I’m an Eagles fan, which means I spend a lot of time thinking and saying terrible, hurtful things about the Eagles. And, in recent years, few were the people who seemed riper for the blame than the team’s general manager, Howie Roseman.
Like a Tom Cruise character, Roseman shot his way to glory quickly and brilliantly. He volunteered with the Eagles after law school as an unpaid intern, was promoted rapidly, catching the eye of the team’s owner, and was eventually appointed the league’s youngest GM. He was 35, and his appetite and attitude were in perfect sync. He traded furiously, more than any other manager in the league, and worked hard to find better players for every position.
But Philadelphia’s chief natural resource is irony, and Roseman’s efforts mostly faltered. The team had one some big games under his direction, but the Eagles never truly soared. Many of his key trades proved to be duds, like the cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, signed with much fanfare in 2011 to a five-year deal wroth $60 million only to be dropped two seasons later when he failed to deliver anything of consequence. And grumblings in the press spoke of an arrogant and detached executive unwilling or unable to listen. Increasingly, the axe seemed to hover above Roseman’s head.
It dropped in 2015. Chip Kelly, the head coach Roseman had helped lure over from the University of Oregon, assumed all managerial responsibilities, with Roseman being demoted upwards, given an Executive Vice President title but no real powers.
For one terrible year, Roseman watched as the Eagles stumbled from one disaster to another. For one terrible year, he did teshuva, and he understood that the key to a sustainable future wasn’t nabbing flashy stars but building a cohesive team of players who can play together and win games. When Kelly was fired after another fiasco of a season, Roseman was given one more shot at the GM position, if only to ease in the new coach, Doug Pederson.
Roseman wasted no time at all. He took a biggish bet on Carson Wentz, who was by no means a nobody but who was still playing for North Dakota State, hardly a top-tier football school. Other picks included wide receiver Nelson Agholor, tight end Zach Ertz, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, all of them capable players but none of them selected for any other reason save for their ability to complement each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.
Ertz, Cox, and Agholor all featured prominently in the Eagles’ glorious victory last night on the Minnesota Vikings. So did Nick Foles, the Eagles’ former quarterback, who Roseman recruited as Wentz’s backup and who on Sunday played the game of a lifetime, at one point throwing a 53-yard bullet to Alshon Jeffrey (who Roseman just locked into a multi-year contract) for a spectacular touchdown.
No matter what happens two weeks from now in the Super Bowl, Howie Roseman has already taught us a lesson we should all cherish. He faltered and he rose again. He let his passion mature into humility. He worked hard and he learned to listen to others. And for his growth, he was rewarded not only with the Pro Football Writers Association Executive of the Year award and a shot at the championship, but also with the gratitude of us fans thrilled to feel real hope for the first time in Lord knows when.