Maybe Howie Roseman really was the smartest guy in that room on Feb. 4, 2018. Maybe he really earned the verbal victory lap he took, seeking out his critics as the rest of the team enjoyed the moment. Maybe the brilliance that was revealed by the Eagles’ Super Bowl season belonged to one man.
Maybe the real hero wasn’t the quarterback who led them to homefield advantage with his MVP play, nor the quarterback one whose transcendent performance led them to victory that night. Maybe it wasn’t the coach who spent 19 games calling nearly every shot correctly, nor the staff of assistants he’d assembled beneath him. Maybe it wasn’t even the vagaries of fate: an incomplete pass in the end zone in the divisional round, an opposing quarterback named Case Keenum in the championship game, a complacent and dysfunctional rival on Super Bowl Sunday.
Maybe everything that has happened since is simply the painstaking process of building a championship team, and maybe that necessitates the departure of those for whom glory proved nothing. Frank Reich, Nick Foles, Joe Douglas, Mike Groh, Malcolm Jenkins -- one by one they departed. Some were escorted to the door. Others left on their own volition. That the Super Bowl kept getting further away only proved that the Eagles still harbored the root of their problems.
Maybe it was Press Taylor all along, like Groh before him. Or, perhaps, Jim Schwartz. On and on, the churn rolled, until three men remained.
And here we are now. Three years into a decade that was supposed to belong to the Eagles, their alleged championship pedigree is now a smoldering crater. Roseman and Jeffery Lurie would like us to believe that responsibility for the disaster rests with two men alone, the quarterback who fell short and the head coach who could not accommodate it. To be sure, Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson deserve a share of the blame for how things have ended. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the relationship between the two men had imploded in spectacular fashion. If theirs is like most relationships, both sides bear some fault.
But another hallmark of relationships is that they are partially a function of the circumstances in which they are forged. In that regard, it’s possible that the marriage between Wentz and Pederson was first and foremost a reflection of their employer’s dysfunction.
For a lot of people, that’s a difficult scenario to accept. If religion is the opiate of the masses, then the Lombardi Trophy is a relic, its initial high quickly followed by a glazed-over submission. But the wider your perspective, the more 2017 looks like a fluke, one of those wonderfully strange strokes of luck that occurs once every 58 years. If Julio Jones catches that pass in the end zone, here is what history shows:
-Three coaching changes in nine years, each of them following a season of epic dysfunction.
— Four losing seasons within those nine years
— Zero wide receivers or cornerbacks drafted and developed, and two franchise quarterbacks run out of town, since 2009
— Three seasons of 10+ wins in the last 10 years, two of them by a guy who allegedly ran the organization into the ground. An 81-78-1 record during that span.
— An ever-shifting command structure in which nobody every acknowledges responsibility
There are plenty of people in this city who are enablers, too quick to swallow the organizational narrative regarding the culprit of the moment. Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Carson Wentz - to say nothing of the bit players like Groh who’ve been assigned a laughably outsized slice of the blame. Each time, they move on, and the world dawns anew. Ding dong, the bad guy’s gone, our nightmare is over.
It’s funny. Even Wentz’s most vociferous critics have begun to pivot to less precarious opinions. They see that the Colts have a solid offensive line, an excellent defense, a power running game, a couple of promising receivers, a well-regarded coaching staff. Already, the narrative is shifting from “Wentz can’t win” to “Wentz can’t win here.”
Problem is, they do not ask the obvious question. If he can win there, and not here, why exactly is that?
While the Colts have hardly been a picture of organizational stability during Jim Irsay’s reign as owner, they have shown how much difference the right leader can make. In four years, Chris Ballard has cleaned up the mess left him by Roseman accolyte Ryan Grigson and assembled a team has won 18 games over the last two seasons with a couple of imperfect quarterbacks. In Ballard’s first four offseasons with the Colts, he drafted two All-Pro players: Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall and Darius Leonard at No. 36 overall. He drafted one of his current guards -- three-year starter Braden Smith -- at No. 37 overall. He acquired emerging cover corner Kenny Moore off of waivers.
It’s the continuation of a track record that began in Kansas City, first as Director of Player Personnel and then as Director of Football Operations. In Ballard’s four years there, the Chiefs drafted All-Pro Defensive Tackle Chris Jones at No. 37 overall, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce at No. 63 overall, and All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill at No. 165 overall. This, in addition to drafting Pro Bowl tackle Eric Fisher at No. 1 overall and wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson, who has started 32 games in five seasons, at No. 126 overall.
Even if we limit our analysis to these impact players, the reality of the Eagles’ situation should come into focus. Over the last eight offseasons, Ballard has been a part of a personnel apparatus that has drafted six Pro Bowl players, four of them outside the first round. During that same stretch, Roseman drafted three Pro Bowl players. Only one of those players was drafted after 2013: Wentz, whom Ballard just acquired from Roseman.
Maybe it will all work out. Maybe Roseman’s recent draft picks will fluorish now that Pederson and Wentz are gone. Maybe Jalen Hurts is the franchise QB the Eagles have been waiting for. Maybe Wentz really is who he was last season. Maybe Reich and Groh and Taylor will be surprised to learn he really is uncoachable.
What’s no longer in doubt is the nature of Roseman’s genius. He is now the smartest guy in the room. Because he’s the only one left.
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