I know this is not going to be a popular post, especially on a day when we are all still chewing on the bitter leftovers of an embarrassing loss that can largely be blamed on two of the team's most recent high-profile draft picks.
But I was never a person to clamor for popularity, and I do think that there is no better time to have a discussion about a general manager than right now, when the team is entering the final part of the season and the reality is setting in that we very likely won't be organizing any parades this season.
So let's talk about everyone's favorite general manager, and look at whether or not he should be retained or thrown out with the leftover stuffing and cranberry sauce that no one wants to eat.
In a post before the season began, I said that Howie Roseman's future in Philadelphia should be directly tied to Jalen Hurts. If Hurts emerges as a number 1 qb, he should be safe. For all his faults, finding a legit qb in the second round of the draft covers up for a lot of sins. Now, this is obviously all hypothetical, since the GM only answers to one person, and it's not some random guy writing blog posts on the internet. But I still stand by my position that if Hurts is a legit franchise player, Howie deserves to stay.
After 12 games of often not-inspiring football, it's really murky on what Jalen Hurts is. Yes, there are too many missed passes. But there are also the throws he made at the end of the game yesterday that should have won it. I know this is probably the worst time in the world to be saying this, but I still think Hurts has the potential to be the guy here.
Roseman's two biggest other faults were his misses on Jalen Reagor and JJAW. How different this offense would be with Justin Jefferson and DK Metcalf. Wentz would likely still be here and we would be legitimately planning Super Bowl parade.
But I would argue that neither pick was egregious when it was made. Reagor's struggles are a complete mystery to me. His college tape showed a pure athlete who made up for his lack of technical precision by being the best athlete on the field. In other words, he was basically a better version of DK Metcalf. He had much more college production and, while he ran a slow time at the combine, his tape was clear that he had special speed.
But for whatever reason, he hasn't shown any of that explosiveness. And when he does, he can't catch, which wasn't a huge problem in college.
As far as JJAW, I have always said that we don't use him correctly, and that's a hill I will die on. But even I will admit that he hasn't done much to earn more playing time (although I would play him more right now.) But was he a bad pick? His college production was fine. His first pre-season was fine. From what I can tell, he is a willing football player who has done well on special teams. It's easy to say in hindsight that he's a bust, but everyone was on board with him when he was doing well in the pre-season his rookie year. So if you weren't calling him a bust at that point, you can't claim you knew he was going to be a bust when he was drafted.
But let's do a deep look at Howie's most recent drafts to see how they have panned out. We will start with 2017, because I think we can all agree that the 2016 draft was a success.
Derek Barnett has been a frustrating player, but certainly he is okay. Not a great first round pick, but not horrible. Sidney Jones was a risky prospect, and he was a bad pick, but certainly you can't fault Howie since he was a consensus top prospect before getting injured. Rasul Douglas is having a really good year in Green Bay, and had a pick 6 yesterday. Yes, it's for another team, but you can't blame the GM for how a player is used, especially if he goes out and plays well for someone else. Mack Hollins has turned into a nice little role player for the Dolphins. Nate Gerry was fine for a fifth round pick. He should have never been a starting linebacker, but again it's tough to blame the GM for how someone gets used.
It is also important to note that our first four picks in 2017 have started multiple games in the NFL this year. That's a pretty good rate of success in identifying talent.
2018 was a slam dunk.
2019 was bad, but Dillard is a legit starting left tackle in this league. Miles Sanders is fine. We already talked about JJAW. And the rest were obvious misses.
2020 is interesting. Reagor and Hurts have already been discussed. Davion Taylor and Jack Driscoll are looking like solid pro players. Bradley and Wallace are solid special teamers. Watkins is a fine third receiver.
This year, it is still early, but Smith and Dickerson are looking like home runs, and Milton Williams is really coming on. He had as many tackles yesterday as Cox and Hargrave combined in 25 percent of the snaps. McPhearson seems to be a decent potential depth piece, as does Jackson and Johnson.
To me, the problem we have had over the years isn't as much the drafting as it has been the use of the players we draft. Rasul Douglas is a good example. he has been put in a position to succeed in Green Bay, and, in a shocking twist, has done well. Sidney Jones has played well at times, and while clearly not a number one corner he was projected to be, is certainly a decent second-rounder.
So I don't think our drafting is that bad. As I said yesterday, the problem is that we aren't hitting enough home runs. Our premium picks aren't pro bowlers. Just okay isn't good enough.
With that being said, Howie does do very well in finding off-the-radar players like Alex Singleton and TJ Edwards. It could be argued that they kept us in the game yesterday.
I know our cap has been an issue, but he is very good a doing contracts. The one real miss was Alshon Jeffrey's deal, but again it's hard to criticize him without being on the inside of what was happening.
His trades are generally really good. Turning a pick this year into Smith and a first rounder next year was magical, as was the Carson Wentz deal.
Perhaps most importantly, he takes a lot of the criticism that I think would be directed at the owner if people knew how decisions were really being made. And this is one aspect of his job that I think goes unnoticed. It is well documented that Jeffrey Lurie has had a hand in many of the decisions made by the team, specifically the drafting of Jalen Hurts. Lurie was on the record as wanted to draft a backup qb prior to the drafting of Clayton Thorsen, and the miss on Russell Wilson has hung over the team for almost a decade.
So the issue becomes, if we get rid of Roseman, does it solve the larger problem? Lurie isn't selling the team, so bringing in someone else as GM may be the definition of shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
With that in mind, I don't see Lurie as a huge problem. Whatever you may think of him, he is an extremely intelligent individual. And there are clear signs that he has changed recently. He reportedly demanded the team pass the ball more under the previous regime, but so far has not outwardly meddled with the run-first philosophy that we now employ.
And our last two drafts are largely positive, even with the whiff on Reagor. We are a rebuilding team who legitimately should have blown out the Giants yesterday, who felt they were a few free agents away from a deep playoff run before the season. Even with that loss, we are still a team with an upward trajectory.
Finally, the one thing I will say to defend Roseman is that he has been here before. He has had a decent team that was a quarterback away from a championship, and he delivered one to us. I don't think this team is a quarterback away right now, but if we have another decent draft next year, we could be in 2023. And, as I noted yesterday, we could position ourselves to go and get someone who could be that guy.
So that's my case for keeping him, which I will admit has some holes in it. This has been a tough two years to be an Eagles fan, and part of me just wants to bury Howie instead of defending him. But in reality he's not going anywhere. And I do honestly believe he can get us back into contention.
Most importantly, the fact remains that firing him won't fundamentally change anything. We are stuck with him. The best I can do as a fan is hope that I am right about his ability to keep this team on an upward trajectory. Or else we are in for a few more lean years.