Thoughts from Across the Pond: In Howie’s Defense…

Howie has made a lot of mistakes. Let’s get that out of the way. I am by no means attempting to give him a pass for the many, many things he has got wrong throughout the years, but merely asking that we do not let our anger at how things are shaping up for our beloved Eagles cause us to adopt a scapegoat mentality. If we do that; if we try to pin the blame on one person, if we try to take the easy route of convincing ourselves that one issue can be the whole problem, then we may never get to the solution, or worse; we could end up creating bigger problems.



(Photo: MICHAEL BRYANT)


It is impossible to go onto Philadelphia Eagles related social media and not see fan frustration with regards to the current state of the team spilling out in the form of comments, GIFs and poll results. Although fingers are being pointed at everyone in the organization, it feels like the majority of fans appear to agree that Howie Roseman is mostly to blame for the situation as evidenced by a recent poll conducted by @AATBirds. But is there any defense forthcoming for the Eagles GM?


Howie’s drafts have been a failure.


One of the biggest criticisms leveled at Roseman is that the players he has drafted over the last few years have for the most part been bad decisions. This, at face value, especially when focusing on the last few years and taking out the Andy Reid era (Andy had a huge influence with regards to the draft) and Chip Kelly Era (due to the dysfunction behind the scenes), appears to be very true. However, to be fair to Roseman, if someone looks at draft pick retention (one of many ways to judge draft success) of picks made between 2016 and 2019 and compares it to a team like the New England Patriots, undisputedly the most successful team of the last two decades with a proven track record of sustained success, the results may surprise many. Of the 26 picks made in all seven rounds of the four drafts the Eagles have retained 13 players. The Patriots during the same period of time have picked 32 players of which 16 are still in New England. Both teams have a retention percentage of 50% despite the Eagles having picked 6 less players. Now, one could argue about the productivity of the players retained and they would have a point to a certain extent. That is a very fair criticism, which is addressed below:


Howie does not know how to evaluate talent.


First rule of management…”it is always your fault”. This applies to Howie Roseman 100 %. Roseman has a reputation of being a “cap genius” but he has relied on others to guide him with talent evaluation. It appears to be largely ignored that for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 drafts, player evaluation was the responsibility of Joe Douglas. Douglas was tasked with setting the draft board and pinpoint which players would ensure the team’s long term success. In Howie’s words, Joe Douglas had “full rein” to do so. Nevertheless, Roseman is and has been ultimately responsible for the picks that are made every year. He has final word, but if we are to criticize him for anything, maybe it is that he has chosen the wrong people to evaluate talent. Derek Barnett has been labeled as a “bust” by many Eagles fans yet it is ignored that Douglas pushed hard for Howie to draft him. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is another player Howie drafted that has been extremely unpopular with fans, yet that pick was clearly endorsed by Douglas who seems to place huge value in college production and high-character. When looking to find justification for one of the decisions that have tormented the fan base over the last couple of years, one should point to Douglas’ philosophy regarding production as the reason why Arcega-Whiteside was selected ahead of the likes of DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and Darius Slayton. And yet it needs to be said again. Howie Roseman had final say and the ultimate responsibility lies with him. But let us remember that we are only as good as our people allow us to be. I am not looking to justify his decision to select players like Davion Taylor in the 3rd round (I have no defense for that) and Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round (inexplicable decision to date), but we have to keep in mind that decisions like this are not made by one man rolling out of bed on draft day and deciding to be a contrarian. These are decisions, some of which would have had to be justified to Lurie before taking place, which would have been the culmination of countless hours of research, debates and subject to an agreed strategy by a number of football minds.


Howie fails to address certain positions that obviously need attention.


The Defensive Backs and Linebackers on the Eagles roster have been under intense scrutiny for years. This is another aspect of roster construction that Roseman has been intensely criticized for. Yet the problem may not necessarily all be about what Howie does or does not do. Take LJ Fort for example. Although not drafted by the Eagles, based on evaluation, Howie Roseman signed Fort in May 2019 to a 3 year contract to help bolster the linebacker position. The coaches however refused to used him on defense (zero snaps) and was only used on special teams. Not seeing any usage, Roseman decided to release him and recoup a 4th round compensatory pick. Fort was quickly signed by the Baltimore Ravens who then gave him a two year extension only 5 weeks after his release by Philadelphia. LJ Fort has been a success story for the Baltimore Ravens and a solid starter at a position that PFF ranks the Eagles as dead last in the League. Cornerback Rasul Douglas was picked by Howie Roseman in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft and has performed extremely inconsistently along with the rest of the Eagles secondary. This year he did not make the team and was cut prior to Week 1. He was signed by the Carolina Panthers and going into Week 4 ranks among NFL’s top-10 cornerbacks. These are just two examples of what appears to be a worrying trend. They are players who underperformed for the Eagles but are thriving elsewhere. This is beyond the control of the GM. This is unequivocally down to coaching and development.


Howie is not making trades to help the team.


Roseman was criticized heavily by media and fans for not trading for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2019. Ramsey was eventually traded by Jacksonville to the LA Rams for two 1st round picks (2020, 2021) and a 4th round pick (2021). Holding his nerve and not submitting to pressure proved to be the right decision. Ramsey has since signed a five-year, $100 million deal with $71.2 million guaranteed. To address the issue at cornerback, Roseman instead opted to trade a 3rd and 5th round pick for Darius Slay and then sign him to a three-year, $50.05 million contract with $30.05 million guaranteed. Yes, Slay is an older player so the investment is shorter term, but the difference in draft capital the two teams had to give up to acquire the two players as well as the difference in the annual salary (approximately 20% more in Ramsey’s case) when taking into account the performance of the two players, makes the Eagles choice look like the better overall decision. After all, having Jalen Ramsey on the roster right now as opposed to Darius Slay would make absolutely no difference to the Eagles 0-2-1 record. Having said all that, it would be remiss not to point out that Howie has made many knee-jerk trades, the most recent being for Golden Tate before the 2018 trade deadline. But there is a plan and if the trade is right, Howie will pull the trigger on a trade like he has done many times before.


Howie Roseman is a polarizing figure in the Eagles community. And he does deserve criticism for many mistakes he has made. But it is important to take a step back and review the good and the bad, gain a clear picture of the situation in Philadelphia and if we are to level any criticism it should be for the right reasons. My view is that Howie is at fault with regards to what is going on. Of course he is. But so is Lurie if he is too involved and enabling players to bypass coaches, so is Doug if he cannot take care of business with what he can directly control such as play calling and getting players ready to play, so is Carson for not being boneheaded on the field and so is whoever has given that much power to Jim Schwartz. This is a failure on all levels and not just of one man. Real accountability takes place when blame gets attributed correctly and not create a scapegoat. That fixes nothing.


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