Aside from Friday’s press release and an additional statement from owner Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles haven’t offered much explanation for last week’s monumental shift in the front office. Coach Chip Kelly was handed near complete control of football operations and former general manager Howie Roseman, while getting a new title and a contract extension, was stripped of his personnel powers. Many questions remain. Here’s an attempt to answer some of the more pressing ones:
1. What the heck happened? The Kelly-Roseman relationship might have been doomed from the start. You had two strong personalities with different football backgrounds and two men that likely had different visions for team building. Kelly had just come from Oregon, where he had built a perennial power by finding the players that fit his specific system. Roseman had spent his entire career in personnel searching for talent that would plug into Andy Reid’s schemes – a 4-3 defensive front vs. Kelly’s two-gap 3-4, for instance. Maybe Kelly just never felt comfortable with that divergence. But mostly, from what I’ve gathered, he just didn’t trust Roseman as an evaluator. “Chip was leery of Howie even before he took the job,” one source familiar with the relationship said. Tom Gamble was hired to appease Kelly and give him someone he trusted in the personnel department. As time passed, the Kelly-Roseman and Roseman-Gamble partnerships became strained. There weren’t screaming matches, but there were communication breakdowns and the awkwardness of the relationships had become known inside the NovaCare Complex.
There was a chance they could have peacefully coexisted but everything came to a head last week. Lurie went from scoffing at my, “Will Howie return as GM” question after the season finale on Sunday to relieving Roseman of most of his GM responsibilities less than five days later. In between, Kelly clearly made his feelings about Roseman vs. Gamble known during his Monday news conference, Roseman reacted by firing Gamble with Lurie’s approval (although there may have been more to his ousting), Kelly wasn’t happy about the move and the prospects of having only Roseman in personnel and made a presentation to Lurie (read: “It’s either me or him”), and Lurie gave Kelly more power, but stopped short of doing what normally happens in a power struggle – firing the defeated.
2. How many head coaches have as much power as Kelly does now? Two, but Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll have taken different approaches to absolute rule. Belichick doesn’t have a GM. He is the GM. Nick Casserio is the Patriots director of player personnel and has obvious influence with Belichick, but the coach has final say on all football matters and wields that authority. Carroll was given full control when the Seahawks lured him from Southern Cal, but he hired John Schneider to be his GM and the two have a partnership that could be described as the one Reid once had with GM Tom Heckert. Carroll and Schneider have apparently worked in tandem and the results speak from themselves.
3. Is that too much power for one man? It depends on how Kelly delegates. If he’s looking for his Schneider and finds him, then he may not have to be as involved in personnel decisions. But the new GM or “personnel executive” will be a Kelly hire and will report to him. Will he hire someone that isn’t afraid to disagree with his new boss or will he bring in a “yes” man. Lurie said he didn’t like having “yes” men, but Kelly obviously balked at having someone that had the clout to tell him no. With Roseman’s role marginalized, who will now say no to Kelly? He isn’t always going to be right. As for Kelly’s expanded role, if there’s one person who could handle the load it’s apparently him. He will now be responsible for not only all that coaching entails but also overseeing the personnel department. That’s a lot to be in charge of. But Kelly sleeps, eats and drinks football. He’s single. He has no kids. Football is his life.
4. Why could it work? Lurie has been down this road before (see: Reid and Ray Rhodes) and his handing control over to a coach didn’t ultimately net a championship. But Kelly may be a singular character, the type of game-changing coach that doesn’t come around very often. He is obviously very intelligent. He obviously can coach. He obviously has a vision and can lead. When pressed to make a decision, Lurie -- knowing what he had -- sided with the coach and avoided a potential 49ers situation. San Francisco refused to give coach Jim Harbaugh more power and had a season of discord that ended without a playoff berth the only time in his four seasons. Lurie took the approach that if you have a great coach (to be determined) you give him what he wants. Kelly knows his system as well as anyone. He knows the types of players that should make it hum. There are all kinds of valid questions as to whether he knows how to find those players and acquire them. It should be noted that Reid gave up a lot of his personnel power when he went to the Chiefs two years ago. The adage, “Be careful what you wish for" could apply.
5. If it was power struggle then why are both still employed by the Eagles? Typically, when there’s a struggle, one has to go. The Eagles will paint a picture of front office bliss when they finally do talk, but Roseman was driven from the only job he’s ever wanted only 100 hours after his boss said he was staying and that he did a great job. He can’t be happy. Lurie gave him a contract extension, more money (overall, an increase in pay three times what he had been making under the old terms, per an NFL source) and a shiny new title, but he has lost significant influence over the direction of the team. But he’s still in the building and will still be in the big football meetings because he remains in charge of the salary cap and contracts. Roseman may look for employment elsewhere (and apparently already has), but it’s unlikely that he will get a contract as rich. His reputation, fair or not, also took a blow. He’s always had to overcome perceptions about his qualifications because he’s not a “football guy.” It could be hard for him to find another owner that will give him a chance. So more than likely, Roseman stays and perhaps waits his turn again. He's only 39. Lurie was never likely to fire his closest advisor. He relies on Roseman to keep him in the loop on so many fronts. But he could have hired many capable people to simply run the salary cap. Keeping Roseman as insurance could also suggest to Kelly that Lurie doesn’t completely trust the coach to deliver.
6. What will now be the dynamic between Kelly and Roseman? That’s another reason why it didn’t make much sense to keep both. If their relationship was already strained, what it’s like now after Kelly had Roseman booted out of his old job? It can’t be good. Maybe the new GM is the go-between because there has to be a line of communication between personnel and business, but they’ll have to put their differences aside for the time being -- if that’s possible. Contract negotiations with receiver Jeremy Maclin are ongoing. Players are hitting the open market after playoff eliminations. Decisions have to be made. As for that balance, it will be an interesting one to monitor in regards to how Kelly approaches the delicate act of cornering veterans into taking salary cuts. Coaches love their guys. But there are a number of Kelly’s guys – Todd Herremans, Brent Celek, Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans – that would normally be asked to restructure their contracts this offseason if the Eagles plan on keeping them. Reid used to play the good cop to Joe Banner’s bad cop, and Kelly could do that with Roseman, but Roseman’s role will different than Banner’s and the players now know that Kelly holds the sword. Could it affect his reputation in the locker room?
7. Who was responsible for the past offseason and who drafted Marcus Smith? The Smith question has to be the one I get asked the most. If I knew for certain, I’d report it. There are only a handful of people in the draft room when that decision is made, and aside from having either Kelly or Roseman tell me (which is unlikely at this point), there is no definitive answer. One person typically doesn’t get to make that pick alone. There’s generally a consensus. But from what I understand, it played out the way it appeared. The Eagles had six prospects they targeted at No. 22. When all six were picked before their turn, they traded back to No. 26. They had another opportunity to trade back again, but fearing that Smith wouldn’t be available in the early second round, they pressed a need and drafted the outside linebacker. Roseman was likely on board with addressing a priority position, but Kelly had limited the board so much because of culture and scheme fits, the Eagles had only so many names remaining at that point. Smith had a second-round grade, per one source with knowledge of the Eagles’ draft board. The rest of the draft was a combination of Kelly and Roseman, but with the coaches having more influence over the picks than the scouting department, per sources. The free agent signings and trades the Eagles did make were because Kelly and Roseman could agree upon them. Often when there was a disagreement on a player, the Eagles simply passed.
8. Who will effectively replace Roseman? The Eagles have yet to announce any interviews. There was a report that Eagles assistant director of player personnel Ed Marynowitz would likely get an interview, but the team said nothing had yet to be scheduled. Marynowitz is well thought of, but he’s young (30) and has only been in the NFL for several years. I could see Marynowitz getting a promotion – perhaps Gamble’s old job – and be groomed for a larger role. The NFL Network reported that Lions vice president of player personnel Sheldon White was “expected to interview,” but the Eagles didn’t confirm. Scot McCloughan is an interesting name. He was the 49ers GM before Trent Baalke and had a lot to do with building a team ripe with talent. But he lost his job as he battled alcoholism. He now wants another shot. Here’s a great story by espn.com on his fall and recovery. Marc Ross got his scouting start with the Eagles and is now director of college scouting for the New York Giants. We’ll have more names as the search heats up, but it’s mostly speculation right now as Kelly makes and narrows his list. Knowing that Kelly has ultimate control, I can’t see many candidates with GM experience taking the job. More than likely, it will be an up-and-comer.
9. Why haven’t the Eagles talked? When Reid was given complete control after GM Tom Modrak was forced out in 2001, Reid, Lurie and Banner answered questions the day of the announcement. We have been granted no such access. One conclusion to draw is that because it happened so quickly the Eagles weren’t prepared to have a single organizational message and wanted to bide time. Roseman is also still employed by the Eagles. He was the person most directly affected by the shake-up and any explanation will not cover up the fact that Lurie said one thing about him one day and reversed himself only days later. Kelly wouldn’t take shots at Roseman even if he had left, but there is no other way to explain his about-face – saying that he didn’t want to be a GM when the Eagles hired him two years ago to now filling that very role. Roseman was very accessible as a GM. He often didn’t say very much, but he stood in front of the microphones and answered every question. Kelly does less than what is required during the season. He does the marginal in the offseason. The Eagles said that he would likely speak when he does hire a GM, but that could come after the Senior Bowl in two weeks. Kelly will likely be there, but he isn’t required to talk. It may be some time before these questions and others are answered. The new GM could end up being the offseason front man because Kelly has made it clear, if given the choice, he’d rather stay in the background.