Eagles' search comes up roses for Howie

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles GM Howie Roseman , flanked by team president Don Smolenski and Christina Weiss Lurie, wears a hard-earned smile at Chip Kelly press conference.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles GM Howie Roseman , flanked by team president Don Smolenski and Christina Weiss Lurie, wears a hard-earned smile at Chip Kelly press conference.
Posted: January 18, 2013

VILLAGE IDIOT on Monday, dressed up for the big press conference on Thursday; welcome to Howie Roseman's world. It is a strange place in which the Eagles' general manager lives, in which all of them live, including new coach Chip Kelly. It is a world in which the media is voyeuristic at best and predatory at worst, a world where people seem to be able to find out how long your lunch interview lasted before the check has been paid.

As Kelly said, "Seriously, it's kind of creepy, to be honest with you." But it is the current reality, and it bit Roseman in a very big way during the Eagles' search for a head coach.

We all know the story, one told most loudly by CBS' Jason La Canfora but by others as well: that Roseman was the impediment, that the team's coaching search was dragging on because nobody wanted to work with Howie. It was personal and it was vicious. The NFL, as it turns out, is a place where the attention is huge and the knives are long.

The truth is that there is no evidence that any of that was true. Chip Kelly says that Andy Reid, Dick Vermeil and Jon Gruden all encouraged him about the Eagles. The fact is that at least some of the hand-holding during the process of convincing Kelly to leave Oregon was done by Roseman.

The evidence is plain: Kelly is here and Roseman is firmly in charge of the team's personnel department.

Monday; Thursday.

"This was such erroneous reporting, it was insane," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said, later adding that it was fueled by a lot of people with "individual agendas."

"It was a joke to us," Lurie said.

The unspoken feud between Lurie/Roseman and former Eagles president Joe Banner is churning just below the surface of every conversation you have with Lurie these days. He went out of his way on Thursday to talk about how - even though there was reporting during the frenzied days that Kelly was close to signing with Banner in Cleveland, reporting that Kelly shot down - Kelly was never going anywhere else. It was either the Eagles or stay at Oregon, Lurie said repeatedly.

"There was no other factor," he said.

"There was no competition for Chip," he insisted.

And the reality seems to be that Roseman has emerged from this process more powerful than he has ever been. He kind of winces whenever you bring up this stuff, and talks in elaborate circles whenever the subject of who has final personnel control is raised, but just know this:

The answer used to be that Reid had final say. There was no nuance. Now, there is nuance. Now, no one is willing to say that the coach has final say. In fact, Lurie said, Kelly went out of his way to say that he was not into empire-building, that "I just want to collaborate."

Just listening to everybody talk about it, the structure sounds very much like it did when Tom Modrak was the Eagles' general manager, before Reid took total control of the football operation after a few seasons as coach. That is, the general manager picks the players but he does it with the knowledge that the franchise will collapse if he continually gives the coach square pegs for his round holes.

From the way they all spoke, Kelly is a guy with definite ideas about the types of players he wants - cornerbacks of some unspecified size, for instance, or offensive tackles with the ability to do "x" or "y." Armed with those specs, Roseman says his job will be to bring Kelly players who fit the coach's vision.

But in the end, it sounds as if Roseman will have final say - again, though, with the pledge that he's never going to stick Kelly with a guy who just doesn't fit.

"I'm never going to say, 'Here's a player - work with him,' " Roseman said.

The months and years ahead will tell us exactly how thick is the limb upon which Kelly and Roseman are now perched. Kelly has no NFL experience. Roseman has been in the NFL for 13 years but is still a young general manager. Neither can possibly be surrounded by the cadre of friends and former associates that typically protects the people at the top of their business. If their early progress is slow, Kelly and Roseman will be vulnerable to the whispers that fuel this league like oxygen.

Even given that, there is no question about Roseman's stature within the organization, a stature that has now been cemented by the hiring of Kelly. And when Roseman said, "There's no insurance for this kind of thing, no matter who you bring in here," he is telling the most basic of NFL truths.

There is no way to know until they play the games. We will watch the drafts, watch the games, and then the real scorekeeping will begin. Because in the long term, the vicious whispers won't matter to Howie Roseman. Only the results will.


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Columns: philly.com/

RichHofmann

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