Examining the Eagles' 'New' Front Office

Examining the Eagles' 'New' Front Office

Chances are we will never learn all of the facts behind what led to Joe Banner's departure -- especially not as long as you're searching for sinister plots. Now that we are through picking over the remains of Banner's tenure with the Eagles though, two prominent figures remain. No matter what really happened, the effects of this shift on the head coach and the general manager are permanent.

First we have Andy Reid, who supposedly is the man with everything to gain from Banner's exile. Legend has it Reid's job is on the line in 2012, so he convinced his employer to remove a practical figurehead. Some guy -- not Reid -- was promoted to Banner's post. Reid gains super powers... Reid smash.

Then there is Howie Roseman, not seated at the table for the Smolenski-Lurie-Banner-Reid press conference/brunch last week. On the heels of a pair of oft-scrutinized drafts, a KoP shopping spree where he maxed out your father's credit cards on junk, and inviting most of the 8-8 kids back to his next four or five parties, somehow he comes out smelling like... bacon. Why, Roseman is more popular than the Priceline Negotiator these days.

The "Good Cop"

Many players spoke out in opposition to Banner's negotiating tactics since the news broke on Thursday, and some acted out while they were members of the team. For as many great deals as the team struck under Joe's watch, there were hurt feelings and mistakes along the way.

There always are.

Roseman is the toast of the town at the moment because this offseason's batch of contract negotiations never became contentious. He made it so Cullen Jenkins is able to retire here. He was not to be outbid for the services of Evan Mathis. He achieved the impossible, making DeSean Jackson happy. He kept LeSean McCoy enthusiastic, under lock and key.

In reality, these were all easy deals. The Eagles want Cullen Jenkins, they need Evan Mathis, and LeSean McCoy earned it. The only discrepancy at all with any of the players the club signed or acquired this year was Djacc, and some folks just can't give the decorated athlete his due -- perhaps Banner included. Still, if Reid wanted Jackson, and truly is the head of personnel (he is), I believe it could have happened one way or another.

But make no mistake, Roseman's job will not always be so simple. In the future, even less than a year from now, the Eagles will be presented with difficult decisions on current players. Mike Vick's contract is not as concrete as some people think, Jason Peters is coming off of a "non-football related" injury, and Jason Babin could outperform his contract. Meanwhile, young players such as Jeremy Maclin, Nate Allen, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie want extensions. Does anybody really imagine all of that will go swimmingly?

The idea that the Eagles will never be split with a player over money again is amusing. To be fair, nobody actually said that either, but can we stop this nonsense about Roseman being a more pleasant negotiator than Banner? When the time comes, he will draw the ire of the players or agents who are seated across the table, and depending on who we're dealing with, rest assured Roseman will be painted as the bad guy.

Coach for life?

Jumping back to Reid for a bit, the conclusion folks have reached is the head coach seized unprecedented power from the Eagles, and it sounds like that was as easy as a grabbing a fistful of Snickers bars. Now the fear is with no one left to rein him in, a contract extension for Reid is already on the way, and he will be in place for many years to come.

Let's start with problem number one, Reid's ascension to the top of the food chain. It seems true, in theory at least, he gains rank with Banner out of the picture. There is one less dissenting voice in the conversation, so yeah, Reid's words naturally hold more weight. How much more though? Would you say his power increased tenfold or twofold?

How about less?

With Roseman negotiating contracts and managing the cap, it lends the appearance Reid didn't gain much at all. It's not his direct superior making those calls any longer, but it's not like Reid took the checkbook, either. We heard he sat in on McCoy's extension, which is interesting, and speaks to a potentially greater involvement in this aspect of the business going forward. Still, there is a salary cap to navigate, and there have been no suggestions its management will be turned over to Reid.

In short, his job is to pick the players -- same as always -- and Roseman's is to keep him fiscally responsible, as Banner had done before. So on the surface, Reid's role hasn't changed at all. Sure he has more influence, but he's stuck in the same position with the same responsibilities. That's not typically how you would define an increase in one's power.

Respect whose authority?

The man who seems to be sitting pretty as the tornado twists around him is Roseman. While he's taken a few lumps since becoming general manager, I can't remember the last time a member of the front office was so well received in Philly. He's been pegged as the players' negotiator, and quite possibly the new public face of the Eagles. Roseman is unassuming, and if he performs at his job, fans are going to like him.

It's a good thing, too, because he might be running the show on his own soon enough.

Oh, right, except there's that coach for life thing. It will be intriguing to see how this plays out for Reid, as it begs the question who is ultimately responsible for making the decision on his future? After all, this isn't Congress, where officials vote on a pay raises for themselves -- Reid answers to somebody, and it's a short list.

Jeffrey Lurie, obviously, and he is probably the one who will have to pull the plug finally if the team continues spinning its wheels or moving in the wrong direction, or choose to grant an extension if Reid pulls off a great season in 2012. But the real question might be who is responsible for tabbing Reid's successor? I think if you can answer that, you might get a better sense for what's going on here.

Until last week, that would have been Banner. Don Smolenski is the incoming president, but seems to have little or nothing to do with the on-field product. I'm sure Lurie will be involved, but I don't envision him handling the entire interview/negotiation process on his own.

Which only leaves Roseman. As Banner's protege, he climbed the corporate ladder, absorbing tremendous power along the way -- first taking over as GM when Tom Heckert left, now performing his mentor's tasks on the football side of the business, amazingly without stepping on any toes (that we know of) on his way up. Is it so unreasonable to speculate his next move could be Lurie's new right-hand man in football operations?

From that perspective, it kind of looks like Roseman is holding a better hand than Reid at the moment, doesn't it?

Sarah Baicker: I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

Sarah Baicker: I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only two women there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common.

After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while — a guy I like a lot — said to me: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment. The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.

I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar label I’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls — papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players — were a far cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. 

As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors. My grandmother, who was visiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolled my eyes.

I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in my tomboyishness, believing that the things I liked — the things boys liked — were clearly better than the things stereotypically left to the girls.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed my perspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man. I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.

You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a big supporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though, it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before?

In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goes beyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life. But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it?

And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me I skated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darn good woman.

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.