Phil Sheridan: Eagles stay course with Roseman

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Andy Reid and Howie Roseman talk about Roseman's promotion as GM. ( Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer )

Before you ask whether Howie Roseman was the best candidate for the job, you have to ask the more important question:

What was the job?

If the Eagles were looking for a general manager to come in and evaluate the organization from top to bottom and make hard decisions about the coaching and personnel staffs as well as the roster, well, then, no. A guy who spent 10 years learning the NFL from within the Eagles organization would not be the right person for that job.

Roseman was promoted yesterday because the Eagles want to stay the course. Andy Reid made that clear when he volunteered details of the not-exactly-exhaustive search process that led to Roseman's getting the GM job vacated by Tom Heckert.

"Obviously, we took our time here," Reid said. "I interviewed a couple other fellows that I thought did a tremendous job. Louis Riddick I thought was phenomenal. The sky's the limit for Louis and his ability. And then Ryan Grigson - I interviewed Ryan. These were lengthy interviews."

They may have been lengthy, but they were interviews with two other members of the Eagles staff. Riddick, a former NFL safety, has been with the team for two years after seven years working personnel for Washington. Grigson, the college scouting director, has been with the Eagles for six years.

Aside from satisfying the letter of the NFL's Rooney Rule (Riddick is African American) and giving two valued staffers a hearing, those interviews ultimately served only to reinforce the obvious. The Eagles were looking for as little disruption of their cheerful corporate culture as possible.

And that's fine as far as it goes. Once the Eagles extended Reid's contract during the regular season, they were committed to his having final say on personnel decisions. What he needed was a replacement for Heckert who understood the Eagles' "collaborative" approach to evaluating talent and could slide seamlessly into the role.

This is why everyone knew Roseman would be getting this job even before Heckert was hired in Cleveland.

What the Eagles missed here was an opportunity to hear some voices from outside the NovaCare Complex bubble. Why not interview a couple of bright candidates with insight into how other winning teams - the Colts and Saints and Patriots and Chargers - do things? Why not get a critique of your roster and your schemes and your methods from someone who hasn't been breathing the same air as you for the past decade?

The original Reid run of success was produced by a mixture of influences. There were players drafted by Ray Rhodes, Tom Modrak and Michael Lombardi in the locker room. Reid brought his Mike Holmgren-influenced managerial style and offensive system. Jim Johnson added the aggressive defensive scheme. When Reid ascended to emperor, he brought Heckert in from the Miami Dolphins, where he'd worked with Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson.

Now? When Jim Johnson stepped away to fight the cancer that eventually claimed him, Reid promoted longtime assistant Sean McDermott. When Heckert left, he promoted Roseman. The Eagles have not added anyone with significant outside NFL experience at a high-level position since Marty Mornhinweg - and he's philosophically more like Reid than Reid.

This is hardly catastrophic. The Eagles have been good enough over the last decade to justify sticking with their basic approach to things. But they have discounted even the possibility that someone outside their conference room could help them get over that final hurdle and win a Super Bowl.

The one guy who can make all of this moot is, ironically, Howie Roseman. He has Reid's ear. He knows how to get things accomplished within that Eagles' bubble. If he is as smart as advertised, and there's no doubt Roseman is a very smart guy, he can deliver clear-eyed analysis in a palatable manner.

Forget any chatter about whether he's enough of a "football guy" - whatever that means - to make smart decisions. There are plenty of examples of good sports executives who weren't longtime players or coaches and even more examples of bad GMs with impeccable on-field credentials. No, the make-or-break quality for Roseman will be his ability to synthesize information and deliver it to Reid in a persuasive way.

"I'm aggressive, I'm energetic," Roseman said. "I've never been in this role before. Tom was in this job. Everyone puts their own little spin on things. Debate and discussion is part of great organizations. Andy is very open to that. He makes the final call, but he wants to hear your opinions. He doesn't want to hear just yes men."

You can steer a boat without rocking it. That will be Roseman's challenge. Because the Eagles are staying the course, with Reid's hand on the wheel and no stopping to ask anyone else for directions.

 


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.