Roseman gains edge in Eagles power struggle

An already-strained relationship between Eagles coach Chip Kelly (left) and general manager Howie Roseman had become acrimonious over the last year, several sources said.
An already-strained relationship between Eagles coach Chip Kelly (left) and general manager Howie Roseman had become acrimonious over the last year, several sources said. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 02, 2015

The Eagles pulled back the curtain to reveal the bitterness that had developed between Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman when they announced Wednesday afternoon that they had "parted ways" with Kelly ally and vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble.

Aside from a brief statement by Roseman, the Eagles swung the curtain closed with nine hours to go until the new year. Weeks will pass before anyone from the organization is required to talk and be asked to explain why they fired - because that's essentially what it was - someone Kelly had praised only two days earlier.

Gamble was collateral damage in the power struggle between Kelly and Roseman that the general manager apparently has won for the time being. Their relationship had been strained since almost the start of Kelly's tenure as head coach but had become acrimonious over the last year, according to several sources within the Eagles and around the NFL.

It's unclear whether Roseman would have been driven to the point of leaving, but the 39-year-old GM had conversations about the New York Jets' vacancy, according to two NFL sources.

The Jets didn't put in a formal interview request, but it is believed that Roseman or his agent, Bob LaMonte, had informal talks with either consultant Charlie Casserly or owner Woody Johnson. The Jets' level of interest was unknown.

The Eagles and Roseman had no comment.

On Sunday, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Roseman his full endorsement and said that he would be back for a sixth season as general manager. Roseman has long had Lurie's support while other front office executives and personnel members have left the organization since he became general manager

GM Tom Heckert left in 2010. Ryan Grigson, Gamble's predecessor, left in 2012. Longtime team president Joe Banner stepped down a few months later. In 2013, director of pro personnel Lou Riddick did not have his contract renewed. And now Gamble is out.

Gamble, who left the 49ers and returned to the Eagles several weeks after Kelly was hired, is well respected around the league. But sides were being taken at the NovaCare Complex, sources said. There could be a further shake-up in personnel.

Kelly spoke Monday. But he wasn't quoted in the Eagles' official news release and he isn't required to answer questions until the NFL owners meetings in March. But the coach said plenty when he essentially described Roseman as a glorified salary-cap manager and called Gamble "a heck of a football guy."

Since his hiring, Kelly has spoken about his history with Gamble and mentioned in August how they drove down to watch a Navy game together. Asked about his working relationship with Roseman, Kelly said it was "good."

But sources paint a much different picture. Players described the public awkwardness of the relationship and a lack of communication. Various attempts by others were made during the summer to patch up their differences.

When asked about possible discord, Lurie said that he doesn't surround himself with yes men, but with "strong, opinionated" people. Kelly and Roseman both have Type A personalities. A clash may have seemed inevitable, but many successful coach-GM partnerships have had similar characters.

There also have been many high-level relationships that have ended in divorce. The 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh had a mutual parting even though the team had won nearly 70 percent of its games during his four-year tenure as coach.

Kelly was given control over the 53-man roster, which means he has the last word on final cuts and how the roster is shaped during the season. But there has been murkiness about who has ultimate power when decisions are made in the offseason during free agency and the draft.

Kelly's fingerprints have been all over player acquisitions since he arrived, but never more so than in the last offseason, when wide receiver DeSean Jackson was released, receiver Riley Cooper was retained, and two of seven draft picks were Oregon prospects he once coached.

After the Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East in Kelly's first season, they followed up with another 10-6 finish but failed to reach the postseason after losing three straight in December.

Kelly has said and repeated Monday that he doesn't have much to do with player contracts and the salary cap.

"I'm in charge of the roster in terms of who our 53 are, so I have to weigh in on that," he said. "But I also know there are other factors, salary cap, money, and the numbers and all those other things. But I have to tell them who I want and who I don't want."

Gamble's departure leaves a vacancy, but the Eagles went a year without filling the position after Grigson took the Colts' GM job. Rick Mueller, the Eagles' director of pro personnel, is expected to interview for the Jets' GM job. Ed Marynowitz, the Eagles' assistant director of player personnel, is viewed as a rising star around the league.

If Roseman had left, Gamble was the obvious choice to replace him. But it is unlikely that Lurie would have ever let it get to that point. Roseman has been with the organization for 15 years, and after Banner hired Roseman out of law school, Lurie became one of his biggest advocates.

Roseman oversees player evaluation and the salary cap, but he is also Lurie's go-to source on NFL issues, scouting, and coaching personnel and the league's various backroom dealings.

Lurie has a winning coach in Kelly, but he apparently wasn't willing to tip the scales in favor of the coach at the expense of Roseman.

The pendulum has shifted. It could be a bumpy ride.


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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