NFL rarity: Kelly has final say on roster
There is no ambiguity about who will make the final decision when the Eagles reduce their roster to 53 players on Saturday. It's all on coach Chip Kelly, who confirmed Tuesday that he has the last word on setting the roster.
This does not mean that Kelly has full control of all player-personnel decisions, and it does not diminish general manager Howie Roseman's role in the organization. But it's clear that Kelly is accountable for the players he coaches, and that the roster decisions are ultimately his to make.
This is especially noteworthy because general managers usually have control of the 53-man roster. An NFL.com series described who has control in each organization and included final say on the 53-man rosters for 29 of 32 teams. Only five head coaches (including Kelly) have final say on the 53-man roster, according to the report. Two of those coaches, Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan, have responsibilities that go beyond head coach. The 24 other teams leave the last word on the roster to general managers or front-office executives.
Kelly is the only one of eight new head coaches with such power. That group includes former Eagles coach Andy Reid, who had full personnel control in Philadelphia but reportedly does not have it with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kelly emphasized that he works in conjunction with Roseman and that there have not been any issues.
"We're on the same page on everything," Kelly said. "There hasn't been a decision personnel-wise since I've been here where I felt one way and he felt another way."
Kelly's control of the 53-man roster reveals how coach-centric the Eagles organization is - even after the dismissal of Reid, who was one of the few NFL coaches with such sweeping control.
For much of Reid's tenure, though, there were enough strong voices in the room that responsibility wasn't always clear even when Reid said he was fully accountable. Team president Joe Banner was involved. Tom Heckert preceded Roseman as general manager, and both were involved - yet both were below Reid on the organizational flow chart.
Since Banner departed, owner Jeffrey Lurie has streamlined the front office. Roseman clearly has a bigger role now than in previous administrations, although he was evasive when asked earlier this summer about who has control of the 53-man roster.
"We don't get into the decision-making here," Roseman said. "We do that together. We spend a lot of time together as a staff. We spend a lot of time together, Chip and I, and all those things have really worked out. We've had discussions. It's OK to have debate and discussions. We go forward together as one."
Ambiguity remains about who has final say on personnel decisions such as the draft and free agency. The team's stance is that it has been a collaborative effort. Kelly's position since he was hired has been that he does not want to be the general manager - he wants to be the coach.
Kelly and Roseman still meet every day to discuss personnel, and Kelly has been diligent in trying to familiarize himself with NFL players, according to Roseman.
"There hasn't been a situation where it's this guy or that guy, and two guys are standing on soap boxes saying, 'We're going one direction and not the other direction,' " Kelly said. "When you have guys who are professional and see the other side of it and understand how it fits in the grand scheme of things, I think he sees big picture and I see big picture, and that's why we get along so well."
At least there will be clarity about Saturday's roster decisions. If one of Roseman's previous draft picks is cut or kept, or one of Kelly's former players is cut or kept, there is no ambiguity about how that decision was reached. And if a bubble player becomes a Pro Bowler in Philadelphia or elsewhere, there is no question about who is accountable.
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.