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May 02, 2022

John McMullen: When zen meets splash — the story of Howie Roseman 2.0

Howie Roseman Bears Eagles Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.

Howie Roseman made a ton of news on Day 1 of the NFL Draft with a pair of potentially franchise-altering moves by moving up to get imposing Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, and then trading to secure a proven commodity at receiver in A.J. Brown, who just happens to be good friends with Jalen Hurts.

Prior to the draft, the Eagles' general manager foreshadowed his bold intentions in a rare deep dive into his job as the steward of a franchise in perhaps the most passionate football city in the country.

It came with one of Roseman's former peers, ex-Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff, on the latter’s GM Journey podcast.

“When things are going good and you take your foot off the gas, you get your ass kicked,” Roseman told Dimitroff.

Late Friday night when things were finally winding down at the NovaCare Complex after the Eagles made another splash by adding Butkus Award winner Nakobe Dean to the mix in the third round after an injury cost-benefit analysis, Roseman seemed at ease.

Perhaps it's just his latest contract extension that aligned him with head coach Nick Sirianni through at least 2024 but it certainly seemed to have more to do with an executive growing into a very big job and getting more and more comfortable in his own skin.

“I think experience is a great teacher,” Roseman mused. “Sometimes — it's not that hard. Great players, great school, high recruits, play at the highest level, it kind of works. You want winners. You want guys who have done it.”

The Eagles GM was talking about players like Dean, of course, but he could have been just as easily discussing himself after the franchise’s Super Bowl LII championship.

The Lombardi Trophy can be traced to Roseman’s time in exile on the other side of the NovaCare Complex after Chip Kelly “won” a power play.

Turns out all Kelly really won was the rope to hang himself in Philadelphia while Roseman was given a new title, a raise, and an extensive travel budget to try to better himself as an executive.

In hindsight, Jeffrey Lurie authored a Machiavellian-inspired contingency. If Kelly was what he thought he was, great. If the snake oil ran out, Roseman, Lurie’s most trusted advisor, was still in the building.

There was risk, though.

Roseman loves the personnel part of his job and wasn’t happy to leave the inner circle. Had another organization called with a GM job, he would have certainly listened and likely left the Eagles if an offer was made.

This was still pre-Super Bowl Roseman, however. A flawed executive who needed more seasoning. Lurie himself was particularly concerned about Roseman’s ability to work with others and listen to divergent voices in a collaborative setup.

Roseman spent significant time picking the brain of other proven executives from many sports, including the New York Yankees’ Brian Cashman and the San Antion Spurs’ R.C. Buford, something both he and Lurie believed helped Roseman turn the corner.

“I felt like there weren't a lot of people who are doing that,” Roseman told Dimitroff. “I went to Jeffrey and I said ‘Hey, this is what I would like to do.’ He said ‘I think it'd be great.’ So, I got this opportunity and I really feel like it was the best thing professionally that ever happened to me because I got an opportunity to step back I got an opportunity to work on a lot of my deficiencies and even more so I got a freakin’ Master's in running sports teams.”

Roseman even went across the pond to Manchester City in the English Premier League.

“I have this platform because I still work for the Eagles and I am able to talk to the best GMs in the NBA, the best teams in baseball, the best teams in hockey,” he explained. “Then I am able to go over the pond and go to Europe, to Manchester City and learn what they're doing in the EPL and how they build their teams, how they build their staff, what they do and some of the leadership points.

“It was unbelievable.”

There was never a guarantee that Roseman would gain control of the Eagles again but the goal was a second chance at being a GM.

“I didn't do it thinking, ‘Hey, I'm gonna come back in a year and I'm gonna go get another opportunity,’” Roseman admitted. “I did it because I felt like it was such a great opportunity personally and professionally to be able to do that.”

The trophy in the lobby of NovaCare validated the approach but things change quickly in this league.

“After we won the Super Bowl, we had to make some changes,” Roseman conceded to Dimitroff. “We traded Torrey Smith, one of the best character guys to be around, for Daryl Worley.”

A Philadelphia native Worley never even made it to the offseason program.

“Daryll was the guy that we had done a lot of work coming out. He was a Philly kid, and we brought him home,” Roseman remembered. “It was a week before our offseason program, and he got a DUI right at that corner [of Broad and Pattison streets]. He must have been trying to get back in the facility, safe haven, that's your monopoly, ‘Pass Go’ just get right there.”

Nick Foles believed if Worley ever got to the Eagles’ locker room everything would have been fine, telling Roseman: “Howie we have such a good locker room, that we can take people like that and show them the right way to do things and help them grow and mature.”

Shelf lives are extremely short in the NFL, however.

“For a couple of years that is a powerful thing to have that kind of culture that your players actually say ‘Give them to me, bring them to me.’ But at the end of the day, that too, doesn't last forever.” Roseman admitted.

Recreating that is the goal and a second championship would have even the staunchest of Roseman critics going underground.

Howie Roseman 2.0 seems nonplused with all of that, however, and seems to be operating on a different plane.

“Before the Draft, Jeffrey pulled Coach [Nick Sirianni] and I aside and he said, ‘How lucky are we to do this? How lucky are we though do this?’” Roseman said on Saturday night. "I thought about that and it kind of made me think about how privileged we are to do this for a living and to be able to pick players and put together a team.

“It's special and made me think of how I got here. I remember getting here 20 years ago and [Eagles Director, Office of the Chairman/CEO] Lee Ann Hartley brought me into the Vet and I had my first interview. These are special things we get to do and just very appreciative of that and appreciative that we get the opportunity to try to build this football team and get back to a Super Bowl.”

John McMullen is a contributor to, and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Media. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter here.