The700Level

Time to give Howie Roseman credit for building this Eagles team

Time to give Howie Roseman credit for building this Eagles team

We've heard and entertained many of the reasons behind the Eagles' 6-1 record. Carson Wentz's becoming a top-10 quarterback before our eyes is one. A superb head-coaching job by Doug Pederson is another. A tough, bend-but-don't-break defense is another still.

The Eagles have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, maybe even without Jason Peters. Jake Elliott is automatic in the clutch and from practically anywhere on the field. Zach Ertz has emerged as Wentz's most dangerous weapon. The league's No. 1-ranked run defense refuses to give an inch. The veteran leadership in the Eagles' locker room is second to none.

And in the middle of it all is Howie Roseman, executive vice president of football operations for the Eagles — or, in other words, the general manager.

Perhaps it's too early for Roseman to take a victory lap. The Eagles may be on top of the world right now, but there is no trophy presentation, no ring ceremony, no banner raising, no parade for the mid-season champions. The 2017 campaign can still go south, and based on all of the major injuries, it just might.

But let's assume what we've seen the first seven weeks of the season is for real. Let's assume the Eagles are a legitimate Super Bowl contender right now, even without Peters, without Jordan Hicks, without Darren Sproles. That could be viewed as a commentary on the rest of NFL, but it honestly looks like this team has a chance to go that far.

Most observers are so caught by surprise, we're left asking how the Eagles got here. Roseman certainly is one of the primary reasons — and as the architect of this team, possibly the most influential. His missteps are so often picked apart and his football background is unfairly ridiculed, it doesn't seem out of bounds at all to examine some of the ways in which he managed to put this team together.

Wentz trade
First and foremost, who do you think engineered the trade for Wentz in the first place?

Is there anybody besides Cian Fahey who doesn't think this kid is going to win a Super Bowl at some point in his career? Wentz is blossoming at a rapid pace. He's guided the Eagles to a five-game winning streak. He's thrown for 11 touchdowns in the last three weeks alone.

Wentz is one of the two or three hottest quarterbacks in the league right now — and Roseman essentially got him by giving up a second-round draft pick. Once the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings for a first and a fourth, the second in 2018 is the only pick that wasn't recouped in some form. We've done the math and it checks out.

Bradford and a mid-round pick or two for a franchise quarterback for the next decade-plus? With that decision alone, Roseman more than likely altered the course of the Eagles' franchise forever.

Free agency/cap management
By far the biggest problem in Wentz's rookie season was the lack of weapons, not the quarterback himself. So Roseman went out and added some offensive talent in free agency, signing wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as running back LeGarrette Blount. For good measure, the Eagles also brought in Nick Foles, Chance Warmack, Chris Long and Patrick Robinson.

The previous year's free agency netted Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski.

Granted, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of skill to sign a check. But there's a salary cap in the NFL and the Eagles were thought to be up against it the past two offseasons, especially in 2017. Yet, somehow, Roseman found a way to make these deals, and almost all of the added players are contributing, if not starting and performing at a high level.

The remarkable part isn't merely identifying the talent and convincing them to choose the Eagles — though that's no small feat in itself. It's the simple fact that Roseman seemingly never allows the cap to keep the front office from going and getting somebody who would be a good fit. In today's NFL, that's half the battle.

Managing the core
The money the Eagles have spent in free agency hasn't prevented them from taking care of their own.

The previous year's offseason was notable for all of the massive contract extensions the Eagles handed out, most of which appear to have been the correct call almost two years later. Ertz, Brent Celek, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson and Vinny Curry all received long-term deals in 2016, and out of that bunch, only Curry's is even remotely in question.

But being a GM isn't just about paying ascending talent — that's supposed to be the easy part. Roseman has also done his part in maintaining a harmonious locker room by rewarding veterans with bonuses and extensions that pad their bottom line, most notably to Peters, Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins.

It was smart to pay Peters, Graham and Jenkins because they're great players! However, paying them also removed the possibility for discord, while simultaneously setting an example for anybody else seeking a new deal.

If you're that good, Roseman will take care of you, young or old. That's no small detail.

Draft
It's easy to point to the draft as a weakness of Roseman and the Eagles as an organization, though it's not necessarily fair. After all, every front office has its misses. Plus, the roster is getting more from Roseman's drafts than he's typically credited.

Aside from Wentz (a rather big pick, wouldn't you say?) 2016 also produced a starter in Jalen Mills, as well as role players Wendell Smallwood, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, all of whom are pushing for more playing time. And Roseman's notable solo drafts in 2012 and '13 (prior to Chip Kelly, but after Andy Reid lost his grip on the front office) gave the franchise Johnson, Ertz, Cox, Curry and Mychal Kendricks.

Even looking at this year, Rasul Douglas is a perfectly adequate rookie cornerback, Mack Hollins is contributing at wide receiver and on special teams, and Derek Barnett just recorded two sacks against Washington. Meanwhile, Sidney Jones may or may not play in '17, but he is a top prospect waiting in the wings.

Roseman's drafts aside, the humility to allow a known talent evaluator like Joe Douglas head up the scouting department shows the commitment to winning on the part of the GM. It's not about one man. By all appearances, Roseman has bought into the "collaborative effort" trope and the Eagles can only be better for it.

Timing is everything
Perhaps more than anything else, Roseman seems to have developed a knack for knowing when it's wise not to pull the trigger on a potential deal.

Players such as Jason Kelce, Kendricks and even Jenkins have been the subject of trade rumors for at least the past offseason and in some cases, multiple offseasons. Kelce, Kendricks and even Peters were viewed as potential cap casualties as well.

Kelce is currently playing at a high level — he's one of the best centers in the league by some measures. Kendricks' role is about to increase with a season-ending injury to Jordan Hicks. And before going down, Peters was enjoying arguably the best season of his Hall of Fame career.

Roseman has also known exactly when to move on. Holding on to Bradford until a first-round pick was offered paid off, while dumping the likes of Byron Maxwell onto the Dolphins clearly had no long-term repercussions (he was released this week). Jordan Matthews is a nice receiver, but dealing him to Buffalo returned Ronald Darby and allowed Nelson Agholor to take over in the slot.

OK, so DeMarco Murray is still getting things done — although he insisted on a trade. Regardless, Roseman's swaps are almost always on point, and if recent history is any example, often show his feel for the way the roster is shaping up at certain areas.

It's the little things
Who are we missing here? Let's see. The Eagles acquired Tim Jernigan from the Ravens for a swap of third-round picks. They signed their hero kicker off of the Bengals' practice squad. They changed long snappers for the first time since Jeff Garcia was quarterback and that must've worked out fine because you probably don't even know the new guy's name.

But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the team Roseman has constructed is an intangible that can at times go overlooked. And it's ironic considering his predecessor-for-a-year, Chip Kelly, always preached culture.

The leadership on this Eagles roster from top to bottom is second to none.

You probably can't pass two stalls in the Eagles' locker room without coming across an accountable, professional veteran. It's ironic, because Roseman — along with coach Doug Pederson — have created the kind of culture Kelly could only dream of in the NFL, and they didn't have to strip down the players' personalities to do it.

There is absolutely a special feeling in the Eagles' locker room, and it's because this team doesn't need a babysitter. You can thank Roseman for assembling that type of roster.

Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

ap-donovan-mitchell-embiid.jpg

Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

There was a time as Sixers fans when being 16 games into the season meant it legitimately felt like there was no chance the team would ever win another game of basketball. Now, we're beating teams at home by a lot because we're better than them, moving to multiple games over .500, and -- as of last night -- even breaking even with our overall scoring differential. Yawn. 

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz last night by a score of 107-86. Joel Embiid had something of an off night (15 points on 7-16 shooting), our shooters couldn't quite get it going (4-15 from deep), but we still won by 21. It wasn't quite a blowout, but it definitely wasn't a nail-biter. It wasn't an upset or a moral loss or a validating triumph. It wasn't anything, really, except a win. 

In it's own way, of course, that makes it the most meaningful W of the season for Philly. It has been a very long time -- maybe since the Doug Collins era -- since the Sixers won a game without it being a referendum on either team. The Sixers simply won because they're a better team with more good players -- especially with the Jazz missing a couple key dudes, though we also beat them in Utah a couple weeks ago without Joel Embiid, so whatever. And the Jazz aren't even the worst team in the league, or really even one of them -- they're just a not-totally-terrible team that the Sixers are still decisively superior to. 

Long have I dreamed of wins like this, to have a game where there was nothing to say in the recap except how there's nothing really to say in the recap. Next time the Sixers pick up another W this casual -- and it probably won't take all that long, either -- I won't even be able to write this column again. I'll probably have to try writing in haiku or cryptogram or something to attempt to make the story interesting. 

And that's fine: After four years of historic losing, we'll trade narratives for Ws any time. You keep it real boring, Sixers.

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

We didn't even know if Joel Embiid was going to play just hours before tonight's contest as he was listed as a game-time decision with knee soreness.

Play he did. And he treated the Wells Fargo Center crowd to one of the more energetic moments of the evening. 

The Sixers beat the Jazz in South Philly on Monday night, 107-86, to bounce back from that tough loss on Saturday (see observations).

Embiid was a big part of that. He finished with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and a couple of blocks.

It was one block on Donovan Mitchell in particular that had The Center going bonkers.

Watch:

The block, the stare down, the technical foul signal, the crowd pumping ... Embiid provided a perfect moment.

"It was some good theater and the two embraced afterwards. It was fun to watch," Marc Zumoff said after the game.

Mitchell wrote it off as a rookie mistake.

"Just gotta keep my head," Mitchell said. "It's a learning experience, especially in that situation when we're making a comeback."

Whether they were making a comeback or not is debatable. 

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have just let it go."

Brett Brown was OK with the play.

"I'm always mindful of how do we stay disciplined," Brown said. "Jo understands it's risky if you taunt. I want my guys playing with an edge. I want them to feel some level of swagger and feel good about themselves. That was a big play. It certainly got the crowd involved."

As for his part in the incident, Embiid admitted he may have embellished just a bit. The big guy is not that easy to move.

"I flopped and he got a technical for it," Embiid said. "That's basically how it happened. It's all fun. After the game, we shook hands."