Roseman shows full support of Foles at combine


Roseman shows full support of Foles at combine

INDIANAPOLIS – This was the strongest vote of confidence yet for Nick Foles.

And it came from Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, speaking Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“There’s not an opportunity for a starting spot here.”

Can’t get any stronger than that.

Roseman was speaking in context of Michael Vick and how Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly told Vick that if he wanted to be a starter, he would have to sign elsewhere, since the job isn’t open here.

Until now, Kelly and Roseman had been muted in their support of Foles, qualifying their praise of the 24-year-old second-year quarterback with comments about competition at quarterback and the possibility of drafting a quarterback.

But this was pretty definitive.

“I think that we have tremendous support for Nick,” Roseman said in a chat with Philly writers covering the combine. “I think we’ve been unquestioned about Nick. Even when we talk about Mike Vick, that there’s not an opportunity for a starting spot here, I think that’s a reflection on Nick Foles and where he is in his career.

“It’s exciting to think he’s in his second year in this league and really one year in the system under Coach Kelly and [there is a lot of] room for growth. So I think he has tremendous support within the building and within the organization and [we’re] really excited about him as a player and a person in the Eagles organization.”

Even though Foles threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions during the regular season, led the NFL with a 119.2 passer rating, went 8-2 in 10 starts and led the Eagles to the playoffs, there’s been a sense among fans and media that the Eagles still aren’t sold on the former third-round pick from Arizona.

It only adds to that sense when Kelly and Roseman speak constantly about bringing in competition at the quarterback position.

Kelly did that the day after the season ended, and Roseman actually did it earlier in the day Thursday, speaking at a podium for the national media.

“We’re about competition,” he said. “We’re about increasing competition at every position. I don’t think it’s a slight at anybody on our football team. But everyone needs to be pushed a little bit.

“I know that’s a big part of how I act every day. I wake up every morning with a determination that we’ve got to get better. That’s how Nick thinks too. It’s not an indictment on him or any other player on our roster.”

Later, Roseman explained that competition at quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean the Eagles are planning to bring in a quarterback to compete with Foles.

It’s just part of the culture Kelly is trying to bring to the Eagles.

That’s a huge distinction, and it amounts to the strongest commentary we’ve heard yet indicating that the Eagles are moving forward with the 24-year-old Foles as the guy.

“Nobody’s saying we’re bringing in competition for Nick Foles or outwardly looking for competition for Nick Foles, we’re saying we’re looking for competition throughout our roster,” Roseman said.

“And we’ve said that when we had Donovan McNabb, we said that when we had Kevin Kolb, we said that when we had Michael Vick. That if there was an opportunity in the draft to get a player at an important position, and in this case we’re talking about quarterback, we’ve seen how that pays off in terms of even having backup quarterbacks and how you can parlay that into other draft picks and I think that just makes sense.

“You can’t be close-minded when you go into the offseason to look for value in free agency and the draft, and I think that’s how we look at every position, and I think that’s how we look at the quarterback position.

“It’s a different question about trying to add competition to your roster at the quarterback position and not being committed to Nick Foles and trying to support Nick Foles the best we can.

“Throughout our organization he has tremendous support from all of us. You watch him at the Pro Bowl, and see him having fun and winning the MVP and it’s prideful.

“He represents us tremendously well. He had a tremendous year, he’s a young quarterback who really fits into our culture and our chemistry. I just want to make sure we’re clear.”

NFL Playoff Wrap: Packers, Steelers off to conference title games after dramatic wins

NFL Playoff Wrap: Packers, Steelers off to conference title games after dramatic wins

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This time it was a catch, and another win for the Green Bay Packers.

Call it a "Half Mary" from Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday.

The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook -- confirmed on review -- wasn't nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant's famous catch that wasn't in the Cowboys' divisional round loss to Green Bay two years ago.

Cook kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds.

And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final 5 minutes behind rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debut.

It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:38 -- two from Crosby and one from Dallas' Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt.

Rodgers, who sparked last week's wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before halftime, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta's Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game -- all on the road.

Green Bay's win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the playoffs dating to last season.

The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when "Captain Comeback", Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco.

Instead, Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game.

Prescott got the Dallas rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first playoff TD for the star receiver.

Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a 6-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first postseason touchdown for the 14th-year tight end.

Rodgers led the Packers to a go-ahead 56-yard field goal from Crosby with a big boost on a pass interference penalty against rookie Anthony Brown that wiped out an interception from Jeff Heath, whose pick earlier in the game helped Dallas rally.

The Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Bailey (see full recap).

Steelers hold off Chiefs to set up rematch with Pats in AFC title game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Le'Veon Bell chewing up yards and the clock, and Chris Boswell setting an NFL playoff record with six field goals?

Throw in a stingy Pittsburgh defense for most of Sunday night, and a multitude of mistakes by Kansas City, and the Steelers' 18-16 victory sent them into the AFC championship game.

The Steelers (13-5) needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs (12-5) before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn't play.

Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the 2-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher -- the first overall selection in the 2013 draft -- was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 remaining, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh 5. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 7 yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing a ninth straight victory for the Steelers. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes, then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against Cincinnati. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a TD since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the 5 and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal.

The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Pittsburgh's answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell's second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

A clean game up until then turned to, well, turnovers, on successive series. Bud Dupree pounded Alex Smith, whose pass shot high into the air and was caught by linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers got to the Kansas City 5, where Frank Zombo leaped to deflect Roethlisberger's throw, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry -- burned for 26 yards on the previously play -- picked it off in the end zone.

Boswell's fourth field goal, from 45 yards, made it 12-7 at the half. His 43-yarder, setting the franchise record for a postseason game and tying the league mark of five, came on Pittsburgh's first series of the second half. A 43-yarder midway in the fourth quarter gave Boswell the NFL record.

Kansas City's Cairo Santos got in on the kicking act with a 48-yarder to make it 15-10. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter, the Chiefs were outgained 333 yards to 150 (see full recap).

Roob's 25 Random Points: Carson Wentz, Josh Hart, Dion Lewis, The Fillmore and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Carson Wentz, Josh Hart, Dion Lewis, The Fillmore and more

The Eagles' season is over, No. 3 Villanova is in Big East play and so much more in the first edition of Roob's 25 Random Points of the 2017 calendar year.

Let's get to it.

1. Here’s the scariest stat facing the Eagles as the 2017 offseason kicks into gear: The Eagles are the oldest team in the NFL. That is disturbing. The outstanding website Spotrac allows you to index teams and salaries and bonus money in a lot of different ways, including by position, by year or by age. The Eagles currently have 49 players under contract for 2017, and those 49 players average 26.62, oldest of the 32 NFL teams based on all players under contract. The Ravens (26.34), Panthers (26.33), Cowboys (26.12) and Dolphins (26.08) are next-oldest. Being an old team with a losing record is not where any franchise wants to be. And for the Eagles, it’s the product of years and years of bad drafting and trying to patch holes through free agency. Free agents, of course, being older than draft picks. As older veterans like Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Kelce, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham either retire, are released or see their effectiveness diminish — which we may already be seeing — the Eagles have to find ways to replace them with younger versions through the draft, so they don’t get into this predicament again — old, cap-strapped and eight years without a playoff win. That means a stretch of several good drafts in a row. Which means Howie Roseman must listen to Joe Douglas and the other people around him. And it means Douglas has to live up to his reputation and successfully deliver young talent to the roster. It’s a lot to ask. The Eagles’ roster has been gradually getting older — they were ninth-youngest in 2013, their last playoff season; then 21st in 2014, 27th in 2015 and 26th this past season. That is a direct reflection of bad drafting and patching with free agents. That is a vicious cycle and one that cannot lead to a championship.
2. I write a lot about how important it is for a team to draft well, but the connection between drafting poorly and becoming a perennial loser can’t be over-stated. How did the Eagles have the best record in the NFC and the third-best record in the NFL from 2000 through 2009 at 103-56-1? Because from 1996 through 2002, a span of seven years, they drafted Brian Dawkins, Jermane Mayberry, Duce Staley, Jeremiah Trotter, Tra Thomas, Ike Reese, Donovan McNabb, Corey Simon, Brian Westbrook, Michael Lewis, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard. Think about that. That’s 12 elite players in the span of seven drafts. They cherry-picked a few very good free agents during that span — Troy Vincent, Jon Runyan and Hugh Douglas (technically acquired in a trade) — but for the most part, that was a team built around draft picks from a seven-year span. Now think about the Eagles’ last seven drafts. Where are the elite players? Forget a dozen of them. How about a handful? Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson when he’s on the field, Jason Kelce at one point, Nick Foles briefly … hopefully Carson Wentz … maybe Zach Ertz …. The players just aren't there. It’s so simple. Draft well and you have a chance. Draft poorly and you really don’t.
3. Speaking of drafting … there are only eight wide receivers who have been drafted in the first 25 picks of the first round since 2001 who had fewer than 700 receiving yards in their first two seasons combined. Subtract four guys who missed most of one of their first two seasons with injuries (Charles Rogers, Kevin White, Mike Williams, Santana Moss) and there are four who played at least 24 games and didn’t reach 700 yards. Two of them are Darrius Heyward-Bey and David Terrell. The other two are Freddie Mitchell and Nelson Agholor. So taking opinion and analysis out of the equation, the Eagles are responsible for two of the biggest first-round wide receiver busts in the NFL in the last decade and a half. Now, Agholor can still shed that label. There are a handful of receivers who have clicked in Year 3 or even later after slow starts. But it’s a very short list. The odds are against Agholor. Because of his cap figure, he will be here next year, and he’ll get every chance to make an impact. If he does, it will be one of the most improbable stories we’ve seen in a long time but one I'd be happy to write, since the kid clearly wants to do well. He works hard, he takes it seriously, he wants to succeed. If not? Throw him on the all-time Eagles' bust first-round scrap heap along with FredEx, Jon Harris, Jerome McDougle, Danny Watkins, Marcus Smith, Bernard Williams, Leonard Renfro and Antone Davis. Et al.
4. I just can’t get worked up about Allen Iverson being a Cowboys fan. 
5. The Chargers’ decision to leave San Diego and move to Los Angeles reminds me of the time the Eagles spent a week practicing in the San Diego area between road games in Denver and San Diego. It was in the middle of the 1989 season, and Buddy Ryan didn’t want the team flying round-trip across the country twice in a row, so after the Eagles beat the Broncos, 28-24, at Mile High Stadium, the team flew directly to San Diego. The La Jolla Marriott was Eagles headquarters that week, and the team practiced about 15 miles up Interstate 5 at Torrey Pines High School in Del Mar. Following one practice, two assistant coaches — Jeff Fisher and Ronnie Jones — were driving back to La Jolla separately in a rental car, with the team buses a few miles behind them. At some point on the drive back, Jeff and Ronnie — or “Bam-Bam”, as Buddy called him — got into a heated exchange with a driver who thought it was funny to swerve into their lane and cut them off, then slam on the brakes. After this happened a few times, Jeff and Bam-Bam pulled onto the shoulder, and the other driver pulled off the road a couple hundred feet in front of them and got out of his car with another dude. Just as everybody began shouting at each other, the Eagles’ team buses pulled up behind the coaches’ rental car. The bus doors opened and Jerome Brown emerged and started walking toward the altercation. He was immediately followed by Reggie White. And then Clyde Simmons. Then Seth Joyner, Mike Reichenbach, Byron Evans, Andre Waters, Britt Hager, Keith Byars, Mike Pitts, Wes Hopkins and so on. You can imagine how fast those two tough dudes sprinted back to their car and got out of there as they realized that the Philadelphia Eagles were marching toward them. If only there was cell phone video back then!
6. Got my first taste of the Fillmore Friday night for an incredible triple bill with Virginia’s Turnover, Philly’s mewithoutYou and Doylestown’s Circa Survive, and I’ve gotta say, it’s one heck of a beautiful addition to the city’s live performance venues. Amazing that a decade ago there was no Underground Arts, no Boot & Saddle, no Johnny Brenda’s, no Union Transfer, no Fillmore. Iconic venues like Dobbs, the Khyber, the North Star and the Chestnut Cabaret started closing. The live music outlook in town was grim. It was essentially the TLA and the Troc. Now, there are so many great venues in Philadelphia for live music, and they're all great. The Fillmore is housed in the old Ajax Metal Company building in Fishtown, which was originally built in 1931 but sat unused and in disrepair for more than two decades before it was restored and converted into a world-class concert hall. The transformation is remarkable. The place has everything imaginable you’d want — spacious lobbies, comfy couches to chill, clean restrooms, plenty of bars and food stands, great merch, state-of-the-art sound and lights and nice big fenced-in parking lots. Yeah. I’ll see you back there soon.
7. Wentz’s passer rating in the first quarter this year was 67.5, with one TD and six INTs. His passer rating in the last three quarters was 82.3, with 15 TDs and eight INTs. Something as simple as calming down early in games and eliminating those first-quarter interceptions will make him a totally different quarterback next year. Can’t wait to see what kind of player he is in 2017 with a full offseason as the No. 1 guy and a full training camp. 
8. Josh Hart is averaging 19.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. It’s going to be tough, but if he can average 20 points, 7.0 rebounds an 4.0 assists, he’ll be the first Division 1 player to reach those milestones in the same season in seven years — since Evan Turner of Ohio State in 2010 (20.4, 9.2, 6.0).
9. Before the Xavier game, I really wondered if this Villanova team had what it takes to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. With Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduated, Phil Booth hurt and seemingly headed for a red-shirt season and Omari Spellman ridiculously ruled ineligible by the NCAA, the Wildcats not only lack size but also lack depth. And it was starting to seem like other than Hart, Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson, nobody was picking up the slack. Then came the wins over No. 15 Xavier on Tuesday night and over St. John's at the Garden on Saturday, and once again the Wildcats look like a team and not just Hart, Jenkins and Brunson trying to carry the entire load. In the Xavier game, Darryl Reynolds and Donte DiVincenzo both reached double figures, with Reynolds making five of six shots for 10 points to go with three rebounds and DiVincenzo adding 10 points on 4 for 6 from the field with four boards and three assists. It was the first time in a Big East game this year that either one reached double figures in scoring. And then at St. John's, with Hart and Jenkins both off, DiVincenzo and red-shirt sophomore transfer Eric Paschall carried the Wildcats off the bench, with DiVincenzo contributing 19 points, three rebounds and two assists and Paschall adding nine points and four rebounds. Villanova's five starters on Saturday shot 13 for 37 and DiVincenzo and Paschall off the bench shot 11 for 16. Guys like DiVincenzo, Paschall and Reynolds don’t need to score 20 points, but if they keep playing defense like they have, if they keep hitting the boards like they have, running the floor and just taking some of the offensive pressure off the Big 3 of Hart, Jenkins and Brunson, Villanova can play with anybody.  
10. The worst parking garage in Philly is the one below the new Whole Foods in Fairmount. Love the Whole Foods. Hate the parking garage. It’s virtually impossible to navigate that subterranean maze of random concrete pillars, oddly angled parking spots, cars blindly backing out of spots, cars turning corners way too fast and the occasional runaway shopping cart without basically having your car destroyed. Pro tip: There are always parking spots available on 22nd Street between the Ben Franklin Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s a two-minute walk to Whole Foods, although a quarter will only get you 10 minutes. So check out Whole Foods, avoid the garage, bring tons of quarters and you’ll be good to go!
11. I like that Hyundai commercial where the dude drives to the marina, un-tethers his boat, gives it a little kick and then watches it float out into the harbor. All so he can get out of some family obligation and watch football all day Sunday. That’s good TV commercial work right there.
12. I never get tired of watching college basketball games at Madison Square Garden.
13. An interesting thing about Sean McDermott replacing Rex Ryan as head coach: McDermott was with Ron Rivera here from 1999 through 2003 and then in Carolina from 2011 through 2016. Rivera played in Chicago for Buddy Ryan and uses a lot of Buddy’s principals and schemes in his defense. McDermott obviously is a disciple of both Jim Johnson and Rivera, so there’s a lot of Buddy in his schemes too. And now he’s replacing Buddy’s son. I wonder if that was a factor in the hire. The Bills won’t have to scrap their defense. It will change, but there will be a lot of coverages, blitzes and schemes that look very familiar to those guys.

14. I love that the Philadelphia Foot and Ankle Institute is on Arch Street.
15. The Eagles have won 15 playoff games since 1961. Eleven with Joe Banner in the front office, four without him — and only one in the last 35 years without him. Just sayin’.
16. Do you ever find yourself just thinking, "What if Teddy Bridgewater had never gotten hurt?" We'd all be sitting here talking about another pointless season with Sam Bradford at the helm, nobody would have seen Carson Wentz play a snap yet and the Eagles wouldn't have a first-round draft pick.  

17. This blows my mind: Villanova has lost 14 games since the start of the 2013-14 season. That’s 114 wins, 14 losses. The most wins in Division 1 during that span and the highest winning percentage. Fourteen losses in 3½ years is insane.
18. Something else that’s mindblowing: Brock Osweiler, four years, $72 million, $37 million guaranteed. The kid can't play.
19. The great Philly record lable Lame-O Records, founded in 2012 by then-Drexel student Eric Osman, has always been community-conscious, and Lame-O is doing a great thing this month — putting on a series of four Thursday night concerts at the Boot & Saddle in January featuring great local bands and raising money for some terrific local charities. Cherry, Dominic Angelella and Hurry headlined the first event at the south Broad Street venue, raising money for the Philadelphia chapter of Planned Parenthood. This past Thursday was Slaughter Beach, Dog — the terrific side project of Modern Baseball’s Jake Ewald — along with Loose Tooth and No Thank You, and all money benefitting Juntos, which works with Latin immigrants who live in Philly. This coming Thursday, the Obsessives, the Superweaks and Thin Lips play. That is a killer triple bill. Money raised at that show benefits the Attic Youth Center, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in Philly. Finally, on Jan. 26, the Afterglows, Katie Ellen and Three Man Cannon are on a bill raising money for the Philadelphia chapter of the ACLU. Great music, great causes, great venue. You really have no reason not to go!
20. If you live under a rock or you’re not on Facebook, you haven’t seen ‘em, but everybody on Facebook has been posting these lists of 10 albums they listened to the most as teenagers, and that’s great but the thing is, judging by everybody’s lists, nobody was listening to crappy music as a teenager. It’s all these legendary and influential and critical faves like Bowie, Joy Division, Patti Smith,  Roxy Music, the Minutemen, Can, the Talking Heads and the Clash. You know what? I’m not buying it. I think people are trying to be hip instead of truly listing what they were listening to. Maybe not, but I wasn’t listening to any of that stuff. It was all Styx, Genesis, Foreigner, Kansas, Journey, Starcastle, Jethro Tull, Yes, ELP and Nektar. And I’m damn proud of it!
21. Something John Harbaugh told me before the Eagles-Ravens game about Bill Belichick that I found really interesting: “What he does better than anybody else is find what you don’t do well and attack it. So to play them, you have to look at yourself and your own team and understand what you’re not that good at because that’s where he’s going to attack you.”
22. How many times during the playoffs have you found yourself watching a wide receiver make a circus catch and saying to yourself, “Man, OUR wide receivers don’t do THAT.” Watching playoff football just makes you realize how far the Eagles’ wide receivers are from being where they need to be.
23. If you're flying in the row in front of me and you abruptly slam your seat all the way back without a warning and without a courtesy glance back, you will not sleep the rest of the flight.
24. It’s just surreal how Eagles castoffs can find their way to Foxboro and play for a Super Bowl favorite. Dion Lewis was a nice backup tailback his two years here, but the Eagles found him expendable after the 2012 season and a few months after Chip Kelly replaced Andy Reid, Lewis was shipped to the Browns in exchange for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. All Lewis did Saturday was become the first player in NFL postseason history with touchdowns via rush, reception and return in the same game. Only eight guys have done it in a regular season game. I’m not saying the Eagles made a huge mistake getting rid of Lewis, although he had shown signs of promise. But there is a reason the Eagles are the Eagles and the Patriots are the Patriots.
 25. A final thought: Going into Week 13, the Eagles and Packers had the same record.