PHOENIX – A little over two years ago, when Eagles president and CEO Jeffrey Lurie announced that the Eagles were entering “a transition point.”
The Eagles had just completed a 4-11-1 season. Doug Pederson’s head coach was fired. Quarterback Carson Wentz was traded soon after.
And let’s just say, General Manager Howie Roseman wasn’t in a good position either.
That makes this turnaround by the Eagles notable as they prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Roseman, of course, deservedly gets a lot of the credit.
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This was evident in November before a game in Houston when fans held up a sign that read “Howie, we forgive you.” Roseman yelled back, “Am I (expletive) forgiven for your first (expletive) Super Bowl?”
Then he added another curse.
But in January 2021, Roseman wasn’t receiving much praise. In fact, many wondered how he had managed to keep his job.
“I think adversity is a great tool,” Roseman said. “You can tell now, but not necessarily when you’re in that moment.”
Moments didn’t seem to improve much when the Eagles hired a first-time head coach − at any level − in Nick Sirianni, who stumbled in his introductory press conference, with young and inexperienced coordinators on offense and defense.
Or when the Eagles went with a quarterback in Jalen Hurts who completed just 51% of his rookie passes in 2020.
Did Roseman expect everything to turn so fast?
“It’s so hard getting to the Super Bowl,” Roseman said. “I remember at one point after I won the Super Bowl[in the 2017-18 season]my daughter said, ‘Dad, you won one. Tom Brady won like seven. I don’t know if you should be that proud. of this .’
“I thought, ‘Great, I’ll take it home too.'”
But Roseman’s daughter’s comment was pretty prescient in a way. The Chiefs are in their third Super Bowl in five seasons. They reached the AFC championship the other two years.
The Eagles are burned out after winning their Super Bowl, trying to keep a team of veterans together. Roseman said he learned from that experience. So, over the past two years, he’s racked up draft picks and made better picks, like Hurts in 2020 and DeVonta Smith in 2021. Also, the Eagles have two first-round picks this spring.
Roseman was aggressive in the rallies, adding wide receiver AJ Brown and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. He chased defensive free agents in Haason Reddick and James Bradberry.
And he held together a core core of veterans in center Jason Kelce, right tackle Lane Johnson, and defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Then he added veteran defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh in the midseason.
All of this was done to turn the Eagles into a team like the Chiefs, who contend for a championship every year, or the New England Patriots before that.
But two years ago, it seemed so far away.
“We never think, ‘Hey, this is going to be two, three years,'” Roseman said. “We’re trying to get the best out of it as quickly as possible… And sometimes you have to get a little lucky with some of the stuff that happens.”
Roseman mentioned how the Eagles bounced back from a disastrous 2012 season when Andy Reid was fired after the Eagles went 4-12. The Eagles used the 2013 draft to add franchise legends in Johnson and tight end Zach Ertz and made the playoffs that season.
Then in 2015, after the Eagles changed coaches again, Roseman made two trades to move up high enough in the draft for Wentz. Two years later, the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
Can they do it again after the crater in 2020?
“Obviously, in 2020, we had more injuries than you can count on your hands and feet,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “That didn’t help us. A new coaching staff, you never know what it was going to be like. We had new quarterbacks that we were questioning. What was going to happen to our quarterbacks?
“There was a lot in the air. But I feel like the more Sirianni has gotten here, and the way he coaches and the way he wants the building to be implemented, I feel like we all knew we were really on a good road”.
Through it all, the one constant has been Roseman, both good and bad.
Lurie stripped Roseman of his power over personnel decisions in 2015 when former head coach Chip Kelly won a power struggle. But Lurie reinstated Roseman after he fired Kelly with one game left that season.
Roseman also learned from this that job security is not a given, or as he put it: “I don’t have a scholarship.”
“Obviously, I’ve been knocked down a bunch of times,” Roseman said. “And so, for me, it was like I had to be passionate and determined to get here. Sometimes I wish I could take my foot off the accelerator a little bit. But as my wife reminds me, I am who I am, and in a certain sense sense I dove into it at this point in my life.
“I love having the opportunity to put teams together.”
Roseman’s challenge after Sunday, as his daughter hinted five years ago, will keep this team together. It will not be easy. The Eagles could have up to 20 free agents next month.
And Roseman won’t be able to keep them all, especially with Hurts eligible for an extension.
No doubt, Roseman will be aggressive and think outside the box. This is how Roseman rebuilt the Eagles from the hulk of the 2020 season.
And that’s how Roseman will keep the Eagles in the NFL’s elite. It might fail, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
“I think when you go back to ’15, and basically, you’re kicked in the dirt and you’re ready to go, ‘Okay, this is what it feels like,'” Roseman said. “And you feel that way[because]you have regrets about some of the things you haven’t done… It’s a terrible feeling, and I would say the worst part is having regrets about not doing things.
“And so if we do things, and it’s aggressive, and it doesn’t work, I can live with that. If we don’t do things because we’re worried about the repercussions, it’s going to be difficult.”
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow @Mfranknfl on Twitter.
This article originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal: How Eagles GM Howie Roseman rebuilt the team in 2 years to reach the Super Bowl