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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Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint during a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds in the second period.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front off a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a real problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more enjoyment is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.