BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Winning the Super Bowl can change a lot, but as of last week, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he had no intention of using his capital to lobby for more power in personnel.
“Right now, I kind of like the way it’s going,” Pederson said to a small group of reporters back in Philadelphia before departing for Super Bowl week. “It’s just going to take you away from football. If you do more personnel you can’t coach football.”
It’s difficult to argue with the current structure. Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations, has final say over personnel decisions and Pederson runs the team. But they obviously collaborate. There isn’t a coach in the NFL who isn’t involved in player acquisition.
Some coaches, however, want more. Bill Parcells, who was denied full control by Patriots owner Bob Kraft in 1996, famously grumbled, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Kraft, of course, would later give Bill Belihick final say, and the current New England coach would go on to have unprecedented success. But only a handful of coaches have won Super Bowls while also having control over personnel.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has been down that rabbit hole several times. Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid, and Chip Kelly were all coaches to whom Lurie would granted the authority to pick the groceries. Reid had sustained success despite falling short of a title, but Rhodes and Kelly were spectacular failures.
“This is the best we’ve ever had,” Lurie said Monday of the Pederson-Roseman dynamic.
The Eagles have had similar partnerships. Reid initially worked with Tom Modrak. And Kelly worked with Roseman. But each case resulted in a falling out of sorts. Reid clashed with Modrak and parlayed an 11-5 second season into gaining final say. And Kelly didn’t trust Roseman’s evaluations and used a 20-12 record over his first two years to muscle him out.
In a battle of wills, the successful coach typically wins out, although that hasn’t always been the case (see: Jim Harbaugh, 49ers). But Pederson appears to have no designs on Roseman’s job, and even if he did, Lurie doesn’t seem inclined to want to repeat mistakes.
“Doug understands that the personnel guys spend 365 days a year scouting and looking for every aspect from what’s in [players’] heads to what’s in their bodies,” Lurie said. “He knows where to assert his own expertise and he knows when to listen, and that is a very smart individual. We all should be that way.”
When the Eagles hired Pederson two years ago, he didn’t exactly have much leverage. He had never been a head coach and he wasn’t interviewing anywhere else. Kelly had managed to wrestle final say over the 53-man roster before he was hired – meaning he would make the final cuts before the season – but Pederson made no such demands.
“It was going to be a collaborative effort,” Pederson said. He continued: “Howie can make the final decision. I got that. But not without having extensive conversations.”
There must be a trough running between Pederson’s and Roseman’s offices the way they describe how often they walk back and forth to discuss players.
“There’s no decision we make where he’s not involved,” Roseman said Monday. “There’s nothing that we’re just saying, ‘By the way, Coach, here’s a guy and he’s on your team.’ The communication is multiple times a day, and we’re really taking directive from him and his staff about what they’re looking for in players.”
The coaching directives are based on everything from scheme and size/speed parameters to intellect and character. Roseman’s staff, led by vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, will then scour the college or professional ranks, narrow the field, and give Pederson and his staff a short list.
Evaluations are made and the personnel department then ranks players in the draft, free agency, and league-wide. Before final calls are made – especially on significant moves – Roseman, Pederson, Lurie, and Douglas meet. Sometimes all agree and sometimes there are tough conversations, according to Roseman and Douglas.
“We don’t shy away from it,” Douglas said. “We all have strong opinions. But I think people have been able to put their egos aside and do what’s right for the team.”
Fair or not, Roseman was viewed as an impediment to getting one of the more sought-after coaches two years ago. Neither Kelly nor Roseman benefited from that front-office shakeup. But Lurie and Roseman were blindsided by Kelly, whom they didn’t really know before they hired him.
Pederson, they did. Lurie doesn’t make the football decisions, but he wants to be involved, and Roseman and Pederson will not shut him out. The owner meets with both almost immediately after every game to rehash.
His agent, Bob Lamonte, has pushed for many of his coaching clients to have final say. Reid and Mike Holmgren are just two of the more notable examples. But Pederson and Roseman are both Lamonte clients. More than likely, the agent is pushing Lurie to extend each’s contract this offseason.
Pederson has three years left on his five-year deal, and Roseman is signed through 2019. With quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles, even if they lose to the Patriots on Sunday, have the potential to compete for Super Bowls for years to come. The two at the top have to work in harmony, though.
“I think that’s the right formula,” former Eagles president Joe Banner said. “You need a good partnership there. They don’t have to be best friends, but they have to respect each other, they have to trust each other, and they have to listen to each other.
“But the notion that Doug would focus on his specialty and trust Howie in his area of expertise, I think it gives them a really serious chance for sustained success.”