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INDIANAPOLIS -- A popular pastime when your football team goes 4-12, fires its head coach and his staff, hires a new vice president of player personnel and brings in a new head coach with a novel offensive system is to try and figure out just exactly how dramatically the roster will change.
Will the Eagles bring back 20 players from Andy Reid’s last team? Thirty? Six?
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, one of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s closest friends, replaced 42 out of 53 players on the Colts’ opening-day 2011 roster when he went to Indy, and the Colts went from a two-win, last-place team to an 11-win playoff team.
But Roseman said he doesn’t foresee the Eagles having that extreme a turnover this offseason.
“I don’t,” he said. “Obviously, the relationship with Ryan, we talked throughout when he took the job and what his mind set was and you understood it.
“He felt like that was needed for his particular team. There will be change here, but to talk about the overhaul at that level, that’s monumental.”
So how much change?
As Roseman, Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ scouting and coaching staffs descend on Indianapolis for the NFL’s scouting combine, it’s a pivotal question facing the Eagles.
Certainly there will be dramatic change, but Roseman said the Eagles won’t gut the roster just for the sake of gutting the roster or changing the proverbial “culture of the team.”
He doesn’t believe in that.
“You’re still a 4-12 team, so you’re talking about a situation where we want to compete every year and have a chance to be in the tournament and that gives you a chance to win a Super Bowl, and for us, that means make sure we have the best possible team around the schemes that we’re putting together,” Roseman said.
“Because we are changing our scheme and changing our coaching staff, there’s going to be change. There’s natural change even when you keep your coaching staff together, so there’s naturally going to be change, but there are players in place here that we think can be here for the foreseeable future.”
There aren’t many locks on defense. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin. Most likely Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Trent Cole, although figuring out how these linebackers and linemen project in a 3-4 will certainly be a crucial aspect of who the Eagles keep.
On offense, there’s some talent. LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Bryce Brown, Brent Celek. Michael Vick stays, to everybody’s surprise. The Eagles return some talented offensive linemen, but how many can run what Kelly runs? That remains to be seen.
Add in Alex Henery, and, really, there aren’t more than a dozen absolute locks on the roster.
“It’s not about the number we bring back,” Roseman said. “It’s about bringing the right players back and guys who fit into the scheme and fit into the program and what we ask them to do, and what we’re doing defensively fits the guys that we’re bringing back.
“It’s so important that the players fit into the culture and the scheme of what you’re doing on both sides of the ball. That’s really important.
“There may be a really good player that’s out there, but he might not fit what we’re trying to do offensively or defensively and it may not make sense to put resources into that player, even though that’s a really good player, and I think that’s the important thing as we go through this offseason, that who may be a fit for us may not be a fit for other teams.”
Then there’s the notion of fixing the culture of the franchise, a vague concept that essentially means weeding out guys who aren’t committed to being Eagles. Cutting ties with guys who might be talented but don’t really mind losing and whose negative mentality can spread throughout a locker room, thereby creating a losing “culture.”
There was certainly an element of this in 2011, when the Eagles lost eight of their first 12 games, and last year, when they lost 11 of their last 12.
But Roseman said some of that can be eliminated simply with a coaching change.
“When you change coaches, you’re changing the culture,” he said. “When you bring a whole new coaching staff into the building and a coaching staff that does things differently than not only the large majority of National Football League but college football, he is a culture changer.
“We felt that when we interviewed [Kelly]. It wasn’t about just the scheme, and I think that was the biggest difference between what maybe the perception was and what we found out about him. It wasn’t just whether his offensive scheme would work, it was about him building a program and changing the culture, and so for us, that’s where it starts.
"We have a lot of core players who are here and under contract that the dynamic with them will change because they’re used in a different way, they talk to different coaches, so I think when you’re around the building and around the coaching staff, you see that it’s different,” Roseman said.
“Obviously, we had a tremendous amount of success with Coach Reid and a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Reid and his coaching staff, but when you do bring in a new coaching staff, it is a culture change.”