keep an open mind about these things.
I just don't feel like this new power structure is a recipe for success, however. There's too much evidence to suggest Roseman is likely more of a problem than he is a solution. The way I see it, the Eagles are making a big mistake by not hiring a real general manager. This team needs more talent and it's hard to feel confident about this personnel regime being the guys to get it done.