Louis Riddick told me a story late last week.
The former Eagles director of pro personnel has been in the media for several years now and will be on the call for ESPN on Monday Night Football but when he first got into NFL personnel, he received a bit of advice: “If you want to hang around, go into the personnel side. It’s a lot easier to pass the buck.”
That brings us to this Eagles’ season. The Birds are 3-6-1 and have wildly underperformed this year. That has folks calling to bench Carson Wentz and even fire Doug Pederson. When a team loses, it’s natural to blame the head coach, Riddick said.
“If this team ultimately doesn’t win, this isn’t just a Doug Pederson problem,” Riddick said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Let’s just go back and look at the past 5-7 drafts. Tell me where the impact players are. Tell me where the Pro Bowlers are. Tell me where the guys are that are making the difference around Carson.”
Riddick on Saturday explained that when a team doesn’t perform, it comes down to three areas:
1. Scouting and evaluation
2. Valuation and selection
3. Development and implementation
“At the very top, they’re going to have to take a comprehensive approach to why this has kind of started to head down this direction the past couple of years,” Riddick said. “And it’s not just as simple as Carson sucks and Doug needs to go because he can’t call plays. It’s never like that but that’s kind of how things tend to go in the NFL because they’re the two most high-profile individuals, the head coach and the quarterback. But we know it’s bigger than that.”
Howie Roseman has been with the Eagles for two decades and has been the Eagles’ general manager from 2010-now, aside from the year that Chip Kelly was in charge in 2015. Of course, from 2010-12, the Eagles still had Andy Reid calling the shots. But Roseman won a power struggle when Kelly was fired in 2015 and has been back in charge of personnel ever since.
While Roseman has found some gems in late rounds and on the waiver wire, his draft record is full of blemishes.
As my colleague Reuben Frank pointed out, the Eagles drafted Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz in 2013 and since then have drafted exactly one Pro Bowler: Carson Wentz, who was the No. 2 pick in the draft. Furthermore, Roseman has drafted just one defensive Pro Bowler in nine drafts.
So how would Riddick evaluate the job Roseman has done?
“Well, just look at it,” Riddick said. “You’re charged with drafting impact players that make a difference, particularly when you’re talking about first and second rounders. Well, who are the impact players? … A lot of the impact players on this team who are homegrown talent are guys Andy Reid drafted, whether you’re talking about Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham. You’re going back a few years when you’re talking about guys who were actually homegrown players. And if you look over the past four to five drafts, there aren’t any. There just aren’t.
“Knowing how scouting departments are evaluated and it’s not even what other players have done that you could have drafted on other teams, because that’s really not a fair way to compare. Just because a player is doing somewhere else, that doesn’t necessarily mean that performance would translate to your place. It’s what have you done with the people you draft? And that record speaks for itself. That’s objectively looking at it and going, ‘These are players who have not performed to the level they were drafted, whether it be first, second or third round,’ whatever criteria you want to use.
“If you want to play that game of the players you could have had instead of the players you have drafted, well then it gets worse. Because there have been some impact players that were available that weren’t selected. That’s just being objective and very baseline about it. Ownership’s going to have to take a look at that and say, ‘Well, do I want to hold people accountable for that or do I think there’s some other reason why the players we have selected haven’t turned out to be as good as they need to be?’ That’s on them. But I think ultimately, in the end, the record speaks for itself and it’s not good enough. Because this is a team that won a Super Bowl a few years ago, this is a team that all during that time Andy Reid was in Philadelphia, they were pretty much drafting impact players and they were always in contention. So we know what the standard is for this team and right now it’s not meeting it.”
Of course, this brings up the question as to what’s the bigger problem: That Roseman isn’t drafting good players? Or are the Eagles’ coaches not developing the players he drafts?
Riddick said those areas aren’t completely separate. The coaching staff obviously has a say in which players get drafted and it should never become an internal blame game between the front office and the coaching staff.
But the way Riddick explained it was that when a team is winning, the coaching staff and the front office seem to share in the success. When a team is losing, it’s much easier for fingers to be pointed at the coaching staff.
Recently, there were reports that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has been frustrated by the performance of his team. We don’t know yet where most of that frustration is targeted.
“Owners have to be above all that and say ‘How is this all working together?’” Riddick said. “We’ll see what they come up with here.”
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