When you lumber through eight years without a playoff win and three years without even so much as a playoff appearance, there's no shortage of reasons.
And Howie Roseman put a lot of the blame for the Eagles’ nearly decade-long run without a single postseason victory squarely on his own shoulders Wednesday, saying the team’s drafting “hasn’t been good enough” and conceding the Eagles have been guilty of pursuing mediocrity over the years.
Roseman is beginning his second year as executive vice president of football operations after a year out of power while Chip Kelly ran personnel operations. From 2010 through 2014, Roseman was the Eagles’ general manager.
The Eagles haven't won a playoff game during Roseman's tenure running the team.
“I think you go back and you look at 2008, when we were in the (NFC) Championship Game and then 2009 and 2010, 10-6 isn’t good enough to get home-field advantage, to compete for a championship,” he said.
“It’s a huge edge to have that bye, so we’ve got to build the team with that in mind. I think some of the things we’ve done over the past few years have been to get to 10-6 and that’s not good enough.”
From 2001 through 2004, the Eagles reached four straight NFC Championship Games, and those teams won 11, 12, 12, 13 games. Three of them earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field throughout. In 2001 and 2008, they reached the NFC Championship Game via the wild-card route.
The Eagles lost all those NFC title games other than 2004, but six of the 15 postseason wins the Eagles have recorded since 1960 came during their three consecutive years as a No. 1 seed.
So Roseman’s message is that you have to build for greatness, not just to get into the tournament.
“When you look at it, there are certain things that it’s almost impossible to win a championship without,” Roseman said. “And I think when I look back at some of the mistakes I made, they were about just trying to get into the playoffs and believing that once you get into the playoffs maybe you have a chance every year because it’s a shorter field and you can just get hot.
“But really when you look at the Super Bowl championships, over the last decade, really since the Super Bowl was in effect, they all have a franchise quarterback.”
That’s why after years of instability at quarterback — Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford — the priority last offseason became identifying and acquiring a quarterback of the future.
So Roseman wheeled and dealed, moved up to the No. 2 pick, and selected Carson Wentz, who had an auspicious rookie year.
Now the challenge is surrounding him with 52 other pieces of a potential championship run.
“Your easiest way to be a perennial contender is with (a franchise quarterback),” Roseman said. “And to have a guy like Carson makes it feel like you’re doing the right thing when you don’t do a lot of band-aids.”
Roseman used the phrase band-aids a few times during his 30-minute State of the Franchise address Wednesday in the NovaCare Complex auditorium.
Band-aids is essentially his phrase for free agents.
The Eagles haven’t drafted consistently well since the 2002 draft delivered Lito Sheppard, Brian Westbrook, Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis.
So they’ve had to fill needs with free agents with mixed results. Which really helps explain a mediocre 100-91 record since 2007 with postseason success just once in the last 10 years.
Free agents equals mediocrity. Drafting well equals potential success. It’s about time the Eagles recognize it. Now they have to live by it.
“When you look at 10-6 teams, you can put band-aids on some things,” Roseman said. “I think you look at the cornerback position and what we’ve done at the cornerback position is put band-aids on things.”
Such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin.
To name a few.
You can’t win that way.
Surround Wentz with elite young players over the next few years and you'll have a chance.
The Eagles haven’t nailed a draft since Roseman initially became GM in 2010, although 2013 has promise. But years of missing on players like Marcus Smith, Danny Watkins, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Josh Huff in the first three rounds has caught up with the franchise.
Roseman was blunt about the need for drafting to improve under the new coalition of Roseman, vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas and assistant director of player personnel Andy Weidl (see story).
“No question,” he said. “And again it’s one of the things where you look back and where our draft board was in January, and when we made some decisions, we compromised on guys as opposed to just sticking to the board and doing the right thing — not based on a need this year but based on who’s the best player to be part of the core going forward.
“And I sit here very confident that will not happen again.”
Roseman is also confident that the most difficult piece of the puzzle is already in place in Wentz, who threw for 3,782 yards this year despite a paucity of talent around him.
“It’s funny, because I don’t notice a lot of the articles that are around the building that are hung up, but last week I noticed an article (on the wall) that was from 2003 and talked about how the Eagles’ future was bright because they had a 26-year-old quarterback,” Roseman said.
“We have a 24-year-old quarterback. We have to do the right things so that when (he’s) taking off, the team is ready to take off with him.”
Head coach Doug Pederson raised some eyebrows this past week when he spoke of how close the Eagles are to being an elite team because they lost a bunch of close games on the way to a 7-9 record.
“We're very close,” Pederson said. “Even though the win-loss and everything is not in our favor, I think we lost six games this year by a touchdown or less, and we've just got to learn to finish those games.
“I think we're extremely close, extremely close to being a team that can compete each year for not only the NFC East but for the postseason.”
Roseman has a more realistic, more honest assessment of where the Eagles are in the big picture.
He appreciates Pederson’s enthusiasm and confidence but as the guy who has final say over personnel, he is soberly aware of how much work there still is to do.
“When you look at how hard the team is playing for him and how many close games we were in, I love that perspective from our coaching staff and our players,” Roseman said.
“We have a little different role here in the front office. There’s always going to be things that we look at and try to get better (at).
“We’re trying to compete with the best teams in the National Football League, and we’re certainly not there right now as we stand. … We have a lot of work to do here. But I feel a lot better than where we stood last year at this time.”