Chip vs. Howie: Who Wears the Pants?

BY PAUL MANCANOThe sky is falling in Philadelphia.

Well, at least over the NovaCare Complex.

This is what many in the media would have you believe. The odd firing of Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble, in conjunction with reports of dissention in the front office, has sent Eagles fans into a frenzy. Jim Harbough’s name has only been mentioned about 3417 times, and there’s some wild speculation that Chip Kelly could show himself the door in a year.

First off, everybody chill.

While Gamble’s firing (and apparent escort from the NovaCare Complex) is disturbing, there’s no reason Eagles fans should be likening the current situation to that of the 2014 San Francisco 49ers. Kelly has shown a desire to stay here for the long-term, and owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman have never publicly expressed dissention or dissatisfaction with the head coach. Les Bowen tweeted it best:


Let’s not get all Beautiful Mind about this. I don’t know if a one-word answer from Chip Kelly in an end-of-the-season press conference can serve as Exhibit B in this grand jury hearing. There is evidence that Roseman and Kelly don’t see eye-to-eye, and Lurie’s pattern of firing people is not to be ignored, but you know what they say about assumptions. (It should also be remembered that reports that come from unnamed sources are not the Bible. Remember when Bob Cooney assured Sixers fans that Anthony Bennett would be the return of the Thad Young trade?)

That being said, it is unnerving.

The scary part of this debacle is there’s no clear good guy. I think most Eagles fans would like to side with Kelly. After all, he took the lowly 4-12 squad of 2012 to 10-6 and a playoff berth, then came up just short of the postseason behind Mark Sanchez. His résumé, while not spotless, is certainly more eye-popping than that of Roseman. In five years as general manager, the football geek has produced just two impressive drafts (2012 and 2013), and is often seen as the man responsible for the horrific 2011 draft. Some believe Kelly, who also brought in great—and sometimes undervalued (see: Marcus Mariota)—talent at Oregon, should be given complete control over the Eagles’ personnel.

But the past two draft classes have added murk to the situation. The 2013 class, headlined by Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, and Bennie Logan, has looked pretty solid. The fact that four players came from the Pac-12—the conference of the Oregon Ducks—suggests Kelly was wearing the pants in the draft room. If this is true, he, not Roseman, deserves credit for these picks.

But if Kelly is to be lauded for the 2013 draft, he’s to be held responsible for the 2014 one. Of the seven picks made by the Eagles in 2014, only wide receiver Jordan Matthews made a significant (positive) impact this past season, and the underwhelmingness (creating this word) of first-round pick Marcus Smith is well documented. Once again, the draft cards appear to be covered in Kelly’s fingerprints—two players came from Eugene, and one of them cites Kelly as his personal mentor.

Both the head coach and the general manager have said that they’ve agreed on every pick. Maybe they did, but someone has to incept the idea of a selection into the other’s head. One guy had to have said, “Hey, how about we take this guy?” It looks like that guy was Kelly.

At this point, the jury is still out on Chip Kelly, the Talent Evaluator. Therefore, it’s hard for me to throw my full support behind him in this battle, because I don’t think he should have complete control over personnel. The same, however, could be said about Roseman, who certainly has had a hand in the front office failures of the past.

So who is really in charge of personnel? Many think the Gamble firing shows Roseman sits atop the throne with Lurie. But just looking at the draft classes of the past two years, it looks like Chip might have more power.

Due to the uncertainty of the power structure, blame and praise must be shared equally between Chip and Howie.

These two are just gonna have to figure things out by themselves. Whatever issues they may have with each other, they have to get over them. As my mom used to say, no one eats if the kids are still squabbling at the table when the food comes out. My mom never said that, and that’s kind of a stupid expression. But the point is this: Get it together boys. As Phil Sheridan wrote almost a year ago in reference to the topic, “winning organizations develop a cohesive way for the personnel side and the coaching staff to collaborate. Assigning blame and pointing fingers result when things go wrong.”


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