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?

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

For the first 40 yards of Josh Huff’s kick return touchdown on Sunday, he went untouched.

When he got to the Eagles’ 42-yard line, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was the only guy left in his way.

Huff ran through him.

“Yeah, I can’t let a kicker tackle me,” Huff said. “If he would have tackled me, I really would have been pissed at myself.”

The 170-pound Walsh couldn’t make the tackle and was sent spinning as Huff ran through. Fifty-six yards later, Huff took off from the 2-yard line, flipping into the end zone to give the Eagles their first lead in an eventual 21-10 win over the Vikings (see Instant Replay).

Huff said he knew he was scoring as soon as he saw that he had just the kicker to beat.

With the Eagles’ down 3-0 and with their offense sputtering through the first quarter and change, Huff’s play was a game-changer (see 10 Observations).

“Josh did a great job on the return,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “[Special teams coordinator] Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every single week. You need those things. You need special teams scores.”

After Wendell Smallwood’s kick return touchdown last week, this is the first time in franchise history the Eagles have had kick return touchdowns in back-to-back games. They also have the NFL’s only two kick return touchdowns of the season (see Standout Plays).

“It’s super cool,” Smallwood said. “Now teams have to pick their poison. They can’t go away from one. They can’t say they’re not going to kick to Smallwood, then they kick to Huff and he takes it. I think we’re going to get a lot of teams’ attention.”

Huff also had a role in the Eagles’ offense against the Vikings. He caught four passes for 39 yards, including two that picked up first downs. His 14-yarder in the third helped set up the touchdown that sealed the win for the Eagles.

This season hasn’t been great offensively for Huff. He is clearly the Eagles’ fourth wideout and came into Sunday with just eight catches for 24 yards.

“Obviously, I want to play good on offense, but we have three great guys in front of me,” Huff said. “I’m doing what I can to stay ready and I’m at my best when those guys do need me. At the end of the day, as long as I’m doing my job and as long as I stay ready, today was evident. Whenever they call my number, I’m going to make the most of my opportunities.”

Huff finished off his 98-yard kick return touchdown the same way he finished off his 41-yard receiving touchdown in New England last year: With a flip.

Huff took off from the 2-yard line and did a front flip, landing in the middle in the black end zone on his backside.

“It’s just something that happens,” Huff said. “Everybody says I should have stuck the landing, but I’m not a gymnast.”

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

The Eagles’ defense had two challenges on its mind Sunday. First, there was the challenge of outplaying Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ offense. Just as important was the challenge of outplaying the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.

“We wanted to be the better defense out there,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We wanted to match their intensity. That was the whole thing. That’s all we talked about — let’s be the best defense out there today. We wanted to make sure we were the most dominating defense in the game.

“We wanted to get more sacks, get more turnovers … that was our whole goal.”

In a clash of two of the NFL’s top defensive units, the Eagles beat the previously undefeated Vikings 21-10 Sunday at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

The Vikings defense was very good. It held the Eagles to 14 offensive points and forced four turnovers, but also had no sacks.

The Eagles’ defense was better. It held the Vikings to 10 offensive points, forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.

If you watched this game and had to guess which defense is No. 1 in the NFL, you’d guess Eagles.

They were that dominating.

They outplayed the best defense in the game.

“We think we’re the best defense, but they’ve been playing great, and they were the best defense coming in,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. “We knew it would come down to whichever defense played the best.

“You could see that the first quarter. We’d make a play, they’d make a play. But you’ve just got to keep on chopping. After the last two games, we wanted to get back to playing Eagles defense, and I feel like we did that.”

McLeod, linebacker Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and Graham led a ferocious defensive effort that saw the Eagles batter former teammate Sam Bradford, who absorbed his first loss as a Viking (see 10 Observations).

The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, intercepted him twice and mauled him snap after snap after snap. By the time the Vikings got in the end zone, with half a minute left, it was already a three-possession game.

Neither team had an offensive play longer than 29 yards.

“We think we’re the No. 1 defense in the league,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We think we can be that and should be that if we go out and play the way we’re supposed to.

“We have to do that every week. But we think we can hang with any defenses out there. And we have a lot of respect for that defense across the field, and we knew we would have to show up for us to even have a chance to be in this game. Because that defense is ranked No. 1 coming into this thing.

“But we also feel we’re the best defense in the league, even though we haven’t played like it. But this is the opportunity you want. On the main stage, you’re coming into our home, and this was our opportunity to face the best defense in the league, and I think we showed our worth.”

The Eagles, who looked nothing like a top defense the last two weeks in losses in Detroit and Washington, improved to 4-2 and dropped the Vikings to 5-1.

Six games in, the Eagles’ defense is allowing just 13.5 points per game. That’s No. 2 in the league, behind only … who else … the Vikings at 12.8 per game.

“For us, it’s a battle of the defenses,” Hicks said. “And we always want to be the best defense on the field and put our team in a position to win.”

Bradford has been sacked more only once in his career, back in 2011 with the Rams, when the Redskins got him seven times.

And after opening the season with no interceptions in four games, the Eagles picked him off twice.

Whatever it takes to get motivated. If it works, it works. And this Eagles' defense was clearly motivated by that No. 1 ranking the Vikings brought to town.

“It motivated everybody,” Fletcher Cox said. “We knew in order to win this game we had to be good up front, and the last two weeks we weren’t very good up front. But we got back to basics and went out and played a physical football game.”

Hicks had 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two pass knockdowns in his finest game of the year. McLeod became the first Eagle since Quintin Mikell in 2007 with a sack, forced fumble and interception in the same game and added seven tackles. And Graham picked up his fourth sack to go with five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble (see Standout Plays).

The Eagles got back to the way they played defense the first three games of the season. They’ve now held their opponents to 14 or fewer points in four of six games and won them all. In their two losses, they’ve allowed 24 and 27.

“Pride … call it what you want, we knew we had to play well today,” Hicks said. “This defense has a certain standard, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else does, it matters what we do, and ultimately if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to be a top, top, top defense.

“For me, it’s not about them. It’s about us and what we do.”