A year ago, it was unthinkable. Now, it seems inevitable.
When voting closes Thursday night, the Eagles’ Howie Roseman should win Executive of the Year, as voted by the Professional Football Writers of America.
This is incredible.
Roseman is just two years removed from exile and a year removed from overseeing a stunning collapse. Now, he’s the best in the business.
Roseman ran the player personnel department for seven years before he was banished in 2015 by coach Chip Kelly. Roseman returned as executive vice president for football operations when Kelly was fired near the end of that season, but his resurrection was anything but inspiring. The Eagles began 2016 with three straight wins. Undermanned, they lost nine of the next 11. Why, they hadn’t won a playoff game since George W. was president.
It seemed obvious. Howie had to go.
That evaluation was a bit premature.
A year later, Roseman has built a powerhouse. He sowed deep and costly seeds in 2016, far beyond quarterback Carson Wentz, for whom he moved heaven and earth to draft No. 2 overall. Roseman then revamped the 2017 roster with 23 new players. He should take a bow.
Harnessed by newfound modesty, Roseman declined to be interviewed, but his humility only amplifies his maturation. Right now, it’s hard to be humble. Roseman has never flown higher.
The wind beneath his wings: lumbering lieutenants Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl, his personal Crabbe and Goyle, hired to head his player personnel department in May 2016. He listens to them. This is growth. Roseman 2.0 is far better at delegating and collaborating than he used to be, and far less concerned with public perception.
Yes, Roseman & Co. got lots of attention last spring for signing big-name receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to low-risk contracts, but Roseman didn’t sign them to be saviors; just good players. In fact, Jeffery was no better than could be expected for his $9.5 million price tag — 57 catches, 789 yards, nine touchdowns — and Smith was a $5 million decoy.
That’s OK. Roseman made much better moves than those.
He traded Jordan Matthews, his best young receiver, to the Bills for Ronald Darby, who became their best young cornerback. Matthews’ exit cemented Nelson Agholor in slot, and Agholor, a foundering first-round pick from 2015, became the best receiver on the team.
Roseman moved down 25 picks in the 2017 draft in a trade for Ravens defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. He got excellent value from running backs LeGarrette Blount, a million-dollar veteran, and undrafted rookie Corey Clement, a Glassboro, N.J., kid; they combined for 1,260 yards from scrimmage and nine TDs.
Roseman re-signed Stefen Wisniewski, who became the left guard, and he signed veteran end Chris Long, who, for $1.87 million, collected five sacks and forced four fumbles. Long is due just $2.25 million next year.
Roseman drafted defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round and cornerback Sidney Jones in the second, despite Jones’ ruptured Achilles tendon. Barnett had five sacks. Jones played in Game 16 and looked great. Finally, Roseman traded for running back Jay Ajayi at the deadline.
Roseman planned for all. In 2016, he extended the contracts of right tackle Lane Johnson, tight end Zach Ertz, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Vinny Curry, and signed right guard Brandon Brooks, linebacker Nigel Bradham and safety Rodney McLeod. Initial returns weren’t great, but in 2017 they all earned their money. Johnson, Ertz, Cox and Brooks earned Pro Bowl berths.
What Roseman didn’t do was just was as important as what he did. He didn’t get rid of center Jason Kelce after Kelce’s worst season. He didn’t move linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who requested a trade after he played a career-low 27 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016. Kelce is a first-team All-Pro. Kendricks is up to 59 percent.
Roseman acquired depth, too. The Birds lost Wentz in Game 13 but they won the next two games with Nick Foles, and before Wentz’s injury they had already lost five core players. They rolled to 13-3, thanks, in large part, to the GM.
Thanks to Howie Roseman …. whose firing seemed so sensible not so long ago.