February 22, 2021
There's a television trope, often used for keeping long-running series moving forward when they should otherwise be nearing the end. It's part shifting the goalposts and part audience deception, but it essentially involves the good guys earning victory over some sort of villain, only to have it revealed in a final, perhaps post-credits scene that there's an even worse villain out there threatening their fair city.
That person is known as the "Big Bad."
This method can be used to set up a new season (or a new film in the case of series like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars) or to simply allow for a bit of a reset rather than any sort of final closure. In other words, just when the heroes think they've gotten rid of the threat, they find out that he/she was only a pawn, and there's someone even more sinister pulling the strings from behind the curtain.
And guess what? That's exactly what's happening in Philadelphia right now.
Gone is Carson Wentz — he, along with Doug Pederson, played the role of villain this year — even if it took some longer than others to realize he wasn't actually the knight in shining armor they had built him up to be. The 28-year-old quarterback will be shipped to Indianapolis for a pair of draft picks and the Eagles are left licking their wounds, as Wentz will still be on the hook for nearly $34 million against the cap. That's the fourth largest single cap hit of any player in the NFL this season — and he'll be playing for another team.
They banished a pair of "villains" (and several other henchmen in the forms of some assistants in order to spread out the blame), but the Big Bad still remains. And although we've sort of known all along that he was there, the veil is increasingly thinner and there's little left behind which he can hide.
We're now in the post-credit portion of the Wentz Era in Philly, and Howie Roseman has gone from Super Bowl architect to disaster artist, and fans and media alike seem to be sharpening their pitchforks.
Aside from the owner, the Eagles GM is one of the only people — and certainly the one with the most power — to survive this debacle. And to many, it's worth asking the question ... how? How is he still here? How has Jeffrey Lurie not noticed his recent failures? Or, if he has, how does the ice under Roseman's feet seem just as rock solid as it's always been?
See, for much of this season, the Eagles did a masterful job of creating a narrative in which only Wentz, Pederson and the other coaches were to blame. Injuries played a role too, as did a pandemic, but all teams were dealing with COVID-19 and injured players, so those excuses carry less weight.
The first scapegoat to fall was Pederson, fired a week after the team trotted him out alongside Roseman for a year-end press conference, one in which Pederson was only asked a question or two and hardly looked interested in being there. It was leaked to the media that he and Wentz had a falling out, which was true according to those we spoke to for our recent behind-the-scenes look at what led to this current mess.
While it turned out not to be entirely true since they're both now gone, the team sure went out of its way to make it look like the decision was zero-sum, an either/or between a Super Bowl-winning coach and a quarterback coming off the worst season of his career. There was talk about Wentz losing faith in Pederson and a fractured relationship between the two, but it appeared, at least at the time, the team was putting all its eggs in the Wentz basket.
That's where things get interesting.
By all accounts — and our own reporting bears this out — there was indeed a fractured relationship between Pederson and Wentz. But, according to other reports, there was a similar lack of trust between Wentz and Roseman (and even Lurie too). Here's more from Jeff McLane of The Inquirer:
Much was made of the disintegration of Wentz’s relationship with former coach Doug Pederson. And while it factored into his reported desire for a trade after he was benched for Hurts in December, Wentz’s reasons for wanting out ran far deeper.
Even after Pederson was fired last month, the quarterback preferred to play elsewhere, sources familiar with Wentz’s thinking said. While it could be stated that he had lost trust in Roseman, a more accurate assessment, per one source, was that he had “lost faith in his decision-making.”
The same, to an extent, could be said of Wentz’s assessment of Jeffrey Lurie, whose belief in his longtime general manager remains steadfast. The Eagles’ owner, after all, was on board when Roseman made the unprecedented decision to draft Hurts — both men too wrapped up in the benefits without seeing the potential risks. [inquirer.com]
What's puzzling there is that Wentz's poor relationship with Pederson cost the coach his job, but when it came to a faceoff between Wentz and the much-maligned GM, Lurie suddenly changed his tune, opting to ship out the quarterback, the same one his minions just painted as the reason they fired the coach. If Wentz had a problem with all the powers that be inside the Eagles organization, from coach right up through owner, why did the head coach pay the price?
What happened between the firing of Pederson and the decision to trade Wentz? Was the latter a reaction to the former? Or were the Eagles already planning to move on from Pederson regardless of his relationship with Wentz? Were they just looking for — and had finally found — an excuse to do so? Would they have fired him a year earlier if the Eagles hadn't won their last four games to claim the division title and a third-straight playoff berth?
Somehow, Roseman always seems to have a Teflon sports coat on. None of this ever seems to stick to him, even though there's an argument to be made that he's been the organization's biggest issue since the 2017 season, when his team won the Super Bowl. The closest Lurie ever came to ditching Roseman was back during the Chip Kelly administration, when he stripped the GM of his personnel power and banished him to Supply Closet A.
Disaster ensued, Roseman was vindicated and he returned to power.
This year, Roseman's struggles have been well-documented, from the poor drafting (they just traded away their only Pro-Bowl draft pick since 2014 to the Colts), to the bloated contracts (they're projected to be over $40 million over the cap in 2021 despite recent moves), to the bad free agent signings and missed trades (Stefon Diggs, anyone?) and more.
And while fans have been pointing to Roseman's shortcomings for the last couple of years, it seems like those within the organization, not unlike Wentz, are starting to point out the cracks as well, the types of cracks that Lurie has remained blind to, whether willfully or otherwise. Here's more from Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
That’s not to say that Roseman has done a good job or even that he deserves to still be in power. In fact, many people who have recently left the organization and some still inside the building think he’s the biggest problem with the franchise. A league source recently told me he thinks Roseman is the “sole problem” in Philly. [nbcsports.com]
That kind of dysfunction at the top — like an owner who barely holds his general manager accountable — can have a serious trickle-down effect on the rest of the organization. And perhaps it's the Eagles' own fault that they're in this mess in the first place.
After all, they (read: Roseman and Lurie) are the ones who wasted a ton of draft capital to move up and take Wentz. They're the ones who refused to believe any of the negative things that were being leaked to the media about their quarterback and decided to instead lavish him with a massive contract only to trade him for a minimal return a few years later. They're the reason the team just shattered the record for biggest dead money hit in NFL history. And they're the ones who set up an organizational structure that insulated Wentz and allowed him to create an environment in which he didn't have to take any accountability.
As our own Joe Santoliquito spelled out in a recent episode of BGN Radio with Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, Roseman and Lurie are just as responsible for this fiasco. Here's a large segment of Joe's answer to Brandon's question about what he's been hearing about the Eagles GM...
I hear he’s intelligent. I hear he asks a lot of questions. And those are the positives. I think what happened to Howie, from two major NFL people, one that used to be a former employee of the Eagles, is that when they won the Super Bowl … best thing and worst thing to happen to Howie. And you know exactly where I’m going with this. Best thing, because he helped put this team together. He helped with Joe Douglas, Joe Douglas had a major part of that. But Howie deserves credit for that. So that’s the good, that’s the best thing. The worst thing is that Howie began to think he was a hell of a lot smarter than he actually is in terms of seeing and determining what talent is. And it’s a matter of knowing your place. [...]
But they also have to turn around, and it’s kind of funny how this has gone in terms of Wentz, again, not being accountable, feeling entitled, a twitch of arrogance — you can easily turn around and say that about the Eagles organization. And the way they’ve handled things since the Super Bowl. ‘We’re the big guys on the block. Get out of our way.’ Again, I know people from other teams. Assistant coaches. Coaches. Players. It’s more than just the fan base that the NFL doesn’t like here. It’s the Philadelphia Eagles. And it’s a little bit of Howie Roseman. Howie’s respected, to a point. But he’s also … I’ll just say, maybe behind a few closed doors, he’s someone that people pull a little snicker-snicker and just, like, ‘Really? This guy’s a bit of a clown here. A little bit too much Johnny Big Time.’
When that Super Bowl trophy came about and he raised it up in his hands and suddenly he thinks of himself of the next coming as Vince Lombardi. They all need, they ALL need to take a step back... they need to take a look in the mirror and look at this mess that they created. They created by entitling, by giving entitlement to a quarterback that helped ruin this situation... They may point a finger at Wentz being uncoachable, not accountable, arrogant. But they have been the same thing. Mr. Lurie and Mr. Roseman have not exactly been accountable to themselves. And we see that in the reflection of a 4-11-1 season. And they only have themselves to blame for all this. [bleedinggreennation.com]
Now, I've heard a lot of the same things as Joe, mostly because I've heard them from Joe himself while working on our past stories on Wentz and the Eagles, dating all the way back to Joe's first big piece on the subject just over two years ago. I've listened to the audio and have seen the notes — as Joe likes to say, I "know where all the bodies are buried."
There's certainly something to be said about the lack of accountability from Lurie and Roseman, although for the latter, it appears the time is coming. Lurie can easily ignore fan discontent, especially over a member of the front office but he's done it in the past for players as well (see: Vick, Michael). But when others around the league start talking s**t about your general manager — especially those who used to work alongside him — then it becomes almost impossible to ignore.
And so, it seems, Roseman is Philly's new Big Bad. The man pulling the strings. The one really responsible for the current mess. The one every fan is looking to tear down, but who is almost impossible to catch.
That being said, he won't be here forever. Eventually this will all catch up to him, and when it does, maybe focus will finally shift to the owner, the one who has enabled Roseman to operate with impunity all these years. Maybe it already has.
Maybe we'll soon have a new, Bigger Bad in Philly. That would be one hell of a season finale.
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