Let's not beat around the bush. Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has done a very good job of running Philadelphia's player personnel department ever since regaining control in the wake of Chip Kelly's firing.
It's hard not to like what the Birds have done this offseason. The team started out by re-signing young talent such as Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, and Vinny Curry to long-term contract extensions. By doing this, they might save money in the long run because they're getting out in front of the market and betting on potential. The Eagles also cleared up cap space and even managed to acquire draft picks in return by trading away the two bad contracts held by DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell. Those were deals that no one expected to even be possible to move. The Eagles then used that cap space to fill roster holes in free agency without committing the kind of crazy money Kelly handed out last offseason. Signings like Rodney McLeod, Brandon Brooks, and Nigel Bradham give the Eagles starting players at positions of need without breaking the bank.
Roseman has drawn a lot of praise in the media for the work he's done so far. Writers from NFL.com and CBS Sports have given the Eagles an "A+" for their moves this offseason. Roseman's redemption story has received national coverage from the likes of FOX Sports and The MMQB. Eagles CEO and Chairman Jeffrey Lurie said he "couldn’t be more pleased" with the way Roseman has operated.
Even some of Roseman's biggest skeptics, myself included, are being forced to admit he's doing a good job. But while Roseman deserves credit for what he's done so far, there are still very big question marks that remain.
Does Roseman look better because Kelly was so bad?
We now know that Kelly was way in over his head as a personnel evaluator. He made a lot of bad moves last offseason. Whether it was overpaying for a washed up running back in Murray or guarantee a lot of money to a useless wide receive such as Miles Austin or completely neglecting the offensive line or failing to get value for players and instead releasing them (Evan Mathis) ... Kelly made his fair share of mistakes. He was so bad that even an average replacement would look great in comparison. My criticism of Roseman has never been that he's a terrible general manager. The problem is he's been average. He's good enough to not deserve to get fired but not good enough to put the team over the top. I think the perception that Roseman is having a good offseason is accurate, but I also think it's helped out by the fact his predecessor was so bad in comparison.
Can Roseman acquire a legitimate franchise quarterback?
Quarterback is the most important position in the game and it's one where Roseman has struggled to find a legitimate long-term solution. It's not like he didn't have the opportunity to get one, either. He passed over Russell Wilson three times in the 2012 NFL Draft. He passed over Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater in 2014. The Birds haven't had a franchise quarterback since the days of Donovan McNabb. Roseman has yet to prove he's capable of getting that cornerstone piece to build around.
This offseason, Roseman re-signed Sam Bradford and acquired Chase Daniel in free agency. Neither of those players are sure-fire long-term options. The injury-prone Bradford has been average at best to this point in his career. Daniel might not be more than a high quality backup and low-end starter. The Eagles are expected to acquire a quarterback at some point in the 2016 NFL Draft. Ideally that young player could be someone the Birds can build around for years to come. If not, the Eagles' instability at quarterback will continue and they probably won't be contending for a championship any time soon.
Is Doug Pederson a good head coach?
This is a total mystery. We won't really know for sure about Pederson's coaching ability until we actually see him in action. There are some reasons to be optimistic. The Chiefs' offense ranked top 10 in points twice out of the three years he was in Kansas City. Pederson has had the opportunity to work with some great NFL coaches in his career such as Andy Reid, Don Shula, Mike Holmgren, etc.
But there are also plenty of reasons to be skeptical. For one, it seems like Pederson may not have been the Eagles' first choice. The Birds seemed desperate to go after Ben McAdoo after interviewing Pederson. Pederson didn't get interviewed by any other teams with coaching vacancies. He comes off awkward in interviews, which might not really matter, but it could raise questions about his ability to command and lead the locker room.
We don't know if Pederson will be a good head coach or not. We do know that Pederson is the second coach to be hired under Roseman's watch. If Pederson doesn't work out, can you really justify keeping him around for what would be his third coaching hire?
Can Roseman work with others?
The Eagles have preached the strategy of a "collaborative approach" this offseason in the wake of Kelly's power play for full control of the team's personnel department. The team is expected to hire a new player personnel chief after the 2016 NFL Draft. It's clear Roseman has been running the show in the meantime. With that in mind, it seems likely that the new player personnel guy will still have to answer to Roseman. So will the new executive just be a puppet, which doesn't seem helpful, or will they be someone who can add value to the team's personnel evaluation process? And will Roseman be able to work with someone who might challenge his authority? There's been talk about how Roseman's ascension in the organization came at the expense of front office people such as current Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, former Eagles scout Louis Riddick, former Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble, former Eagles president Joe Banner, etc. It's hard to see the value of the Eagles hiring a personnel chief who is just going to be a "yes man." They need someone who can respectfully challenge Roseman.
Will Roseman be held accountable?
This is the most important question of all. There's a sentiment that Roseman has deflected and dodged a lot of blame since being hired as general manager in 2010. Part of that has been made possible due to the Eagles' ambiguous power structure over the years. Lurie once absolved Roseman of blame when it came to draft mistakes prior to 2012. But isn't it rather convenient to say Roseman wasn't responsible for anything bad and only everything good? If Roseman didn't really have any power before 2012, why did he ever deserve to be promoted to the general manager title? On what merit did he gain the position?
There are also inconsistencies about Roseman's responsibility in past personnel moves. Lurie may have absolved Roseman of blame when it came to the Danny Watkins pick in 2011, but right after the NFL Draft that year Reid said Watkins was a guy Roseman really wanted. And then there's the notion that Roseman had full control over the 2012 draft class, which is generally used by Roseman defenders as an example of his success. But it was reported that Roseman wanted Kirk Cousins, and not Nick Foles, in the third round. That notion was confirmed this offseason as Washington reportedly feared Philadelphia was going to make a run at Cousins if they didn't franchise tag him.
Looking back, all of this is very messy and it's hard to know what's really true. What we do know is that the Eagles haven't won a playoff game or found a legitimate franchise quarterback since Roseman took over. A lot of NFL general managers aren't afforded to keep their jobs after six years (and counting) of missing out on big achievements like those ones.
The way Roseman has dodged blame in the past is a stark contrast from how the Eagles operated in 2015, when everyone knew Kelly was in complete control. While that experiment ultimately turned out to be a failure, at least Lurie knew who to blame when things went wrong and now Kelly is gone.
It's been reported in the past that Lurie thinks Roseman can do no wrong. For what it's worth, Lurie is now saying that he's going to hold Roseman accountable for his actions moving forward.
"Without question," Lurie said. "And he’ll be accountable for how well the player personnel department does in the future, because that’s an important hire going forward. It’s not just one person. It’s a department. But he’ll be responsible for the quality of that department."
Has Roseman learned from his mistakes?
Lurie said that Roseman, after being moved out of the player personnel department, used the 2015 season as a learning experience.
"The whole plan was for Howie to really spend the time studying state-of-the-art decision-making around the globe in sports," Lurie said. "We really opened it up, from English Premier League, NHL, NBA, MLB - try to find who the best general managers or 'head of basketball operations' were. . . . Really take that year and learn from the best - they're usually open about their successes and mistakes and where they got lucky - and take it all in."