Despite bringing the team its first Lombardi Trophy, last week the Eagles unceremoniously fired head coach Doug Pederson after five seasons. Anyone that paid close attention to Philadelphia in recent years could feel this move coming, and Pederson is probably somewhat relieved to be able to get away from the situation and start fresh elsewhere. Pederson seemed to genuinely love the city he coached in, and he wanted to help create a “new normal” after the championship. But he was held back from making that a reality.
I was never a huge fan of Pederson. He sometimes made head-scratching decisions (though I think that can perhaps be attributed to “analytics” and the front office having too much control) and he didn’t inspire much confidence during most press conferences. But he pushed all the right buttons in 2017 en route to a Super Bowl, and it felt to me like he did more of his own thing that year. Pederson and Nick Foles probably had more to do with the Eagles’ first title in franchise history than anyone, but Foles was let go in 2019 and Pederson is now out just three years after bringing the elusive championship to Philadelphia.
I don’t like being a critic because it’s way too easy. Anyone can be negative. It takes zero skill. However, Howie Roseman has earned all the criticism he’s gotten and will get for the poor job he’s done since taking over as the Eagles’ general manager over a decade ago.
Roseman has made plenty of money with unmatched job security (all while not really accomplishing much aside from cap navigation), getting several football guys including Louis Riddick, Tom Gamble, Chip Kelly, and now Doug Pederson fired—you can maybe even throw Andy Reid in there for good measure. So, he’s in play for harsh—but fair—criticism as far as I’m concerned.
Howie Roseman is like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. I’ve now seen the comparison pop up over the past couple of weeks, but I previously arrived at the comparison independently, which shows the analogy is true and accurate. Somehow, Roseman keeps climbing the ladder, remaining unscathed while others fall.
The Eagles’ most success during the Roseman era came in Chip Kelly’s first two years and in the Super Bowl year (also you could include the 2018 season which was saved by Foles again stepping in for an injured Carson Wentz at the end of the year).
Other than that, it’s been pretty bad: one other ten-win season came in 2010, Roseman’s first year in the GM job before he sent the team downhill, causing Reid to get fired after the 2012 season. In seven of 11 seasons, the team has failed to reach double-digit wins during Roseman’s tenure, far from the “new normal” the franchise promised after winning its first Super Bowl.
The rough timeline involving Roseman goes:
-2010: Howie Roseman takes over as Eagles general manager; team goes 10-6
-2011: Danny Watkins selected in first round; “Dream Team” goes 8-8
-2012: Team continues skid and goes 4-12; Andy Reid is fired; Roseman remains
-2013: Chip Kelly is hired and quickly turns things around; team drafts Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz; Kelly had a lot of input on draft knowing the college players, particularly Ertz, after coming from Oregon; Philly goes 10-6 and wins the NFC East
-2014: DeSean Jackson is cut in effort to improve the locker room; Roseman takes back control of the draft (admitted Marcus Smith was his decision in the first round); Kelly wanted to go in another direction, thought Odell Beckham Jr. (drafted 12th overall) was the best player in the draft; Eagles go 10-6 but just miss the postseason
-2015: Roseman gets “Chip” front-office guy Tom Gamble fired out of nowhere without Kelly knowing, presumably because he felt he was losing power after he led a bad 2014 draft; after the disappointing 2014 draft and too much meddling from Roseman, Kelly goes to owner Jeffrey Lurie to question the Gamble move and is given full control; Kelly looks to fully reshape roster and locker room, trades star running back LeSean McCoy, an unpopular move among fans; Kelly wants cornerback Byron Maxwell during free agency, with heavily criticized contract negotiated by Roseman; Eagles draft Nelson Agholor, Eric Rowe, and Jordan Hicks as first three picks in best draft since Reid’s departure aside from 2013; offensive line issues lead to down 7-9 year, and Lurie changes course less than a year, firing Kelly after 15 games
-2016: Roseman is immediately put back into full control, trades up to No. 2 overall to draft quarterback Carson Wentz; team goes 7-9 again but offensive line gets stronger including addition of guard Brandon Brooks during free agency
-2017: Eagles sign wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to big one-year deal, bring back Nick Foles as a backup; Philadelphia has another subpar draft; tight, team-first locker room rallies together and goes 13-3 before winning Super Bowl with Foles at quarterback following Wentz’s season-ending knee injury
-2018: No first-round pick (Wentz trade); Eagles have decent draft headlined by Dallas Goedert; team starts 5-6 but Foles takes over and leads team to 4-1 regular season finish and another playoff win
-2019: Team keeps Wentz over Foles despite locker room again rallying around Foles, article criticizing Wentz is released; Eagles give Wentz massive $128-milllion contract extension despite at least two more years (potentially more with franchise tag) of team control; Roseman brings back older DeSean via a trade, immediately gives him a contract extension with guaranteed money but he struggles to stay healthy during the season; draft blusters become more obvious after Roseman passed on receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf multiple times; J.J. Arcega-Whiteside drafted ahead of Metcalf in second round; Jeffery also given contract extension guaranteeing money in future years; throughout the season, Pederson gave subtle hints that he wanted to keep Foles; team wins final four games (all against poor NFC East) to finish 9-7 and win the division, lose in first round of the playoffs to Seattle after Wentz knocked out of the game early
-2020: Roseman doesn’t trade up for CeeDee Lamb, passes on Justin Jefferson, drafts Jalen Reagor in between them; Jalen Hurts selection in the second round apparently alienated Wentz; under-contract DeSean again cannot stay healthy; Pederson and Wentz don’t see eye-to-eye during struggles; Wentz plays worse than any quarterback in the league and is benched after 12 games; Hurts is taken out of final game in apparent “tanking” likely dictated by front office and some players question the decision (including Miles Sanders wondering who made the call, indicating it might have been someone like Roseman and not their head coach); team goes 4-11-1; Pederson is fired but Roseman again remains; massive Wentz extension to finally kick in; report emerges that Roseman gave the coaches a list of players to dress on gameday each week
*(Notes less related to Roseman: 2015 – Kelly acquires former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, trading away Foles; 2020 – Wentz’s team apparently leaks to the media that his relationship with Pederson cannot be fixed, does not want to compete for starting job, wants to be traded if Pederson stays)
Aside from the Chip Kelly years (despite his overall status among fans, two ten-win seasons—out of four over the past 11 years for Philly—and the setting of the foundation for a close-knit Super Bowl squad was very good; as we’ve seen it can be a lot worse) and the magical 2017 run (and Foles and company rallying to make another brief run in 2018), it’s been pretty ugly. All throughout, Roseman has somehow become more powerful by the year and consolidated his standing in the eyes of his boss. Lurie treats him like he’s some Hall of Fame football executive when in fact it appears he’s the guy causing the most problems and holding the Eagles back.
Some might point to early-decade picks like Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox as stellar decisions by Roseman, but we have on record from someone inside the building that Reid was behind those selections. And let’s be honest, adding Brandon Brooks to strengthen the team’s biggest weakness and signing free-agent Alshon Jeffery to a one-year deal with zero risk aside from Lurie having to pay a high salary weren’t exactly difficult decisions.
Back to today, Pederson was clearly set up to make his firing feel more acceptable in the eyes of some—basically “throwing” the game left a sour taste in the mouths of virtually all sports fans, especially those in Philadelphia (and New York). But the Eagles didn’t even let Pederson pick his own coaching staff, so do you really think it was him behind the decision to take Hurts out of the Week 17 game against Washington? I’ll take a wild guess and say Roseman spearheaded the effort to make Pederson look like a fall guy. A classic Littlefinger move.
The biggest Littlefinger comparison comes down to Roseman’s influence over his boss. Roseman must be in Lurie’s ear, and the team owner is playing the role of an oblivious king seeing his advisor as invaluable and irreplaceable—we just don’t know why he feels that’s the case, and it’s a bit strange. Roseman was undoubtedly whispering to Lurie while Kelly was in charge for less than a year, and he probably was chirping during this most recent decline since the Super Bowl. Both times—and in other cases with other executives such as Riddick and Gamble—Roseman got his way.
Judging by Lurie’s press conference last week, his opinion of Littlefinger is as high as ever. It was pretty difficult to watch and take it seriously.
Back during the sustained success during the early 2000s, Lurie talked about his franchise being the “gold standard” in the NFL. After the Super Bowl, there was talk of it being a “new normal” (a phrase coined by Pederson) for the franchise to win championships.
Now all of a sudden, Lurie says what happened was that they went for the Lombardi in 2017 and then did it again in 2018 and 2019, as if the lack of success this season was expected.
No, Lurie is failing to understand the 2017 team was a perfect storm put into motion with the 2015 moves, and Roseman did a terrible job of parlaying that into sustained excellence.
And if we do take his word for it that the mistake was that they were “going for it” in 2018 and 2019 and held on for too long, then the 2020 season was not Pederson’s fault and he should not have been fired.
When again pressed on the subpar job Roseman has done, Lurie said that we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. He also said the Eagles have a handful of people in the building he feels will become general managers in the league. So, which one is it? Is Howie struggling because he doesn’t have a good supporting cast around him, or has he really built the most impressive front office in the history of sports consisting of nearly 20% of the NFL’s future general managers?
Lurie can place blame on others, but the bottom line is that Roseman is the decision-maker, and he has not done a good job. At this point, everyone agrees he’s done quite a bad job.
Another assertion from Lurie last week was that there may have been cases where players they were going to take in two or three picks were selected just before them, and—you won’t believe this—they later became All-Pro players! Of course, Roseman knew they were going to become All-Pros, but he just didn’t have any way of drafting them earlier or trading up to get them. No way Roseman could ever part with some later draft picks to move up the board to select an All-Pro; he needs to accumulate all the picks he can to continue his stellar drafting on Day 2 and Day 3. But don’t worry, he has a plan—and it’ll be someone else’s fault if anything goes wrong.
Basically, Howie just always snakes his way out taking any blame and makes excuses to get out of anything. It’s like the analytics people taking over the game that insist “the numbers” are always right and place blame on play-calling or something else when “the numbers” decision doesn’t work out during a game.
Again, as they always are, all the excuses were there to defend Roseman.
Overall, looking at the status of the franchise, it says a lot that they felt the need to tank to get a better draft pick to make it more difficult for Roseman to blow it.
It also says a lot that Chip Kelly (who I would argue—despite no longer being with the team in the following years leading up to the title—had much more to do with the Super Bowl, jettisoning guys like DeSean and McCoy to bring in great locker room guys like Jordan Hicks and Super Bowl hero Nelson Agholor, than Roseman) sent him to the other side of the building and Doug Pederson wanted to get away from him too. What coach in their right mind is going to want this job?
Lurie may be blind to Roseman’s lack of ability and to the outside noise (the overwhelming majority of Eagles fans are calling for Roseman to be fired), but the franchise is a laughingstock right now. The Eagles decided to get rid of a Super Bowl-winning head coach instead of a clueless executive that gets to oversee his third coaching search and his fourth head coach overall.
Who really runs the Philadelphia Eagles? Jeffrey Lurie or Howie Roseman?
The Eagles have their new normal. And don’t let the Super Bowl fool you: it’s been going on for a decade-plus.