With one more meaningless game left on their 2020 schedule, the Philadelphia Eagles are officially allowed to fully ponder the off-season and the future of this franchise.
All talk about winning a horrible division has ceased, another December run to the postseason has vaporized, and no one can look at this 4-10-1 team and think they are anywhere close to postseason contention.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie has a multitude of questions to answer in order to right the ship. Is Howie Roseman, his consigliere and most trusted adviser, going to stay on as general manager? Is Doug Pederson, the only coach in franchise history to win a Super Bowl, going to remain as head coach? Will the offensive coaching staff remain in place or will more changes be made there, too? Is it time to move on from Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator? Who is this team’s quarterback in 2021 and beyond?
Many of the smaller questions facing the Eagles cannot be addressed until the larger ones are tackled. The futures of Roseman and Pederson are of highest priority and Jeffrey Lurie, the most successful owner in Philadelphia sports, will make those calls.
The 2017 Super Bowl team is irreparable and must be dismantled. The Eagles are an expensive team, $71 million over next year’s projected cap, and have failed miserably at selecting high impact players in the last five drafts, all of them under Roseman. The coaching staff has failed to develop those players and must share some of the blame as well, but it’s clear it will be difficult to rebuild this roster, with so much money kicked down the road to aging veterans or subpar players and a franchise QB soaking up $34 million in cap space next year and no potential future with the club.
At the start of the baseball off-season, the Phillies faced a similar predicament, fully emerged from their arduous rebuild, but a team littered with holes. They had few good young players on the roster and a difficult financial situation. However, there is reason to be encouraged there, as team owner John Middleton finally recognized the team’s front office had failed to accomplish their stated goals. So he reassigned former general manager Matt Klentak to another gig in the building somewhere and replaced him with two-time World Series champion executive Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski promoted one of the more promising young executives in the sport, Sam Fuld, to GM, and the team is undertaking an honest-to-goodness audit of what’s gone right over the last five years and what’s gone wrong.
The Phils were not delusional. They recognized their faults and realized changes needed to be made from the top, down.
If the Eagles are going to get better, Lurie needs to do the same thing.
He needs to look at Roseman’s objectively terrible record of drafting. He needs to look at Roseman’s supposed “cap genius” and the perilous financial situation in which the team finds itself as it heads into 2021. They are one of the oldest teams in the league, with the least amount of flexibility cap-wise. He has whiffed on a number of draft picks (JJAW over D.K. Metcalf and Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson to name two) made contradictory decisions (drafting JJ Arcega-Whiteside then signing Alshon Jeffrey to an extension and drafting Hurts immediately after giving Wentz a record contract extension), missed out on opportunities to add impact talent (DeAndre Hopkins, Stephon Diggs, Robby Anderson), wasted trade capital on players they failed to get full use out of (Genard Avery, Golden Tate), ignored entire positions (linebacker and safety), and over-spent at others (defensive tackle).
The power structure inside the team also appears broken. Pederson seemingly has less power than any Super Bowl winning coach in recent memory, with ownership meddling in the coaching structure last off-season, and Schwartz essentially existing as co-coach with Pederson, with complete control over the defense.
Doug Pederson’s performance should also be called into questions. While he did win a Super Bowl in glorious fashion, humiliating Bill Belichick in the process, the team has been in decline ever since. He has failed to develop Carson Wentz (although Roseman and Wentz himself share responsibility for Wentz’ steep decline), watched his team start each of the last three seasons dreadfully slowly, and authored one of the most boring and ineffective offenses during that stretch.
Schwartz’ defenses are generally OK, but his over-reliance on the defensive line and an inability or unwillingness to play younger players (K’Von Wallace, Shaun Bradley, L.J. Fort) over lackluster veteran coach favorites (Jalen Mills, Nate Gerry, Vinny Curry) is an infuriating trait. His refusal to play Fort at middle linebacker was confounding. His unwillingness to adapt his gameplan for the personnel he has is maddening, and it’s hard to see any innovation from his defensive schemes.
But no decision will alter the course of the Eagles future than what he chooses to do with Roseman. Paul Domowitch’s report on the security Roseman has inside Lurie’s inner circle was not surprising, yet deeply disappointing, given all that’s occurred this year.
Sources close to owner Jeffrey Lurie said that while no decision has been reached on whether Pederson will be back for a sixth season, Roseman’s return never has been in doubt. In fact, it’s not even something Lurie has contemplated.
It’s hard to believe Lurie wouldn’t even be comprehending the removal of Roseman. A poll in Philly Voice today shows 95% of more than 4500 readers believe Roseman should go. Now, Lurie shouldn’t base his decisions on what the public thinks, but for just about everyone on the outside, this isn’t even a close call.
It would be delusional to think that the man who has overseen some truly horrific drafts the last five seasons would be allowed to chart the course ahead with a top-10, and maybe even a top-5, pick under his arm. Roseman has made mistake after mistake since the Super Bowl and it’s impossible to find a reason anyone should be confident that he will have the answers moving forward.
Does Lurie see that? Does he see that keeping Roseman while removing Pederson would be illogical? What rationale would he use for “running it back” in 2021? The pandemic?
Clear eyes are required to fix what ails this football team. Jeffrey Lurie’s opinion is the only one that matters, and if he believes Roseman possess the qualities and expertise to lead the Birds back to the promised land, it will not based on evidence or results.
In order for the Eagles to get better, the owner of the team must look at the facts and make an honest assessment of what’s gone wrong, who’s to blame, and how to fix it.