January 04, 2021
Normally on Mondays, members of the Eagles media contingent are treated to about 15-20 minutes of Doug Pederson. The head coach's mood typically depends on the outcome of the previous day's game, so what were we to expect on the Monday following the end of their 2020 season and a game it seemed pretty obvious they had no interest in winning.
Well, given the momentous occasion — not to mention the fact that he hasn't spoken publicly since before the draft — the Birds pulled out the big guns on this Monday, making both Pederson and GM Howie Roseman available for just over 30 minutes. With the coach available multiple times per week, including his postgame availability fewer than 12 hours prior, it's no surprise that the majority of the questions (almost all of them, really) were directed toward Roseman. And there were a lot of topics discussed.
Obviously, the biggest topic surrounding the Eagles right now — at least now that it seems like both Roseman and Pederson will be back next season — is regarding the future of quarterback Carson Wentz and the reports that he intends to ask for a trade after losing his starting job to Jalen Hurts. The two both denied that the relationship with the 28-year-old quarterback is fractured beyond repair, as was reported on Sunday morning. In fact, to hear them tell it, it sounds like they plan on making Wentz an offseason reclamation project, but that's exactly what you'd expect the team to say whether or not they plan on actually keeping him.
Beyond Wentz, Roseman talked about a wide range of topics, covering everything from future plans all the way back to his biggest offseason regrets from last year, and even all the way back to the Super Bowl season in 2017. With so many topics covered, we decided to pull out five that stood out — aside from the Wentz stuff, which we already covered here — and focus on those. Let's dive in...
"This has been a disappointing, embarrassing, frustrating season. Obviously, what we've done here, when you win four games, that's on all of us. That's on me. We have really good people here. We have to figure out how to fix this and get this back on the right path."
That's how Roseman opened the proceedings on Monday morning, the morning after the Eagles season came to an unspectacular end on Sunday night at the Linc, with a 20-14 loss to Washington that handed them the NFC East title. But at least we now know that the organization feels on the inside the same way it's currently being viewed on the outside, especially by the fans who entered the season with high hopes for the Birds after three straight playoff berths.
That's certainly a good start heading into the offseason. If the Eagles were trying to write this year off as a lost season that was the result of injuries, a pandemic and some bad luck, that likely would've gone over like a lead balloon with the fanbase. Instead, Roseman acknowledged right at the top that changes need to be made this offseason as the roster continues to age and become even more expensive. Currently, the Eagles are projected to be about $70 million over the cap for 2021, meaning Roseman and Co. have a lot of long nights ahead of them trying to figure out how to shave all that money off their cap while also improving their roster.
That's easier said than done — actually, that's not even easily said. That sounds downright impossible, especially in one offseason. And if Roseman tries to take shortcuts in this rebuild, re-tool, re-stock, whatever you want to call it, he could wind up setting this franchise back even further. That being said, Roseman was asked about trying to toe the line between long-term success and job security on Monday and said that he isn't worried about his job and plans on building with a longer view in mind (more on that in a bit). We'll see if that's actually the case, as that was supposed to be the plan last offseason but was ultimately cut short when the pandemic arrived.
It's hard not to after a season like this, isn't it?
"Well, we are a 4-11-1 roster, so I mean, you are what your record says you are," Roseman said when asked to evaluate the roster he put together this season.
For Roseman, there were plenty of shortcomings when it came to roster construction, especially after their promise last offseason to turn the roster over and give it a younger look. Heck, it even started last year with Roseman's "quarterback factory" comments, something he said on Monday might be his biggest regret of the year.
That being said, the Eagles GM also admitted to making some mistakes in his overall strategy for the 2020 season.
"I think that when we went into March and there was a new CBA, I think we felt like maybe we could do some things from a cap perspective because of the growth that was going on with the new CBA, with the new TV deals, with a potential 17th game," Roseman told reporters. "Then obviously it kind of comes back and you have the pandemic and you'll have more restrictions. So, I think maybe that; maybe being so aggressive in March and maybe taking the foot off the pedal a little bit. I think that was a big deal right there."
Beyond that, Roseman said he needs some time to look back at everything and evaluate his job this season.
"I think right now, there's a lot of things in my mind — when you're 4-11-1 and coming off three straight playoff appearances — that you're regretting right now at this moment," Roseman continued. "I think I've just got to get to a place where it's kind of a calm mind and it's not as fresh and be able to look at it with some objective lenses, and I will do that, and sit there and we'll talk about it as a staff and we'll talk about it as a group. I feel fortunate that I have people around me that won't just tell me what I want to hear and they will tell me the truth of what they think. We have had some of those conversations already. Obviously, the season wasn't going well even when we were at the bye and we were 3-4, so we'll continue to do that."
The Eagles GM also admitted that the pandemic changed things for the team, but wasn't interested in making that an excuse.
"Well, I don't want to blame this on the pandemic. I think what we saw was we had an opportunity with having the only staff that was coming back to maybe make more of a run with veteran players than we were planning if we had an off-season program, if we had OTAs and giving those guys the opportunities.
"Now there are a lot of rookies who played really well this year and again not making that as an excuse. But when we had some opportunities after the Draft to kind of change this team, I think we went with some veteran players, and I think we did that because it was more short-term thinking.
"And we've put a lot of resources into this team in terms of money and free agents and trading draft picks and there's a time where -- that doesn't mean we're not trying to win, but there's a time you have to pivot and understand what you've been doing and make sure that you're also taking care of the future of the team.
"I think that was something that we felt last year when we talked after the Seattle playoff game, and I think because of the way the window was, maybe we felt like we weren't able to do our player development as much as we would in a normal year and whether that's right or wrong, that's one of the things we have to look back on and how we adjusted to that."
And changing strategies ahead of the 2020 season is part of the reason this next point is still an issue...
It's hard to really call this a regret, because it helped deliver the city its first ever Super Bowl title, and there were plenty out there willing to trade 10 years of losing for one Super Bowl season — and to those, we say be careful what you wish for.
Still, Roseman admitted that the team going all-in 2017 and then continuing to "kick the can down the road" with the contracts of some of their aging veterans rather than focusing on getting younger and re-tooling around a select few ultimately hurt the team.
"I feel like we did whatever we had to do to try to win a championship in 2017 and when I look at the rosters in 2017, 2018 and 2019, I think objectively those are really good rosters," Roseman said. "Obviously 2017 had a lot of success. 2018, 15 yards from the Championship Game, and I know when Joe [Douglas] left to become the GM of the Jets, he even felt like our roster last year was as good as those two rosters, maybe even better.
"But clearly, we are not the same roster right now. We have spent a lot of time here in the last couple weeks when the season wasn't going the right way about studying teams like ours that maybe have had some success, maybe even won a Super Bowl and then had a down year and what happened and even other sports. A lot of times, as much as we didn't want to do it in the off-season, I think that we have got to look objectively at it and we did do it, is you hang on to those teams."
In other words, Roseman realized that Eagles, like other teams who have won a Super Bowl and then regressed, let the emotional connection they had with those players cloud their judgment in the offseason. It seems like that's a mistake he doesn't plan on making again — even if he did compare potentially losing Carson Wentz to losing a finger on your hand.
"I think winning in '17, we wanted to do whatever it took and whatever resources it took to win, especially when we kind of saw the opportunity. Then '18, felt like maybe it was an opportunity to run it back with the players that we had, and maybe even in '19, just continue to keep it going.
"As much as there's a little voice inside of your head that said, you know, now is probably the right time to change it, I think that's my responsibility that I didn't really listen to that as much as possible and now we're in the situation we are in now where change is necessary and change is inevitable to this roster and the things that we need to do to get back being the kind of team that we know we can be."
It sounds like Roseman plans to make up for the moves he didn't make last offseason in 2021.
Sure, there was a report on Sunday morning from Jay Glazer on the FOX pregame show that suggest Howie Roseman, in addition to Doug Pederson, is safe this offseason. But after three straight years of regression culminating in a 4-11-1 season this year, there's no doubt that he's going to be on the hot seat again in 2021, and will need the team to take a big step forward in order to get some relief.
That's typically not a good situation to find one's GM in, as fear of being fired can manifest in several ways, usually with said GM making decisions in the best interest of job security rather than taking the longview and doing what's best for the franchise moving forward. Self-preservation is only natural, but it often comes at the expense of the collective. Just look at the fallout the team is still dealing with stemming from the 2017 Super Bowl — and that was with a GM still acting in the team's best interest.
And right now, the Eagles are in need of a leader who can operate in the long-term, as there are no quick fixes that are going to suddenly turn this team into a contender in 2021 — if you believe there are, I have some magic beans I'd like to sell you.
That being said, Roseman told reporters on Monday that he isn't worried about his job, presumably because he has some assurances from owner Jeffrey Lurie.
"I've been here for a long time, and I have tremendous feelings about this football team, this organization, the people in this organization, and I've been very fortunate to be in this league for a long time," he said. "I'm going to do everything that's in the best interests of this team to get this team back to being a perennial playoff team.
"I'm not worried about my job. That's not anything that really concerns me. That's out of my hands. I'm worried in doing what's the best and right thing for this team to get back. Like I said, when we talked about it, I think that some of the things that we did were more short-term oriented."
And a large part of Roseman's plan involves making the sixth overall pick in the upcoming draft pay off, even if that means changing up the way decisions are made atop the organization, like potentially bringing in another player personnel voice or draft guru to help the Eagles GM with scouting.
"The fact that we are where we are now, and we're 4-11-1, to not sit there and review everything we've done and see if there's a better way to do it, you know that, would probably be ignorant. So, we have to do that," Roseman said. "But by the same time, we have also been incredibly successful. Just because you have one bad moment doesn't mean you're not good at your jobs or you don't have a good process. It happens in this business. Extremely humbling business. And we have to rebound from it, and we have to do better, and it starts with me."
With their cap currently in hell, Roseman is only going to be able to do so much this offseason, no matter how hard he wants to "attack" it. Their best way to improve might be through the draft, with the Birds picking higher than they have in quite a while.
"This is, really, besides 2012, we haven't picked because of earning it in the Top-10, we obviously traded up for Carson, but we didn't start that year, either that way," Roseman said. "That's something we have to hit on, the 6th pick in the draft, in a huge, huge way, and I think that we have the right people to do that. I know that we're going to be incredibly focused on not only that pick, but the other picks we'll have in this draft and hopefully we'll have a bunch of picks and we'll go from there."