January 26th 2015 16:48
One thing that my fellow Philly fans have proven to be short on over the years is patience.
And who can blame us? With the last Eagles’ championship coming before the majority of us were nary glints in our daddy’s eyes, and only two Super Bowl appearances since the Kelly green-clad Birds handed the legendary Vince Lombardi his only postseason loss in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, seeing the big picture and saying “wait ‘til next year” isn’t something we are readily embracing anymore.
Now, to say we totally lack patience isn't totally true. We did temper our expectations after Andy Reid was fired at the close of the 2012 season. The general consensus was that we’d be in store for a lengthy rebuild, and a playoff appearance by the 2015 season would be a realistic and reasonable goal.
Of course, a year later Chip Kelly’s 10-6 season that led to an improbable NFC East title kickstarted the Super Bowl-or-bust machine back up again, and after this year’s disappointing 10-6 season ended with Dallas atop the division and Philly on the outside of the playoffs looking in, it’s safe to say the honeymoon is over for Kelly and his Eagles.
The worst thing for the fans is unanswered questions surrounding the team that are left unanswered for an extended period of time, as it’s debatable as to which we enjoy more: the actual season, or the months of speculation and playing armchair general manager that has made the Eagles, and the NFL, a year-round story.
Remember two years ago, when Jeffrey Lurie and Co.’s search to replace Reid meandered and snaked its way through the playoff season like a lazy river at an amusement park on a hot summer day? The candidate list went on and on, with new names popping up every day, yet the job was still vacant in mid-January.
The local media (predictably) was all over Lurie for not moving faster. The national media made disparaging remarks about the search process, including former Eagles great-turned-talking-head Donovan McNabb saying at one point that they were “just picking names out of a hat”.
As fans, we were as starved for an answer – any answer – as we were for that elusive Super Bowl title. We spent weeks looking for any hint of a signal as to who was going to be leading the flock.
Remember the hysteria when Seattle’s defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was reported to be coming here for an interview, with fans tracking his flight to Philadelphia International online and the “Gus Bus” references that whipped fans into a freznzy?
And then a day later, with the locals hammering Lurie for allowing Bradley to leave without a contract, the announcement came that the Eagles did, in fact, have their man, and it was Kelly, the offensive mastermind from Oregon whom they had coveted from the start.
Which brings us to the present day, where we are faced with another key vacancy in the Birds’ front office, and a lengthy search process that has put the Delaware Valley’s stress level squarely at Defcon 4.
When news broke that Philly’s VP of Player Personnel, Tom Gamble, was unceremoniously dismissed and escorted from the NovaCare Complex by security on New Year’s Eve, we wanted answers!
What warranted firing a guy who was widely viewed as a top ally of Chip Kelly?
Was it due to GM Howie Roseman’s alleged ire drawn by Kelly’s gushing about Gamble’s football expertise, while merely describing his relationship with Roseman in a suspiciously high-pitched voice (see: Curb Your Enthusiasm) as “good”, and referencing his prowess as a salary cap manager and not as a “football guy”?
And, most importantly, did this confirm all of the rumblings during the season that Kelly and Roseman weren’t getting along, and that in this power struggle the GM and Lurie’s trusted confidant had struck a major blow that could force Kelly to leave?
Well, Kelly debunked a lot of the whole going-back-to-college talk when just a few days later, Lurie issued a statement announcing a restructuring of the personnel department, with Kelly becoming the football czar, and Roseman getting “promoted” and given a substantial raise to oversee contract negotiations, salary cap management, and the team’s medical and equipment staffs.
As a part of that statement, Lurie said Kelly will have final say over any and all roster decisions, and will be in charge of selecting a general manager/director of personnel of his liking to work hand-in-hand in constructing the 2015 Eagles and beyond. This move made Kelly only the third head coach in the NFL to have such autonomy, along with New England’s Bill Belichick and Seattle’s Pete Carroll.
And here we are, in an eerily similar situation to Reid’s ouster, where almost a month later there has been a lot of smoke but not a lot of fire surrounding Kelly’s interview process in his search for Roseman’s replacement.
They had no GM present at the Senior Bowl workouts last week. Several pundits said this is a terrible situation, and that there is no direction in the personnel department and they are going to be way behind schedule as a result.
The point of view the Philly scribes are pushing hard to the Phaithful is that this job really isn’t attractive to any truly qualified or worthy candidates because it doesn’t have the final say aspect that most jobs with that title have.
The credentials of the candidates who have been rumored to be in the mix have been poked and prodded by the media and fans alike more than a prospect at the NFL Combine, with the general theme being that the list was a weak-to-awful one, based on the current place of employment of the candidate, and not the man himself.
Brain Gaine of the Texans? What have they ever won?
In-house candidate Ed Marynowitz? Too young (30 years old), and if they hire him it proves Chip just wants a yes man.
Brian Polian of the Jaguars, and formerly of the Colts? The Jags have a pair of two-win seasons to show for all of his expertise, and didn’t he run the Colts into the ground the year Peyton Manning was on the shelf? And didn’t he get that job in Indy because his dad was working there?
True, all of this doesn’t look too promising. But before we storm the gates of NovaCare with torches blazing and pitch forks ready for action, let’s all take a deep breath and take a look at where things are for the Eagles.
First of all, while they didn’t have a GM at the Senior Bowl last week, they did, however, have Kelly and his coaching staff there, along with the team’s scouting department. So the prospects showcased there were evaluated by everyone who is going to be involved in the draft process, including Kelly, who now has final say on the roster.
And presumably, whoever the Eagles next GM is going to be was also there in Mobile, Alabama, seeing and evaluating all of the same prospects for his current organization. So while there was no one officially in a GM role for Philly, whoever is hired has seen all of those same players – and players throughout the country during the college season – and will no doubt be able to compare notes and share their opinions, which is certainly not a bad thing.
Secondly, I find it hard to believe this position that will ultimately not have total autonomy and has to answer to Kelly isn’t attractive.
For example, Seahawks’ GM John Schneider jumped at the chance to leave Green Bay and one of the top personnel departments in football to work in a similar non-autonomous role with Carroll, and formed a partnership that has produced a deep and talented roster – primarily through the draft – that has produced two consecutive Super Bowl appearances, and potentially a second consecutive Super Bowl championship.
And in New England, former GM Scott Pioli worked with/for Belichick in constructing a roster that produced three Super Bowl titles and one of the most consistent teams in NFL history, and even parlayed that into a GM job with Kansas City.
So clearly, this front office personnel model has proven it can be successful.
In regards to the candidates and their qualifications, or perceived lack thereof, I don’t see Kelly as someone who goes into a search process like this and just randomly calls guys to see if they want to work for him. He clearly had a plan in place and didn’t just come up with the front office coup to sweep him into power, and my guess is he’s taken the time to find out as much information as possible about the candidates before he even contacted them for an interview.
Houston thought so highly of Gaine that when Kelly reportedly wanted to speak with him a second time, they promoted him to get him to stay. Marynowitz, while young, was Nick Saban’s top recruiter at Alabama and is widely regarded as an emerging front office star.
And Polian has reportedly emerged as the front runner for the job, as Kelly interviewed him for a second time over the weekend. True, he was fired along with his father, Bill, following the 2-14 2011 season. But the Colts had been among the top teams in the AFC since the senior Polian drafted Peyton, and their success was always predicated upon their QB and their offense and when he went down, Curtis Painter certainly wasn’t the answer – much like we found Mark Sanchez wasn’t the long term answer here, and Ryan Lindley wasn’t in Arizona, either.
In addition, I would surmise that he’s probably spoken with Carroll and Belichick – two peers with whom he has close relationships – about their own experiences in overseeing personnel and working with a GM. He’s also reportedly spoken with Tony Dungy about the GM search, as he and Kelly have ties from Dungy’s son playing for Kelly at Oregon.
And while the length of this search might prove to be frustrating because we all want to know who will be the guy yesterday, look no further to the length of the search that ultimately brought Kelly to Philadelphia. I’d certainly rather Kelly take some more time and find the right guy than just hurry up and bring someone in.
Remember – Lurie could have hired Bradley instead, who is the man ultimately for that pair of two-win seasons in Jacksonville.
And what would our stress level be if that had happened here?