On Howie Roseman, General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles

On Howie Roseman, General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles

“I'm a football coach. I'm not a
general manager. I'm not a salary cap guy. I coach football. I need people that
can go out there and say, 'Hey, this is what you want.' It's going to be a
collaboration. I have no delusions of saying I want all these different titles.
I just want to coach football.”

And with those words spoken by newly installed head coach
Chip Kelly, the hierarchy of the Philadelphia Eagles became crystal clear for
perhaps the first time in over a decade, before executive vice president of
football operations was added to Andy Reid’s title.

Just who was pulling the levers has always been of great
interest to fans. You had Reid, who coached of course, but always claimed to
have final say over all player personnel matters. Until recently there was Joe
Banner, Reid’s boss and keeper of the checkbook, which would seem to denote the
true ultimate decision maker. And there was always a general manager that
mainly served to scout and “run the draft” as it was often put, which is
strange terminology because that last part sounds like a player personnel
matter – anyway, we all know that’s been Howie Roseman for the past three
years.

There was a time when everybody appeared to be working in
concert, but those alliances disintegrated. The day Reid was fired, owner
Jeffrey Lurie absolved Roseman of the largely inadequate draft classes of 2010
and ’11, so obviously there was some change in final say – at least during the
month of April. And Banner departed amid the nonsensical narrative that he lost
a power struggle to Andy.

I describe it as nonsensical because how would Lurie’s
right-hand man of close to 20 years lose a power struggle to a head coach that was
on the brink of getting fired? It didn’t make any sense then, and it makes even
less sense now that both of them are gone. Yet given the fact that Banner can’t
pass on a single opportunity to hurl criticisms of the Eagles’ organization
while hiding behind the pseudonyms of “a league source” or “league executive,”
one can venture a guess that his exit was not on the most pleasant of terms.

It seems if anybody pushed Banner out the door, it was Roseman,
because he is suddenly a general manager cloaked in immense power. Chip doesn’t
have final say. Don Smolenski, the man who assumed Banner’s role as team
president, isn’t even involved in football operations, while Lurie more or less
seems content to rely on people who know better, outside of choosing the head
coach.

We are left to presume that Roseman has the checkbook.
Roseman runs the draft. Roseman signs the free agents. Roseman makes the cuts. Roseman
hands out the extensions. Roseman negotiates the deals. Roseman trades. Roseman
presides over practically any roster decision big or small.

Not bad for a kid who started as an “accountant,” as some
folks chide.

Why am I telling this long-winded tale? Well for one thing, you
might as well get used to the lay of the land for the immediate future, because
Howie isn’t going anywhere for awhile. Roseman has been a part of the Eagles’
organization since 2000. He outlasted Banner, he outlasted Reid, he outlasted
former GM Tom Heckert, he outlasted Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb, and where
every last one of them has been discarded and replaced, Roseman keeps on
climbing the ladder. In other words, you can stop asking me when he will get
fired.

Here is the larger point though. I don’t know how to judge Roseman,
because I’m not entirely sure what he did to reach this level. Allegedly he has
one draft to his name, and it’s too early to call it, but 2012’s class doesn’t
look too shabby so far. Most of his wheeling and dealing has sent capable
players such as Asante Samuel and Winston Justice (barely capable in this case,
but I digress) packing in exchange for peanuts, but shipping Kevin Kolb to
Arizona and prying DeMeco Ryans away from Houston look like steals. And not one
of the big-money contracts the Eagles have handed out in recent years will
hamstring the franchise, even if some of the choices look poor in retrospect.

If I absolutely had to give Roseman a grade, I would give
him an incomplete – not because his moves merit that, mostly because I can’t
tell for which moves he was actually in charge. Thankfully someone else can.

“I keep voluminous notes on talent
evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each
person that is in the organization that’s working here. I came to the
conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation
in the building was Howie Roseman.”

That’s Lurie a few weeks ago, and he’s either delirious, or
Howie is doing a good job. It may be hard to believe, because he’s the youngest
GM in the NFL at only 37 years old, and has no “football background” – as if
working for the Eagles for over a decade, much of that at the foot of Banner no
less, was completely worthless experience.

Look around. There is no more Banner or Reid. This
organization has been in the process of systematically dissolving every remaining
link to the last great period in franchise history for the past four years,
except Roseman. There must be some reason for that, no?

I can’t pretend to be able to explain why that is. I can
only tell you Howie Roseman is definitely the captain of this ship from this
point on, and he should be evaluated not based on the past few seasons for
which we haven’t a clue as to his level of involvement, but instead for whatever
he does going forward.

That is now that we finally know where everything stands.

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Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The postseason accolades and awards are nice, but Soul defensive back Tracy Belton has a much higher goal.

Named as the Arena League Football Defensive Player of the Year during an awards ceremony Friday, Belton, considered the passion and spirit of the Soul defense, is more than comfortable putting aside individual honors and pushing his teammates to greater heights.

Reaching the ArenaBowl against the Arizona Rattlers Friday in the Gila River Arena (7 p.m./ESPN) the prize is out there, and Belton has his blinders firmly affixed. The focus and concentration is not in question, so the task ahead remains paramount.

“I want that ring, I need that jewelry,” Belton said during media day Friday. “Oh yeah, it would definitely be nice to get that ring.”

To obtain that shiny piece of hardware, Belton and his defensive teammates have the task of trying to shut down the most potent offense in the league.

Guided by quarterback Nick Davila, the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, the Rattlers are averaging 80.3 points per game. From an offensive standpoint, Arizona led the AFL in many offensive categories, including scoring, total offense, rushing, third-down conversion and fourth-down conversion.

To complement the offense, the Arizona defense ranked first in the league in defensive scoring defense, rushing defense, interceptions, turnover ratio and sacks allowed.

In a league which glorifies offense, the task ahead for the Soul defense is considered a challenge. After all, these teams each finished with a 13-3 mark and each defeated the other team on their home turf.

“To win this game, we hope they make mistakes,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “They are very explosive, but our secondary is playing at a high level. For us, we need to limit our mistakes.”

If Davila, who is the first player in AFL history to win the MVP award three times, is to be challenged, the Soul’s offense need to be proficient. Coming into the ArenaBowl, the Soul averaged 59.0 points per game. That was good enough for fourth in the league, but quarterback Dan Raudabaugh put up better numbers, in certain categories, than Davila.

In head-to-head competition, Raudabaugh tossed more touchdown passes (14 to 13), passed for more yards (541 to 431), completed more passes (48 to 32) and averaged more yards per game (270.5 to 215.5) through the air. Yet, the Rattlers’ offense is swift, quick, efficient and lethal.

“In this league, the quarterback is the most important position,” Davila said. “You have to make decisions quickly, and facing a defense like Philly, that’s the challenge for us. It’s about limiting mistakes. The team which makes fewer mistakes is the team that usually wins.”

Notes
Since the Phoenix Mercury are scheduled for a home game in Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix Friday night, home site for the Rattlers, the title game was switched to home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. … Among league leaders this past season for the Soul, Belton was fourth in tackles, Jake Metz led in sacks, Darius Reynolds was sixth in receiving and Jeramie Richardson was second in rushing. … In comparison of QBs, Raudabaugh was second in the league in passing (101 TDs, 63.3 passing percentage) and Davila placed third (110 TD passes, 69.6 passing rating). … This is the third league title meeting between these two teams. The Soul dropped the previous two championship games, 72-54 in 2012 and 48-39 in 2013.

You gave us the 'Good One,' Chooch, thanks for the memories

You gave us the 'Good One,' Chooch, thanks for the memories

The Phillies were one strike away from winning the World Series and Citizens Bank Park was in a full roar.

Carlos Ruiz trotted to the mound for a quick chat with closer Brad Lidge.

Lidge wanted to try to put away Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinkse with his signature slider, a pitch that had helped him go 48 for 48 in save chances during that magical season. Ruiz was in complete agreement. After catching the pitcher all season, he knew how good Lidge’s slider was. He also knew that Lidge threw three versions of the pitch, a get-me-over offering that he used to get a first-pitch strike, a backdoor bender that he used against lefty hitters, and The Good One, a sharp, downward-breaking dagger that left hitters flailing at air as it cork-screwed toward the dirt.

On that spectacular October night nearly eight years ago, Ruiz looked into Lidge’s eyes and issued a directive: Give me the good one. Lidge complied. Hinske swung over the vicious slider. Ruiz fished it out of the dirt and Harry Kalas shouted, “The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball” as the stadium erupted in euphoria. Ruiz, the kid who wasn’t even a catcher when the Phillies first scouted him in the summer of 1998, sprinted to the mound, collapsed to his knees and joined Lidge in a joyous hug, the image of which will remain emblazoned in the minds of Philadelphia fans, well, forever.

Ruiz’s words to Lidge — Give me the good one — gained new resonance on Thursday because the veteran catcher, beloved by teammates and fans, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later (see story).

Ruiz spent 11 seasons with the Phillies and when you consider where he came from and what he accomplished, well, he always gave the team and its fans the good one.

“I’m excited, but also sad,” Ruiz said moments after the trade became official.

Excited because at age 37, and firmly in the twilight of his career, he has the chance to join a first-place team and get to the postseason one more time.

And sad because, “I have so many memories in Philadelphia.”

The greatest, of course, was the World Series championship, catching the final out and rushing to the mound to join Lidge as the pitcher dropped to his knees, looked to the heavens and shouted, “Oh, my God, we just won the World Series!”

But there were so many others.

Ruiz was a backbone member of five NL East championship teams and the best catcher a Cy Young winner named Roy Halladay ever pitched to. Halladay said it himself. Ruiz caught four no-hitters, including two of Halladay’s. He was an All-Star in 2012.

All in all, it was a pretty good run for a guy who signed for $8,000 off a sandlot in Panama in 1998. That same year, the Phillies signed Pat Burrell for $8 million. Ruiz would have signed for nothing.

“All I wanted was a chance to play professional baseball,” he said. "I'm thankful the Phillies gave it to me."

At the time of his audition for the Phillies, Ruiz was a 19-year-old second baseman. Phillies scouts were skeptical of his ability to make it as an infielder. They warmed to him when he said he’d give catching a try. He learned the position on the fly and made a steady progression up the ladder until arriving in the majors in 2006 and becoming a regular in 2007, the year the Phillies broke a 14-year playoff drought and won the NL East.

Ruiz was a favorite in the clubhouse for his good nature and team-first attitude. He would do anything for the team, anything to win, and you can’t fake that stuff. That won him the admiration of teammates. In 2012, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his love for Ruiz in typical Papelbon style. He called Ruiz “a Panamanian redneck.” Years later, Cameron Rupp, the man who supplanted Ruiz as starting catcher, praised Ruiz for his mentorship. It’s not easy for a player to groom the man who will take his job, but Ruiz did it earnestly and graciously. Today, Rupp is arguably the most improved player on the Phillies’ roster.

“Carlos was the everyday guy for more than eight years,” Rupp said. “I’m sure it was hard. It can’t be easy. But he never stopped helping me. There might be guys who wouldn’t do something like that, but not him.

“I can’t tell you how much he helped me. He’s awesome.”

Ruiz’s hustle, his non-stop effort, and, oh, yes, his place on championship teams — that’s what Philadelphians love most — earned him a special spot in the hearts of fans. Cup your hand to your ear and you can still hear those fond shouts of Choooooch from the stands.

They will be heard again when Ruiz goes on the team’s Wall of Fame someday. But for now, he heads off to Los Angeles to join another former Phillies fan favorite and champion, Chase Utley, in a late-career run at one more moment of postseason glory.

You gave us the Good One, Chooch.

NFL Notes: Browns trade '13 No. 6 pick Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

NFL Notes: Browns trade '13 No. 6 pick Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

CLEVELAND -- Barkevious Mingo never really fit in with the Browns.

The Patriots will try to find an ideal spot for him.

A major disappointment in Cleveland, Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft was traded to New England on Thursday.

The Browns received a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft for the linebacker.

Mingo, a former LSU standout, has recorded just seven sacks in three seasons and spent much of last season on special teams.

Mingo's size -- 6-foot-4, 240 pounds -- and speed have made him intriguing, but Cleveland's coaching staff couldn't find the best way to utilize him. The Browns moved the 25-year-old Mingo from outside linebacker to inside earlier this summer.

Cleveland declined to exercise the fifth-year option on Mingo's rookie contract in May. With the trade of Mingo, left tackle Joe Thomas and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert are the only first-round selections by Cleveland from 2007 to 2014 that are still with the team (see full story).

NFL: Harrison, Matthews and Peppers talk with PED investigators
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Green Bay Packers defensive players Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers met this week with NFL investigators looking into allegations linking them to performance-enhancing drugs, the players' union said Thursday.

Matthews and Peppers met with league representatives on Wednesday, while Harrison did so on Thursday, according to the NFL Players Association.

Last week, the league threatened Harrison, Matthews, Peppers and free agent Mike Neal with indefinite suspensions if they did not meet with investigators. All of them were mentioned in an Al-Jazeera television interview with Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. In the December report, Sly made claims of PED use by several athletes, including Harrison, Peyton Manning and the three others, but later recanted his claims.

The since-retired Manning was cleared after a separate NFL investigation in which he granted interviews and provided all records sought by league investigators.

The league's deadline for cooperation from the four current players was Thursday. The NFL first notified the four on Jan. 11 about the investigation into the Al-Jazeera report (see full story).

Dolphins: Team intensifies efforts for Zika control at stadium
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins and Miami Marlins say they've intensified mosquito-control treatments at their stadiums because of the Zika virus.

The Dolphins' stadium is more than 10 miles from the nearest area of the virus outbreak. Even so, the Dolphins say they decided weeks ago to undertake additional treatments as a precaution.

Construction workers are at the site daily completing the latest phase in a $500 million renovation. The first home preseason game is next Thursday against Tennessee.

The Marlins and Miami-Dade County have stepped up spraying in and around Marlins Park "in an abundance of caution," team president David Samson said Thursday. Treatments targeting the mosquito that transmits Zika are being used even though the Marlins play most of their home games indoors under a retractable roof.

Marlins Park is about 2 miles from the nearest area of virus outbreak.

Treatments at the 265-acre Dolphins stadium site include the parking lot and follow recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those treatments are expected to continue through the football season and beyond.

Vikings: New stadium sells out for inaugural season
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have sold out their new stadium for the inaugural season.

The team announced on Thursday that they've started waiting lists for tickets and suites. The official capacity at U.S. Bank Stadium will be 66,655, with more than 60,400 seats committed for the entire season and the remaining single-game seats also sold out.

Returned tickets from visiting team allotments typically make a small number of seats available the week of each game.

The Vikings host San Diego on Sunday in an exhibition game, their first action at the $1.1 billion venue. The regular-season opener is on Sept. 18 against rival Green Bay.