March 06, 2017
Entering his tenth season in the personnel department, Howie Roseman is preaching patience as he tries, yet again, to rebuild the Eagles.
This is an unreasonable request, and I told him so last week.
My boldness was inspired by the sight of a dozen or so fans at Chickie’s and Pete’s sports bar in South Philadelphia during a WIP Town Hall early on Thursday morning. I scanned the gathering and identified only one person who was alive the last time the Eagles won a championship in 1960.
How can a GM who has been with the team for so long – he started as an intern in 2000 – ask fans to hit a reset button on the rebuilding of the roster, and on his own dubious tenure overseeing personnel? If he couldn’t do it in his first tour of duty, what makes him think he can in his second?
And yet he definitely does believe in himself this time – thanks to the undeniably slick maneuvering last year that brought Carson Wentz to Philadelphia. The young quarterback is more than just the future of the organization; he could be the salvation of Howie Roseman.
During our sometimes-contentious 12-minute conversation, the GM referred to Wentz several times, calling to mind the leapfrog up the first round that won the rights to North Dakota’s local hero. Roseman couldn’t be prouder of the trades with Miami and Cleveland that made the seemingly impossible possible.
At the same time, Roseman would like fans to forget most of the other moves he made last winter. The $46-million contract for Vinny Curry was insane. The trade of Eric Rowe to New England was laughable. The signing of Leodis McKelvin was a disaster. The $21- million deal with Chase Daniel was idiotic.
Granted, the Wentz coup and the trading of Sam Bradford for a No. 1 draft pick this year made last offseason one of Roseman’s best despite those gaffes, but does it negate all of the flubs in the seasons that preceded it? Is Roseman forgetting the Dream Team, or Danny Watkins or Marcus Smith?
The one thing Roseman has always been good at is managing the salary cap, but he enters the free-agent market on Thursday with a pittance to spend on the veteran players the Eagles so desperately need at wide receiver and cornerback. Why? Because there are so many bad deals on the books right now, thanks to him.
Roseman spun his way out of that reality last week by suggesting that free agents are not the right way to build a winner anyway, a convenient response when there’s so little salary-cap money available. The GM – he prefers the title executive vice-president of football operations – says the future is all about the draft.
And that leads back to Roseman’s original point, that these things take time, that there’s still a lot of work to do, in part because of that one year when Chip Kelly had control of the roster. Looking through Roseman-colored glasses, the Birds will add a few key pieces this year, a few more in 2018, and then Wentz will be ready for greatness.
When I reminded Roseman that he has already had more than a few tries at bringing a championship to Philadelphia, he talked about his year in exile as if it wiped away all of the seasons that preceded it.
He referred to his first tenure as GM like a golfer taking a mulligan after a bad tee shot.
“What was your show like when you first started?” he asked.
I told them we had burned all the tapes. What I didn’t tell him is that I have never acted as if the first decade of my radio career didn’t exist. I should have said there are no reset buttons in the real world, especially the ultra-competitive field where he has chosen to work.
The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, and now the man in charge is preaching patience.
Sorry, I have no more patience. And neither, I hope, does Philadelphia.
For someone who was once clocked going 108 miles per hour on the Ben Franklin Bridge, Jahlil Okafor proved last week that he is equally adept at coming to a complete stop when he is on the defensive end of the basketball court.
In a sequence immortalized on social media everywhere, Okafor turned in what is being called “the worst 12 seconds of defense in NBA history” during a game against Miami last week. The Julius Erving statue outside the Wells Fargo Center is more mobile than the draft bust was on a play that will define his time as a Sixer.
First, Okafor kept his feet planted in the lane as Goran Drajic launched a floater. When the ball clanged off the basket, Okafor stayed flatfooted as the ball ricocheted out to Rodney McGruder, who dribbled unimpeded right across the baseline, before handing the ball off to Hassan Whiteside for the easy 8-footer over Okafor.
The truth is, it wasn’t over Okafor because the center never really budged. He did nothing on either of the shots, nor during the baseline drive. The video doesn’t lie – even if the Sixers do.
“I did what I was supposed to do, and that’s retreat,” Okafor actually said, with a straight face.
“Jahlil is such a willing participant in trying to be coached,” Brett Brown said. “He’s been fantastic.”
What Brown must have forgotten is that these games are televised, with pitiful efforts like that one flashing through the ionosphere in milliseconds. Not even Brown’s excuse that Okafor is still learning carries any weight this time. The kid doesn’t try. In a city that demands effort, he doesn’t care.
Former Sixers coach Jim Lynam, normally a friendly voice on the team’s post-game show, was so mortified by Okafor’s lack of effort that he said he would never show the play to the team because he would fear that the other players would lose respect for him.
Too late, Jimmy. The world has seen it by now, and the outcry to remove this mutt from the kennel will only grow louder in the weeks and months ahead.
There is no question – zero, none – that the best coach working in Philadelphia today is Jay Wright. So, is it a good time again to ask why he is still in college? Wouldn’t the Sixers’ future be much more promising if Wright were stalking their sidelines rather than at Villanova?
Once a year, right about this time, I bring up this issue because what has been happening for a long time in all four of our major pro sports is illogical. Our top franchises rarely, if ever, pick the best option to oversee their players.
And this obvious conclusion is meant with no disrespect toward Doug Pederson, Pete Mackanin, Brett Brown or Dave Hakstol. Someday, at least one of them may prove to be in the top tier in their profession. Right now, however, they are not even close.
Wright visited my WIP radio show last week to promote his excellent new book, Attitude, and that one word distinguishes him from our pro coaches. He exudes attitude, confidence, success. You will never hear Wright tamping down expectations the way his pro counterparts do. He wants to win – now. No excuses.
It should surprise no one who meets him that Wright currently owns the national championship in his sport, with a decent chance to repeat that improbable feat this year. He strives for the biggest prize every year; he doesn’t hedge his bet in the interest of job security.
In his world, Jay Wright is the GM, the coach, the spokesman, the patriarch of the Wildcats, and he fulfills every aspect of his position better than most pro coaches. Can you imagine all of the stupidity Sixers fans have endured this season happening if Wright had been in a position of power? No chance.
If I owned the Sixers, I would offer Wright a deal he simply could not refuse, especially now that the foundation of talent appears to be in place. Everybody has a price. I would make it my sole objective to find out what Wright’s price is, and then happily pay it.
As for the other teams, it’s always smarter to hire somebody you know can do the job, not just hope he can. There are transcendent talents like Wright out there somewhere, and it’s about time our pro teams started finding them, don’t you think?
And finally …
• Ron Hextall picked the wrong goalie when he handed a new two-year contract to Michel Neuvirth last week. Steve Mason has turned in three amazing games since the deal, while Neuvirth has been stuck on the bench. Mason will be a free agent at the end of the season. Neuvirth will definitely be here now. Does anybody – including Hextall – feel good about this situation?
• I’m leaving this spot open for the Phillies. As soon as they do something interesting, I’ll be sure to bring it to you right here. So far, three weeks into spring training, there are no injuries, no bold statements, no visa problems, no interesting twists, and – I’m guessing – no ticket sales. If they’re really trying to make baseball less boring, they might want to start with the Phillies.
• The funniest story of the week was the report that Chip Kelly may turn to TV for his next job. He auditioned last week for Fox Sports, presumably as a game analyst. Kelly is smart, glib and loves football, so the move makes some sense. But he hates – really, really loathes – the media. It will be hilarious if he ends up joining the enemy.
• Atlanta coach Dan Quinn called his mismanagement of the clock in the Super Bowl last month “a learning experience.” Hmmm. He’s 46, a football lifer, and he needed to blow the biggest game of his career to realize you run the ball when you’re ahead 28-3 late in the third quarter? That’s nuts.
• In his continuing effort to gain induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ex-Eagle wide receiver Terrell Owens bought a gold jacket last week and had his career stats embossed right on the back of it. Yeah, that should get him in, for sure.