If accountability counts for anything, then Howie Roseman’s got to go.
Accountability: It's the new watchword for the Philadelphia Eagles. It is the “Gold Standard,” if you will, for the 2016 season.
Jeffrey Lurie ruthlessly and abruptly ended the Chip Kelly Experience a little less than a year ago. He said he fired Kelly because he was holding Kelly accountable after Kelly's front-office coup 11 months earlier - a coup that denuded the franchise of talent, wasted money and, more significantly, wasted time.
Lurie turned 65 in September. He celebrated his last 22 birthdays as the owner of the Eagles, but he has been to just one Super Bowl. It's enough to make a billionaire ruthless and abrupt.
Lurie should end the Howie Roseman Experience just as ruthlessly and just as abruptly as he ended Kelly's run. It would only be fair.
In January of 2015, Lurie demoted Roseman from the general manager post, gave him a bean-counter title and anointed Kelly king. Lurie then, incredibly, gave Kelly less than a calendar year to refashion the franchise. Kelly ruined it. He made awful deals, ignored advice from his peers and his players, and was fired.
Roseman re-ascended, although on a very short leash, Lurie promised:
“He’ll be accountable for how well the player personnel department does in the future. He’ll be responsible for the quality of that department.”
“My number one priority going into this off-season is accountability.”
“Accountability will be the No. 1 feature, and that goes for everybody. It goes for Howie, it goes for the player personnel head, and it goes for the head coach. .. My No. 1 priority going into this offseason is accountability. (He) will be completely accountable (to me).”
Roseman helped find that coach. The Eagles hired Doug Pederson, who has struggled, but the hiring of a head coach falls at the feet of the owner. When Lurie asks for Ron Jaworski’s blessing on his coaching hire, you can’t blame Howie for that.
Besides, Howie botched plenty of other decisions.
He needed to find a No. 1 wide receiver, rebuild the defensive backfield, rearrange the running backs, decide a strategy for the future of the quarterback position and determine which young players deserved contract extensions.
He was the wrong man for the job.
Yes, Roseman extended Sam Bradford’s contract, but then he traded an enormous amount of assets to draft Carson Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick, which, in turn, enraged Bradford. Luckily, Roseman was able to recoup some of those lost picks by trading Bradford to the Vikings, who were desperate.
Really, though, quarterback was never the big issue. Bradford was always going to stay. Roseman had plenty other problems to fix. And …
There is still no No. 1 receiver or No. 1 running back. The defensive backfield remains putrid. Roseman failed to add sufficient depth to the offensive line, even as top lineman Lane Johnson faced a 10-game suspension. Roseman extended specialty defensive end Vinny Curry to a 5-year, $47.25 million extension; Curry promptly went AWOL, with 1½ sacks. Roseman retained $6.75 million outside linebacker Connor Barwin and played him at defensive end; Barwin has been demoted.
Roseman extended tight end Zach Ertz to a 5-year, $42.5 million extension; Ertz is now a pariah because he refused to block a Bengal. Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor, who admitted that he couldn’t handle the strain of being a starting NFL receiver who will make more than $9 million by the age of 25, essentially benched himself for that game. Johnson got a 5-year, $56 million extension, then tested positive for PEDs for the second time in three seasons.
Lurie gave Roseman a mandate to build a team that could win, immediately. Roseman failed, spectacularly.
Nothing excuses the failure. Jim Schwartz is a top-end defensive coordinator who is two defensive backs and a defensive end short of a real defense. Wentz is a rookie, true, but, when protected and given even modest weapons Wentz has played well. Roseman moved heaven and earth to get that No. 2 overall pick, but he did so with the understanding that Wentz would, for at least one season, learn at the feet of $36 million veteran Sam Bradford. Roseman then traded Bradford to recoup picks spent on acquiring Wentz, which might have mitigated expectations; but the team went 3-0.
Expectations soared, fireworks exploded and Roseman basked in their glow.
Now, eight losses later, Roseman should face his own balefire. That is, if accountability counts for anything.
Free-agent defensive backs Leodis McKelvin and Rodney McLeod couldn’t cover bread if they were butter. Roseman signed two veteran receivers who didn’t make it out of training camp. That influenced the trade of backup lineman Dennis Kelly to Tennessee for second-year bust Dorial Green-Beckham, who averaged two catches in his first nine games as an Eagle.
Roseman extended the contract of defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who entered Sunday’s meaningless game with four sacks and three boneheaded, game-changing penalties.
This sort of institutional problem goes all the way to the owner, but you can’t fire the owner. Since team president Joe Banner was ousted in June of 2012 and Roseman, his protégé, took Banner’s place at the head table, the team is 36-41 with one playoff appearance; a loss, at home.
Since 2013, Roseman drafted Johnson, a superb right tackle apparently addicted to enhancement. Roseman also drafted Ertz, whose soft play came to a head in Cincinnati. He drafted defensive end Marcus Smith, this generation’s Jon Harris.
Not every decision has been tainted. Roseman drafted stalwart defensive tackle Bennie Logan in the third round in 2013. He got talented running back Wendell Smallwood and intriguing right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the fifth round this year. And, of course, he got Wentz.
Will that be enough to save him?
It shouldn’t be. Not given the vicious precedent Lurie set with Kelly.
Then again, Lurie should have fired Roseman when Kelly became the GM. It would have been the decent thing to do. A replacement wouldn’t have been hard to find; these days, Stanford and MIT spit out number-crunching salary-cap jockeys like they’re Pez candy.
Instead, Lurie moved his favorite little lawyer from the football wing back to the financial wing for a few months of well-recompensed exile, unwilling to end his sociological experiment. Professor Jeff has a PhD in social policy; it's as though Lurie sees Roseman as his personal digitus impudicus aimed at an NFL establishment that never fully accepted the silver-spoon Boston liberal.
If Roseman is dismissed, it won't be for lack of effort. He broke into the NFL as Banner's 24-year-old salary-cap apprentice. He somehow clawed his way into a player evaluation role just three years later. He got the GM title in 2010, but with Andy Reid coaching and with Banner in charge, no one believed Roseman had much of a voice. His voice rose in 2012, when Banner left and Reid was neutered; and, again, when Kelly was axed last winter.
That’s when Lurie promised to hold Howie accountable. Now, it's time.