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Football / Sports

Commentary: Eagles' Roseman deserves credit

PHILADELPHIA -- When Joe Banner stepped down as team president in June 2012, many assumed that it was Andy Reid who had won a power struggle within the Eagles front office. In truth it was Howie Roseman.

While Roseman had just finished his second year as general manager, Banner was still lording authority over his former protege. Reid continued to have final say on football matters, but managing the salary cap and other contract decisions remained Banner's baby.

Roseman had plenty to do and was influential in certain aspects, but the Reid-Banner axis of power limited the clout of the NFL's youngest GM. He (naturally) wanted more sway, and just after the 2011 season owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to lessen Banner's role in favor of Roseman.

Six months later, Banner left the Eagles, and Roseman officially assumed his football responsibilities and received a then-unannounced multiyear contract extension. Banner, only four months later, was hired as CEO of the Cleveland Browns.

Nearly two years after the transition, the Eagles rebounded from a 4-12 record in Reid's final season and returned to the playoffs under the guidance of new coach Chip Kelly.

And Roseman deserves credit.

It is only one winning season, and the Eagles are still a long way from having the sustained success of the Reid-Banner regime, but the changes implemented by the 38-year-old GM had a direct effect on this season's 10-6 mark and the promise the future holds.

The last two drafts have produced eight players who project as starters next season. Free agency has been a mixed bag, but the signings of mid-tier talents haven't bogged down the Eagles with guaranteed contracts beyond the first year.

And the most important change was the hiring of Kelly, whatever role Roseman played along with Lurie and team president Don Smolenski in landing the innovative coach.

"In my experience when you pat yourself on the back you get a swift kick in the (rear)," Roseman said a few days after the Eagles' season ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Saints. "So I don't think we spend too much time doing that."

Still, it's difficult to not envision Roseman and Lurie relishing their turnaround while Banner struggled during his first full season in Cleveland. Kelly chose the Eagles despite interviewing with both teams last January.

Cleveland hired Rob Chudzinski instead and fired him less than a year later. The Browns are still looking to fill the vacancy.

While the Bills expressed interest in Kelly, it was essentially a two-team race between former colleagues. The Eagles had Kelly marked as a possible successor to Reid before Banner departed. So there was little surprise when both teams had him atop their initial wish lists.

The bad blood boiled over when Lurie, after Kelly was introduced, questioned whether a report about a "drunk with power" Roseman originated in Cleveland with Banner, Lurie's former friend of 44 years. Banner flatly denied the insinuation and called it potentially libelous.

The acrimony went public after the split -- but the division had been brewing for years, since not long after Roseman was promoted to GM in January 2010. Many had considered Roseman's ascension a Banner directive, but it was Lurie who spearheaded the move.

Roseman, after he replaced Tom Heckert, engineered a number of trades, signed some free agents, and helped sketch the draft board. But Banner still wielded control on major decisions that affected the salary cap, and Reid oversaw drafts that were designed to address specific needs.

Lurie exonerated Roseman of the below-par drafts in 2010 and '11, but he never mentioned Roseman's role in free agency and the disastrous Dream Team acquisitions to which Roseman contributed. But it had become increasingly clear that Roseman and Banner had differing visions.

When Lurie handed Roseman chief negotiating responsibilities during the 2012 offseason, Roseman's first acts were to award contract extensions to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive end Trent Cole, and guard Todd Herremans. It's safe to say Banner would have handled those situations differently.

Roseman also re-signed guard Evan Mathis, traded for linebacker DeMeco Ryans, and dealt cornerback Asante Samuel to the Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick. Running back LeSean McCoy also was given an extension -- a contract that was considered a no-brainer even then.

Last offseason, the Eagles spent lavishly in free agency -- more than $30 million in guaranteed salaries -- but they avoided long-term commitments. Their batting average wasn't high, but it was above .500.

Linebacker Connor Barwin, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, and punter Donnie Jones were hits. Cornerback Cary Williams and tight end James Casey were so-so signings, considering their contracts. And safety Patrick Chung and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga were misses.

"If you sign a bunch of solid players ... you want them all to work out, you don't necessarily count on them, and it doesn't really hurt your team going forward if one or two don't work out," Roseman said.

The last two drafts, while still needing more time to be properly evaluated, appear to have been successful. Whatever his involvement in the actual selection of players may be, Roseman's system has been productive.

With the template of taking the best available prospects on their board, the Eagles selected eight players in the 2012-13 drafts who are slated to start next season -- defensive end Fletcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, quarterback Nick Foles, cornerback Brandon Boykin, tackle Lane Johnson, tight end Zach Ertz, defensive lineman Bennie Logan, and safety Earl Wolff.

Roseman and his scouting staff have already done most of their evaluations for the 2014 draft, but the process will continue this week in Mobile, Ala., at Senior Bowl practices.

Kelly and his coaching staff will be there, as well. It's only natural that Kelly will have more input -- he said it will be "a ton" -- a year after being a relative newcomer to the process.

Kelly has final say on the 53-man roster, but Roseman has the offseason authority he wrestled away from Banner. Kelly is "not a contract guy," as he stated after the season, but his opinion will factor into the decided worth of players.

For instance, Kelly may value free-agent receiver Riley Cooper more than Roseman, whose job is to get market price.

As long as Kelly is content with the power structure, the partnership could thrive. If not, would Roseman be willing to cede the power he fought to obtain? He was victorious once before, but it would be a losing battle if Kelly keeps winning (see: Reid-Tom Modrak, 2001).

But just because it happened before doesn't mean it's bound to occur again.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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