Protecting Wentz

The Eagles drafted the future of the franchise last night after trading up to pick number 2 to select Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. They gave up alot of draft capital in order to do so. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have staked their jobs to his performance. So now it’s about protecting their investment. They have brought in a bevy of QB coaches to help him develop. They plan on being patient with him. There is an old adage that a good Tight End is a the best friend of a young QB. The Eagles have three young Wide Recievers and solid depth at the position.

The best way for the Eagles to protect their new Quarterback is to invest in the offensive line. The first reason is obvious, plenty of young signal callers have taken large amounts of punishment playing behind poor offensive lines. This led to developing bad habits: footwork breaks down, they start to see ghosts, they stop seeing the whole field and focusing on not getting hit. Additionally they can just outright get hurt.

The second reason Offensive Line is crucial for a young QB is being able to establish a strong run game. Ideally you don’t want a QB to have to go out and take fifty 7-step drops to try to win a shootout.

The Current State of the Eagles Offensive Line

The Eagles OL in 2015 was not good. They gave up too much pressure and struggled to run the ball. This was compounded by a constantly rotating lineup with injuries taking a major toll. The good news is that the new scheme will lighten some of the burden. Play calling will be more diverse. The Tackles will get more help from running backs and tight ends in pass protection. The run scheme will be a more balanced selection of gap scheme and zone scheme in contrast to the pure zone run during the Chip Kelly regime. They also went out and signed two new potential starters.

The presumed starting 5 looks something like:

Jason Peters – Stefen Wisniewski – Jason Kelce – Brandon Brooks – Lane Johnson

That’s a solid starting 5, but has alot of long term questions, and won’t be in anyone’s top 5 rankings of the position groups. Jason Peters is a potential Hall of Famer, but is 34, has been unable to stay healthy the last couple of years, and seems to have lost a step. Peters is expensive and unlikely to be on the roster past this season. Wisniewski is the presumptive starter at LG, and is a solid starter but is only here on a one year contract, and has not played Guard since his rookie year in Oakland. Jason Kelce is one of the most unique centers in the NFL. His athleticism and ability to play in space make him a weapon. He has been up and down the last couple of years but is still a solid starter and should bounce back in 2016. Brandon Brooks was brought in from a scheme in Houston that ran a combination of both zone and gap schemes, and should fit from that perspective. He’s a mountain of a man at 6’5 345lbs, and when he’s on, can move people against their will in the run game. Lane Johnson is the former #4 overall pick and signed a lucrative extension to stay with the Eagles in the off season. He is the future Left Tackle. He’s been good so far in his career but has yet to take the next step to becoming a great player.

The Reserves: Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly, and Andrew Gardener have all started for the Eagles during stretches of the last few seasons. They are all solid reserves. However the Eagles would certainly like to get younger and try to develop some young OL with higher upside.

The Deep Reserves: Josh Andrews was the backup Center last year. He can play some guard, but has a pretty limited ceiling and has never started. Brett Boyko was a UDFA who made the practice squad last year. If the Eagles do not bring in much help during the draft he could push Dennis Kelly to be the swing tackle. Barret Jones was a highly decorated OL coming out of Alabama, but has yet to start a game is JAG. The coaching staff seems to like Malcolm Bunche. He has a good profile. I worry about him though because he has been and underachiever with great tools his whole career. Both at Miami and UCLA he forced his way into the starting lineup only to be extremely underwhelming.

So the 4 things the Eagles could use, they won’t be able to get them all but this is my wishlist:

  1. A Tackle who can start this year when Peters inevitably gets hurt.
  2. A Guard to push Wisniewski for the starting LG job.
  3. A C/G to push Kelce and improve depth
  4. A swing tackle of the future

Offensive Line Prospects:

Here are some players who I think fit both the scheme, needs, and should still be available.

Joe Haeg, T, NDSU 6’6 304lbs

What better place to find a guy to protect Carson Wentz than the guy who has been doing it already? Haeg was a walk on in the same class as Wentz, started at Right Tackle for two seasons before kicking over to Left Tackle the last two. He reminds me alot of former Eagle Todd Herremans. Both are good technically, played at smaller schools, can play LT in a pinch and have T/G versatility. Haeg could compete at LG in 2016 and then kick out to RT in 2017.

 

Max Tuerk, C, USC, 6’5, 298lbs

What would happen if you took Jason Kelce’s movement ability, added in Lane Johnon’s frame and sprinkled in Jon Runyan’s desire to give a little extra after the whistle blew? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Max Tuerk. Tuerk was a 4 year starter at USC. He played just about every position while he was there. He’s got a rare combination of feet, size, and movement ability. He can probably play all 5 offensive line positions (short arms make LT iffy). If Tuerk hadn’t torn his ACL last fall I believe he would have gone in the later part of the first round. He could go anywhere from just outside the top 40 to the top of the fourth round, depending on how teams view his knee and positional future.

 

Connor McGovern, G, Mizzou, 6’4 306lbs

Connor McGovern is just the latest of really good Mizzou OL. Justin Britt and Mitch Morse were both 2nd round picks in 2014 and 2015. Morse just happened to become the starting Center and a homerun pick for Kansas City. His OC was some guy named Doug Pederson. McGovern is a 3 year starter having played RG, RT, and LT. He’s probably more of a guard than tackle in the NFL but in the right scheme could play some out on the edge. He’s technical and strong. High football IQ. He’s got a bit of piss and vinegar to him. When people say “you can find good guards in round 3” McGovern is who they are talking about.

 

Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State, 6’3, 298lbs

Westerman is a player I struggle with. He’s a good athlete, freak in the weightroom, and solid on the football field. He checks every box you want, yet I always finish watching his film confused. He’s good. He should be better. He’s like a 5 tool baseball player who hits .265 and 15 home runs. That’s good, but you’ll always kinda wish they would hit .290 and 30 dingers. Maybe NFL coaching will help him. He could just as likely make half a dozen pro bowls as be a guy who turns out like Wisniewski.

 

Alex Lewis, T, Nebraska, 6’6 314lbs

Lewis is a guy who started his career at Colorado. He arrived as a TE, but was moved to OL as a sophomore and started at LG and LT. Then things got weird. Lewis did 45 days in prison for a bar brawl where he put an Air Force Cadets head through a wall. He transferred to Nebraska and has started ever since, and things seemed to have settled downo off the field. On the field he has solid feet, and good size with long arms. He isn’t the most powerful guy but has enough. He reminds me alot of Michael Schofield. If his background checks out he is a good developmental T who could be the starting RT in 2015. Let’s just hope the judge was right in saying: “I have no doubt alcohol was a major factor here,” Butler said. “This was a classic example of too much alcohol, too much testosterone, bad result. I see it almost daily.”

Graham Glasgow, C, Michigan, 6’6, 307lbs

Glasgow is a very tall guy for an interior OL. But he plays with great pad level. He’s a powerful guy, with solid not good athletic ability. He has experience starting both at guard and center over the last three years. To me he profiles best as a G early in his career, he doesn’t sit in the seat well in pass pro and playing him at G should minimize these issues while he works on some range of motion and technical tweaks.  Needs to do a better job staying on his feet. He got much better as a football player after Harbaugh arrived. He went from a guy with DUI issues who was pretty average to a good interior OL, and Harbaugh mandated that he be roommates with his grandmother to keep him out of trouble. I love that.

Joe Thuney, G/C, NC State, 6’5, 304lbs

Another guy who has played absolutely everywhere. Made starts at RG, RT, C, and LT. Another guy with great technique, and a high football IQ. Academic All-American. Not the most powerful but wins with his brains. Profiles best as a backup G/C in the short term with a solid shot at becoming a starter down the line. Think of a rich mans Julian Vandervelde.

Neglecting the QB Position Forced The Eagles into this Trade

 

A combination of bad scouting and attempting to band-aid the QB position forced the Eagles to trade up to number two.

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

I was going to provide my thoughts on the Eagles trade, but was buried in work and couldn’t get to it in time while the topic was still relevant. There are some really good articles out there analyzing both sides of the debate, including Bill Barnwell’s skeptical view of the move, and James Keane of BGN.com explaining why the Eagles did not mortgage the future in this trade. (For the record, I am against the trade up for this QB prospect, which I explain more fully here).

Instead, I want to address the root cause for the Eagles having to make this trade. But first, analogy time.

Imagine for a moment that the Philadelphia Eagles are a house.

They invested big in a brand new roof back in 1999. It was top of the line and came with all the bells and whistles. And for about 10 years, that roof was incredible. It did almost everything the homeowners could ask for.

But then the roof started to show signs of wear and tear. Instead of fixing the problem, the homeowners just ignored it.

And ignored it.

And ignored it.

Years went by. They put a bandaid here and a did patch job there.

But they never invested the necessary money to fix the actual problem.

Then one day the homeowners came home after a big storm, and the roof had caved in. Now they not only needed a new roof, but they needed to buy new appliances and furniture. So they went all out again, spending huge money to fix the problem. The only problem is, they ended up spending twice as much as they would have needed to spend had they just fixed the problem when the signs first emerged.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, that bad analogy was my attempt at illustrating the Eagles approach to solving the most important position in football: the quarterback.

The Eagles invested a high first round pick in Donovan McNabb back in 1999. He lasted 10 years with the team, leading the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. It was the longest period of sustained success in franchise history, and McNabb will go down as the best quarterback in franchise history.

But since the Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins in the 2010 offseason, they’ve wholly neglected the quarterback position. Instead of investing a high draft pick when the opportunity presented itself (which history tells us is the smart thing to do), the Eagles opted to go with retread veterans and mid-round picks, and the results were predictably mediocre.

Here is a chart breaking down the number of draft picks the Eagles have had since 2010 and the amount of those picks they have used on quarterbacks:

Year # of Draft Picks QBs drafted
2010 13 Mike Kafka (4th)
2011 11 0
2012 9 Nick Foles (3rd)
2013 8 Matt Barkley (4th)
2014 7 0
2015 6 0

Two things stand out from this list. First, despite the commonly accepted view that more picks > less picks, the Eagles have steadily declined in the number of draft picks they’ve had over the last six years (they have only 7 this year). That’s not good.

But more pertinent to this article, they have taken only three quarterbacks in the last six drafts: Mike Kafka (2010), Nick Foles (2012), and Matt Barkley (2013). They’ve had 54 draft picks during that time. That’s 5% of their picks put towards solving the most important position in football.

And this was all while the Eagles projected starters were Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Sam Bradford. Not one quarterback on that list is considered an above replacement level quarterback in the NFL (and Kolb and Foles aren’t even close to being replacement level).

For comparisons sake, the New England Patriots also took three quarterbacks in the draft during the same time period (on 55 picks). The only difference, of course, is that they had Tom Brady as their quarterback.

But this is not even really about the quantity of picks they spent. My primary concern is about the lack of quality picks that the Eagles have invested in the position. The three quarterbacks they drafted since 2010 were in the third, fourth and fourth rounds respectively.

One way to better contextualize value is to use the draft value chart for the picks the Eagles used on quarterbacks since 2010:

Pick Value
122 (Kafka) 50
88 (Foles) 150
98 (Barkley) 108

Total

308

Assume for a moment that the Eagles have had 7 picks in each of the last six drafts, and they picked 15th each time. They would have 1,811.50 “points” each draft, or 10,869 total points worth of draft capital over the last six drafts. The 308 points the Eagles invested in the quarterback position is just 2% of their total draft stock during that time.

Now, this comparison isn’t perfect. The Eagles didn’t pick 15th every year and they didn’t have just seven picks (they usually picked in the 20s, but also frequently had more than 7 picks, so I think the value evens out). But it still provides a good illustration to the problem: they’ve invested so little in the quarterback position that we shouldn’t be surprised the position has been mired in mediocrity for the last six seasons.

Again, for comparisons sake, the Patriots used a second rounder on Jimmy Garoppolo after the Patriots went 12-4 the previous year. After they went 14-2 in 2010, they used a third rounder on Ryan Mallett. They also used a 7th round pick on Zac Robinson in 2010. Using that same math, the Patriots spent 506 points worth of draft capital compared to the Eagles 308.

AND THIS WAS WITH TOM BRADY ON THE ROSTER!

Good franchises plan ahead and invest in the position as their quarterback is starting to age. Drafting Garoppolo while Brady is setting the world on fire is a good example of this. Ditto the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting Big Ben 11th overall in 2004 while Tommy Maddox, who led the Steelers to the Super Bowl, was still on the roster. The Green Bay Packers were riding high with Brett Favre when they took Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

The Eagles were presented with, but failed to take advantage of, similar opportunities to draft a quarterback at a much more reasonable cost than the one paid to acquire Carson Wentz:

2011: The Eagles were coming off 10-6 season with Michael Vick as the starter. But Vick was never as good as people made him about to be: he had an inconsistent season that year, starting off very good but crashing down to earth once defenses started to bring pressure more consistently and take away his first read. In the first round, the Eagles took Danny Watkins (yikes). Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were still on the board.

2012: The Eagles reportedly built his entire draft class around acquiring Russell Wilson. They had a first round grade on him and three picks in the first two rounds. Instead of grabbing Wilson with, say, the second 2nd round pick, the Eagles drafted Vinny Curry, hoping to grab Wilson in the third. We know the history: Seattle took Wilson one pick before the Eagles, who ended up trading back in the 3rd and drafting Nick Foles instead.

2014: Coming off Nick Foles’ 27/2 season, the Eagles were content to go with Foles and former starter Michael Vick as their quarterback. When they drafted first round bust Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr were still on the board.

Some might claim this is hindsight 20/20 talking here. Perhaps to an extent. But I also think it underscores two issues that have plagued the Eagles during the last six seasons: they have neglected the quarterback position in the draft and have been poor at scouting quarterbacks when they tried to address the position. So this isn’t just to say that picking Foles was a bad move (in fairness, he likely has outperformed most third round quarterbacks). It also extends to their inability to recognize that Vick was not a viable solution in 2011, Foles in 2014, and so on and so forth.

So while we can — and should — debate the merits and demerits of the Eagles decision to trade up to two, we cannot dispute that the Eagles forced themselves into this position by neglecting the most important position in football for the last six years. And for that, they have only themselves to blame.

Carson Wentz Scouting Report

 

Carson Wentz is a prototypical boom or bust quarterback prospect. He has the size, athleticism and arm strength you want, but needs significant work on his mechanics. I’d hesitate to take him in the top 5 of the draft.

Patrick Causey,on Twitter @pcausey3

When the last whistle blows and a new college football champion is crowned, NFL coaches, executives and scouts turn their attention to what is derisively known as the “beauty pageant” season.

Between that final game and the NFL draft, prospects are judged through a number of events that do not involve football players actually playing football: from the combine, to pro days, to individual workouts and team interviews. Prospects are measured, perform scripted plays in ideal conditions, and conduct job interviews under the same confines as speed dating.

NFL teams spend inordinate resources scouting players, investigating their background for red flags, and relying on advanced analytics to project their games to the pros. Yet, without fail, teams get seduced by prospects that excel during the beauty pageant phase of the draft process. Reports emerge about prospects rocketing up draft boards because of a great combine workout or because that “It” factor that shined during interviews, warts in their tape be damned

Two quick examples.

Leading up to the 2003 draft, Kyle Boller was an inaccurate quarterback with a fringe first round grade. During his pro day, Boller wowed scouts, coaches and executives with his athleticism (4.59 40 time) and by completing 96% of his passes, including a 75 yard bomb on the run.

But as Michael Wong of BleacherReport.com explained, the deal sealer came after the workout was over. “After his official workout had come to it’s conclusion, Kyle Boller proceeded to drop to his knees, exactly on the 50 yard line, and toss one of the most beautiful spirals I have ever seen cleanly through the field goal posts. Sixty yards away.

As Brian Billick acknowledged many years later, after seeing this workout and that throw, the Ravens brass convinced themselves that Boller’s inaccuracy was the result of his subpar teammates. So they traded up in the first round to draft him 19th overall, only to watch him fail to live up to the hype. Apparently throwing from your knees at midfield is not required to be a successful NFL quarterback.

In 2009, Mark Sanchez was leaving dinner with Rex Ryan and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum following his private workout with the team. They were walking towards their cars when Sanchez hopped on a nearby motorcycle, grabbed the helmet, and said to the stunned group “All right, I’ll see you guys later.” When Sanchez laughed and revealed the bike was not his, Ryan and Tannenbaum were convinced that his willingness to pull off that prank during the biggest job interview of his life revealed that Sanchez had the “It” factor needed to lead their team. The Jets traded up to the 5th overall pick to get Sanchez; even though his tape and numbers never justified such a lofty draft status.

Which brings me to Carson Wentz: I have never met him, but I watched all of his 2015 tape. I see a mid to late first round talent that needs considerable work on his mechanics and consistency. If it all pans out? He could be a stud. But that’s a big if; Wentz needs at least one year to fix his game, possibly more, and there is no guarantee that these issues can be ironed out.

So I was surprised to see the Wentz-hype following the combine. Reports emerged that he crushed the team interviews, flashing his moxxy and intelligence that allowed him to get a 40 on the Wonderlick test. Pretty soon, Wentz was drawing comparisons to once-in-a-generation prospect Andrew Luck:

When Wentz put on a clinic at his pro day, NFL analysts were tripping over themselves with the compliments:

I am not suggesting that I am right and these analysts are wrong; some of them have been around the NFL longer than I have been alive. But if Ozzie Newsome, one of the best general managers in NFL history, can be seduced by the allure of a kneeling 60-yard bomb during a pro day, these analysts are equally susceptible to the hype surrounding Wentz.

Before we break down why I think Wentz is not a top 5 pick, here is a quick table highlighting his strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths

Weaknesses

Above average athlete that will keep defenses honest Mechanics need considerable work; tendency to use only his arm to throw the ball, completely abandoning proper footwork, hip and shoulder rotations
Above average arm strength; with proper mechanics he can make all of the throws with ease. Struggles with the consistency of his accuracy on all throws given his mechanical issues
Not afraid to stand tall in the pocket and take the hit Deep ball is especially sporadic. Routinely overthrows receivers.
When his mechanics are on, he is very impressive: looks every bit the part of a franchise QB Below average pocket presence
High intelligence, scoring a 40 on the wonderlic exam Tendency to lock onto his primary target; did not see many instances of Wentz working through his progressions to the second and third receiver.
According to multiple reports, has the “it” factor

By the Numbers

Went’z stats were deflated because he suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand that limited Wentz to only 7 games on the season:

Year Cmp Att Cmp% Yds Y/A TD INT Rate
2015 130 208 62.5 1,651 7.9 17 4 152.3

Here’s Wentz’s accuracy chart, courtesy of Ian Wharton at BleacherReport.com:

IMG_2695

Wentz’s struggles on intermediate and deep throws are apparent: he completed only 53% of his passes while maintaining an impressive 8 touchdown to 1 interception ratio. While those aren’t horrible numbers by any stretch, they are not as impressive as Jared Goff’s numbers, especially on the deep ball. Whereas Goff completed 53, 75 and 48 percent of his passes on deep throws, Wentz completed only 25, 63 and 33 percent of such passes.

Here is Wentz’s spider chart, courtesy of MockDraftTable.com:

Wentz Spider Chart

Wentz checks all of the boxes from a size and athleticism standpoint, ranking in the top 20% of all quarterbacks in height, weight, broad jump, 3 cone drill, 20 yard shuttle, and arm length (for whatever that’s worth).

But the tape is where the red flags really start to emerge.

Breaking Down the Tape

Mechanical Issues

Wentz has significant issues with his passing mechanics. These issues did not hamper his production in college because he was just that much better than his competition. But in the NFL, proper mechanics are paramount. Passing windows and the margin for error shrink considerably from big time college football, let alone Division 1-AA. So while Wentz was able to skate by against the likes of Weber State and Northern Iowa, he will struggle significantly against the Seattle Seahawks or Pittsburgh Steelers trying to throw only with his arm.

Here is a prime example of Wentz throwing with just his arm and neglecting any semblance of mechanical integrity with his feet, hips or legs.

Here is a close up of what I am talking about; Wentz’s entire lower body is statue-esque, with no rotation towards the receiver.

Here is another example; Wentz completed the pass, but it’s about the process, not the results:

There are other times that Wentz tried to have proper mechanics but stopped short halfway through the process. Let’s break this down by still shots.

Here is Wentz’s initial set-up. There is nothing wrong here. His head is facing his target, he has good bend in his knees, his shoulders are even, his legs are shoulder width apart and the ball looks to be held close to his body in ready position:

Initial Set up

After that, though, things start to go sideways:

Wide Base

Ideally, you want the legs to maintain integrity here and be shoulder-width apart. This might seem like nitpicking, but if you set up your legs too far apart, you lose accuracy and power — and at the NFL level, that makes all the difference.

While his stance was a relatively minor issue, this next frame — taken immediately after Wentz releases the football — raises a lot of flags:

Initial Release

Wentz should have rotated through his throw, ending up with his throwing shoulder facing the receiver and his back plant leg following through in like manner. Instead, Wentz stays open to the receiver, stopping his rotation after he initially releases the football. It should come as no surprise that Wentz missed his intended receiver on this throw.

These mechanical flaws should give pause for concern to any team looking to find a quarterback that can start from Day 1. They aren’t impossible to overcome, but it is going to take considerable work and time for Wentz to break free from his old habits and learn how to throw the football properly without having to think about it.

Accuracy Issues

Given the issues with his mechanics, it should come as no surprise that Wentz struggles with repetitive accuracy.

Those issues are most pronounced when Wentz tries to throw deep. More often than not, Wentz missed his receivers badly — often by 3-5 yards or more:

Wentz doesn’t even give the receiver a chance to make a play here. Without going overkill on this issue, here are three other examples of Wentz badly missing on the deep pass, click: here, here and here

But the accuracy issues aren’t limited to the long ball. Wentz is not a “precision” passer — at least at a consistent enough basis — that can put the ball where only his receiver can catch it.

This is an easy 10 yard out; the receiver has enough separation but Wentz throws the ball to the inside shoulder, forcing the receiver to turn back around and giving the defender an easy chance to make a play.

On this play, Wentz has a back breaking wide open out of the flat, but his bad ball placement forces the back to adjust and miss the opportunity for an easy score.

While that might seem like nitpicking, realize that it was third down and ND State had to settle for a field goal. Precision matters, especially in the NFL, and until Wentz fixes his mechanics he will continue to have these issues.

Examples of Good Mechanics Leading to Good Results

There is hope, however. There were times that Wentz was fundamentally sound and the results were very impressive. I suspect that when Wentz’s supporters project him to be a franchise quarterback, they are primarily relying on throws like this.

Wentz’s mechanics were on point here, from the footwork to the rotation in his hips and shoulders. Not surprisingly, the ball placement was perfect, only his receiver didn’t hold up his end of the bargain and dropped the pass.

Here is another good example; watch as Wentz climbs the pocket and delivers a strike to his receiver:

I think you get the point, but if you want to see more examples from the tape, check these throws out: herehereherehere and here.

Throwing on the Run

When Wentz is forced to throw on the run, it often isn’t a pretty result. He tends to try to only use his arm, which leads to… well, this:

Wentz does better when he is forced to step up in the pocket away from pressure.

That is a ridiculous pass. Compare the two prior passes: the thing that stands out the most is the direction in which Wentz is moving. On the first pass he pulls up and arms the throw; on the second throw he continues moving forward, which all but forces better mechanics: it prevents Wentz from standing still and not using his legs on the throw.

The other thing that is obvious — and not surprising — is that Wentz is far more comfortable running a bootleg to his right than the left side of the field. That is to be expected since Wentz is right handed:

Strong Athlete

Mike Mayock recently compared Wentz’s athleticism to Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. I agree. Wentz is very athletic for a player his size, and North Dakota State routinely took advantage of that athleticism with designed quarterback runs:

Here is another example of Wentz using his athleticism:

More examples are here and here. Given Wentz’s size — he’s 6’6, 235 lbs — there is less concern about injury. He should be able to withstand the beating that he will take from running, although he has also shown the ability to slide when necessary.

Standing Tall in the Pocket

One area that I have no concern with is Wentz’s ability to handle pressure. He routinely stood tall in the pocket and delivered an accurate pass despite knowing the hit was coming.

I legitimately have no idea how Wentz’s knee is still intact after this play

You can see another example here.

Tendency to Lock onto His Primary Receiver

If there were two areas where Goff has outperformed Wentz significantly, it’s with the deep ball pass and his ability to work through his progressions. Goff excels in both regards, Wentz is a work in progress.

I struggled to find examples of Wentz working through his progressions. The norm was Wentz locking on to his primary receiver and forcing the throw regardless of whether he was open. However, he has flashed the ability to do so:

Watch Wentz’s head. He starts looking to his primary option on the top part of the screen, then quickly moves to the center of the field where the slot receiver was running a post. Wentz steps up into the pocket and delivers a strike for a huge gain. Again, the hype around Wentz is somewhat defensible given his ability to flash plays like this.

 

A final example. The video stream broke down, but you should still be able to see how Wentz starts with his initial read, bounces outside to avoid pressure, and keeps his eyes down field so he can find the open receiver:

It bears repeating that this was the exception to the norm. Wentz routinely targeted his primary option, but he at least flashed some ability to move to his second and third options.

Conclusion

Carson Wentz is a boom or bust prospect. He has the size, athleticism, arm strength and apparent intangibles that you look for in a franchise quarterback. But he needs considerable work on his mechanics from top to bottom. These mechanical issues affect almost every part of his game, from the short to intermediate to deep throws, to throwing on the run. Until Wentz cleans these issues up, he will never reach his full potential. But if he gets drafted into a spot that allows him to sit for a year or two and clean up the finer points of his game, he could turn into a star.

Bottom line, I would be hesitant to use a top 5 pick on a player with this many holes in his game. I’d consider him at 8 for the Eagles, but even then I would be hesitant. I think he should go in picks 10-15, but will likely go much higher given the dearth of quality quarterbacks in this class.

Jared Goff Scouting Report

 

Jared Goff Is Not An Elite Signal Caller Worth Trading Up To The Top Of The Draft. But He Has The Potential To Be A Top 15 QB, So He’s A Quarterback that the Eagles Should Target.

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

Compile a greatest hits tape of Jared Goff’s 2015 season, and you’d see a blue chip prospect destined for greatness: his accuracy, deft touch on deep passes, functional mobility in the pocket and ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes are truly sights to behold. But if you dig a little deeper in the tape, the warts start to emerge: his inconsistent mechanics, head-scratching interceptions, and odd habit of miss-firing on open receivers should give any franchise pause for concern.

Bottom line: Goff has all of the tools you want in a quarterback: the accuracy, vision, work ethic, intelligence; and if he gets under the right coach in the right scheme, he could become an elite quarterback.

But odds are he won’t ever reach that ceiling. He is too inconsistent to be considered an elite prospect or project as an elite signal caller. The safer bet is that Goff turns into a top 15 quarterback in the league, which, as we have discussed before, is what you need to realistically compete for a Super Bowl.

So while I wouldn’t mortgage the future to trade up to the top of the draft to get Goff — cough, St. Louis, cough — I would strongly consider making a move if he slips out of the top four picks. Let’s break this down by the numbers and game tape.

By The Numbers

Raw Numbers and Accuracy Chart

Goff’s raw numbers are impressive, especially when considered in the context in which they were achieved: without a competent offensive line or legitimate skill players. Here are his raw 2015 stats, courtesy of Sports-Reference.com:

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2015 341 529 64.5 4,714 8.9 9.4 43 13 161.2

But as you know, raw numbers in college can be misleading. That is especially true with completion percentage, where even middling prospects can put up gaudy numbers by completing a high percentage of passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and feasting on the weaker opponents on their schedule.

A better way to judge how a quarterback’s accuracy translates to the NFL is to break his throws down by distance and location on the field. This shows whether a quarterback is able to complete “NFL type throws” — i.e., those beyond 10 yards and outside the numbers.

This chart courtesy of Ian Wharton at BleacherReport.com illustrates how proficient Goff is with NFL type throws:

IMG_2691

As you can see, Goff has strong numbers on deep and intermediate throws. On deep throws, Goff completes 53, 75 and 48 percent of his passes.  We also see that these high numbers aren’t the result of small sample sizes: Goff attempted 88 passes that traveled beyond 20 yards. That represents 17% of his passes on the year.

Goff also performed well in the mid-range throws, completing 78, 69 and 62 percent of his passes, respectively. When we combine Goff’s throws of 11+ yards, we see an impressive total: 110/174, 63%,18 touchdowns, 9 interceptions. These numbers suggest that Goff won’t struggle with the transition to the NFL.

College Comps:

Spend a few hours googling scouting reports on Goff and you will come away with a broad range of quarterback comps: from Aaron Rodgers to Matt Ryan to Brian Hoyer and Jake Locker. (Hint, the hyperlink takes you to each report).

So I thought it would be helpful to compare Goff’s 2015 season to some of his contemporaries. Static will always exist with these types of comparisons, since each quarterback played on teams with varying talent levels and against different quality of opponents. But the numbers still give us some baseline from which to draw accurate comparisons.

Here is how Goff’s last season in college compares to the same seasons for Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Matt Ryan.

Goff

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2015 341 529 64.5 4,714 8.9 9.4 43 13 161.2

Andrew Luck

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2011 288 404 71.3 3,517 8.7 9.4 37 10 169.7

Marcus Mariota

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2014 304 445 68.3 4454 10.0 11.5 42 4 181.7

Jameis Winston

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2014 305 467 65.3 3907 8.4 7.7 25 18 145.5

Jake Locker

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2010 184 332 55.4 2265 6.8 6.6 17 9 124.2

Blaine Gabbert

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2010 301 475 63.4 3186 6.7 6.5 16 9 127.0

Matt Ryan

Year Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD INT Rate
2007 388 654 59.3 4507 6.9 6.5 31 19 127.0

Goff’s TD/INT ratio is obviously impressive, but so to are his yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt. His numbers are behind only Marcus Mariota, but ahead of everyone else — including Andrew Luck. That’s important because it reaffirms that Goff wasn’t dinking and dunking his way to gaudy numbers like, perhaps, Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker.

And from a big picture perspective, these numbers suggest that Goff is more Luck/Winston/Mariota than he is Gabbert/Locker.

But I’m hesitant to put him on the level of Luck, Winston and Mariota because of some of the  inconsistencies that I alluded to earlier.

Against Utah, Goff went 25/47 for 340 yards, 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Against Oregon, Goff threw for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he only completed 43.9% of his passes and threw an interception.

Luck’s season was more consistent in that regard — while he did not have any 5+ touchdown/0 int  performances like Goff had against Air Force and Arizona State — he didn’t have the ugly games like Utah on his schedule either. Indeed, Luck did not have any game in which he: (1) completed less than 60% of his passes or (2) threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Philadelphia’s favorite adopted son, Marcus Mariota, only had one.

Goff had three.

If we break the comparisons down into further detail, however, Goff still comes out favorably to most of his peers:

QB Sub-60% More INTs than TDs Even INTS/TDs 160+ Passer Rating 4+ TD Games 5+ TD Games
Goff 3 1 0 7 4 3
Luck 0 0 0 9 3 0
Winston 4 3 1 5 1 0
Ryan 6 2 3 1 2 1
Gabbert 4 3 2 0 0 0
Locker 6 3 2 2 2 1
Mariota 1 0 0 10 3 1

From a statistical standpoint, these numbers suggest that the Locker and Gabbert comps are off-base. Goff likely rests just below Luck, Mariota and Winston; a projection I am comfortable making because it is backed up by the film.

Breaking Down The Film

Goff’s game tape matches his numbers, filled with some “WOW” throws followed by some head scratchers. As a full disclosure, I watched the following game tape of Goff for this scouting report: ASU, Airforce, Utah, USC, Stanford, San Diego State and Texas.

Here is a quick chart breaking down his strengths and weaknesses, with analysis and game tape that follows.

Strengths

Weaknesses

Above average accuracy on short and intermediate routes Struggles at times with mechanics and consistency. Has a tendency to sail passes at inexplicable moments
Great accuracy on deep throws outside the numbers and up the seams Small hands (9 inches), which could be problematic in inclement weather
Excels at navigating the pocket and keeping his eyes down the field Sometimes misdiagnoses cover-2 zone, leading to interceptions
Good functional athleticism, enough to keep defenses honest and break off for a first down Did not play in an NFL offense or call his own plays
Ahead of his peers in the mental aspects of the game: able to manipulate defenses with his eyes and through pump fakes Slight frame
Can throw from multiple arm angles and in off-balance position
Adequate arm strength; he’s not Jay Cutler but he will have no problem making all of the throws
Flashes the ability to throw with anticipation – i.e., “throwing a receiver open”
Known as a film nerd and hard worker
Not afraid to stare down pressure and deliver a strike

Strengths

Mid-range Accuracy

Goff excels in the short to intermediate passing game, with precise ball placement on slants, hooks, and quick outs. The tape is filled with countless examples of Goff hitting receivers in stride, enabling them to gain yards after the catch.

One of the most impressive throws was this back shoulder throw against Air Force, which Goff completed despite having pressure bearing down:

Deep Ball Perfection

As we saw above, Goff excels with deep passing, especially on loft passes outside the numbers and up the seam.

But I’ll take the compliment a step further: Goff is the best deep ball thrower in this class, and one of the better deep ball throwers to come along in recent memory. It was almost impossible for me to narrow this list down — he seemed to complete at least 2-3 great deep balls per game.

Let’s start with this pass against Air Force:

For those of you counting at home, that’s a 60 yard pass hitting a receiver perfectly in stride. Goff released this ball right before he got hit — another thing in which he excels — and his receiver did not have to adjust his arms or slow down to make the catch.

This is one of my favorite throws from Goff, again against Air Force:

Goff is able to drop the ball on a dime between the safety and corner for the touchdown. Here is another angle:

One final throw, this time a 40 yard bomb for a touchdown against Utah:

As you can see, Goff’s accuracy and timing on deep throws is impressive. As we saw last year with Sam Bradford, when a quarterback refuses — or simply can’t — attack a defense deep it clogs up the offense. The defense jams wide receivers at the line without fear of the deep ball. NFL defenses will be hard pressed to do that against Goff; he consistently shows the ability to deliver the ball accurately and with good timing.

Pocket Mobility and Keeping his Eyes Down Field

One of the more underrated skills in a quarterback is the ability to navigate the pocket while keeping your eyes down the field. Too often we see quarterbacks who drop their heads when they sense pressure, or worse, take off before they let a play develop.

Goff does not have that issue, and next to his deep passing, this is probably the area in which Goff excels the most.

Against Utah, Goff was able to elude pressure with this spin move and complete a pass for the first down:

Watch as Goff scans to his right, senses the pressure coming, spins away and still has the wherewithal to get to his next read on the opposite side of the field.

I cannot show you the full context of this next play against Arizona State because the Vine cut short, but it is still worth showing:

For the curious minds, Goff ends up completing the pass for a first down. Watch his head closely; outside of when the defender almost tackles him to the ground, he never lowers his eyes to see the pressure. He consistently looks down field for the open receiver despite having defenders swarming all around him. That is some Aaron Rodgers/Big Ben/Tony Romo-esque maneuvers in the pocket.

Manipulating Defense With Eyes

Another area that Goff excels is his ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes and by using pump fakes. There are NFL quarterbacks who have not mastered this skill — cough, Geno Smith — cough, but Goff has shown no aversion to doing this at the collegiate level.

This angle doesn’t let you appreciate how Goff holds the safety on the opposite side of the field. But you will see that safety come crashing into the screen at the last minute, unable to stop the touchdown pass. That’s because of Goff looking to the left side of the field, which prevented the safety from providing help over the middle.

Grace Under Fire/Arm Strength/Throwing on the Move

To avoid going over board here, I am going to combine the last three categories into two throws. Goff consistently showed the ability to complete passes with pressure bearing down on him, as he did with this strike against San Diego State:

Goff quickly works through his progressions, senses the pressure and still has the ability to step into his throw and deliver a strike 25 yards down the field. While Goff’s arm strength will never be mistaken for Joe Flacco or Jay Cutler, we see here that he has plenty of strength to make all of the throws required in pro football.

Here is another good example of Goff’s arm strength, coupled with his ability to throw from awkward arm angles/while on the move:

Notice that Goff is moving to his left — which is never easy for a right handed quarterback to do — and still has enough zip to complete a pass 25 yards down field.

Here is a better view of the angle at which Goff delivers the football:

Plays often break down in the NFL, requiring a quarterback to improvise and deliver a ball from less than ideal positions. Goff flashes enough arm talent and strength to make those awkward throws.

Weaknesses

Despite all the talent in the world, Goff can be sporadic with his accuracy and short arm throws that lead to interceptions. I chalk this up to two issues. The first one I am reasonably confident in: Goff’s mechanics break down at times when facing pressure, leading to inaccurate throws or throws that lack power. The second one is more of a creeping suspicion, but it is the only explanation I can think of for when he miss-fires despite not being under pressure: Goff’s small hand sizes.

Faulty Mechanics

Like any quarterback, Goff’s mechanics can slip when he faces pressure, as it did here against Air Force:

Ideally, Golf would have his front shoulder facing his intended target and step through his throw towards his receiver. But if you look closely enough you can see that Golf’s body is parallel to the line of scrimmage when he releases the football. Inconsistent mechanics begets inconsistent results.

Hand Size

But there are other times where Goff simply misses on passes despite having a clean pocket and no obvious problem with his mechanics. My best guess — and this is just a guess — is that Goff’s hand size is causing him problems.

Goff’s hands measured at 9 inches at the NFL combine, causing a buzz on social media and among NFL teams. For those of you that think fixating on the difference between a 1/2 inch is silly, consider this: according to ESPN.com Insider, only 22 quarterbacks since 2008 — i.e., less than 10 percent of those at the combine  — had hands that measured 9 inches or less. The only quarterback to have success as a start is Ryan Tannehill. Outside of that, the quarterbacks haven’t done much in the league.

That might explain why we see Goff misfire on throws despite not being under pressure, like he did here against the Air Force:

It might also explain why his arm strength waivers on him from time to time, like we see on this flea-flicker attempt against USC:

That ball just dies on him after about 15 yards, forcing the receiver to drop to the ground to make the catch.

The larger the hand, the easier it is to grip the football, which in turn makes it easier to consistently deliver the ball with accuracy and power. I can’t say for sure that this is why Goff has a tendency to be off target or have passes die on him, but I think it is a reasonable conclusion based on the evidence before me.

Misdiagnosing Cover-2/Ball Placement Issues

Two final issues that popped up in the tape: misdiagnosing Cover-2 schemes and issues with ball placement.

While Goff has been praised as a cerebral player, I have seen several examples where Goff simply misdiagnoses a Cover-2 scheme, leading to interceptions:

I am not overly concerned about this — at least not yet — because it is likely something that can be ironed out over the course of his career. But it happened enough in his tape to warrant inclusion in the report.

The last couple gifs are more examples of Goff struggling — at times — with his ball placement.

Take this 10 yard slant that Goff completed against Utah:

This is an easy throw and catch, and one that Goff should be able to hit the receiver in stride with ease. But watch how the receiver has to lean back to catch the ball.

This may seem like nitpicking, but in the NFL, quarterbacks need to be precise with their ball placement. Being off several inches can mean the difference between a touchdown and interception.

Here is a more obvious example: if Goff delivers this ball in-bounds, it’s a touchdown. Instead, it’s two yards out of bounds, his receiver doesn’t even have a chance to make a play:

Conclusion

So where does this leave us? Goff has all the tools in the world that you want in a franchise quarterback: good size, accurate arm, cerebral player, with functional mobility to boot. But Goff is not as consistent as some of the other elite quarterback prospects that have come along. Which is why I project that —  if things pan out right — Goff will likely sit in the top 7-15 range of quarterbacks. Think Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning.

So I wouldn’t mortgage the future to go get him at the top of the draft, but I would definitely target him from pick 5-10.

Statistical Analysis of QBs by Round Drafted

 

Why Pinning the Eagles hopes on Drafting a Mid-Round Quarterback to Develop  Into a Future Starter is Fools Gold. 

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

There is a trendy argument floating around on #EaglesTwitter that goes something like this: the Eagles don’t need to use a high draft choice on a quarterback because they can just target one in later rounds and develop him into a future starter.

It’s easy to understand the allure of this argument, like a mouth seduced by a flame, many are tricked into believing this approach is valid when when they see the likes of Tom Brady (6th round), Russell Wilson (3rd round), and Tony Romo (undrafted) performing at high levels.

But this argument is the functional equivalent of planning your retirement based on winning the lottery. Ok, perhaps the odds are not that far fetched, but you get the idea. Because for every Brady, Wilson or Romo, there are literally hundreds of mid-to-late round quarterbacks that don’t even play a single snap in the NFL.

In other words, planning to get your franchise quarterback after the first round is the rare exception to the rule: a generational lucky roll of the dice that cannot be relied upon with any degree of certainty.

To figure out just how improbable this is, I relied on three data sets: one that I compiled, one compiled by the venerable FootballOutsiders.com, and one from NumberFire.com, an analytically inclined website known more for its fantasy advice.

To pacify my ego, let’s start with the simple data sets that I compiled: Super Bowl appearances and best single seasons based on Pro-Football-Reference.com’s approximate value metric.

Super Bowl Appearances By Round

Using Super Bowl appearances, we can determine which round is most likely to produce Super Bowl quarterbacks. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect statistic: Super Bowl winning teams are more than a byproduct of quarterback play. But it is a telling stat nonetheless.

Starting in 1990, here are the quarterbacks that have played in the Super Bowl and the round in which each quarterback was drafted:

Year                     QB (Round)                                   QB (Round)
1990 J Hostletler (3) J Kelly (1)
1991 J Kelly (1) M Rypien (6)
1992 T Aikman (1) J Kelly (1)
1993 T Aikman (1) J Kelly (1)
1994 S Young (1)* S Humphries (6)
1995 T Aikman (1) N O’Donnell (3)
1996 B Favre (2) D Bledsoe (1)
1997 J Elway (1) B Favre (2)
1998 J Elway (1) C Chandler (3)
1999 K Warner (Undrafted) S McNair (1)
2000 T Dilfer (1) K Collins (1)
2001 T Brady (6) K Warner (Undrafted)
2002 Brad Johnson (9) Rich Gannon (4)
2003 T Brady (6) J Delhomme (Undrafted)
2004 T Brady (6) D McNabb (1)
2005 R Grossman (1) P Manning (1)
2006 B Roethlisberger (1) M Hasselbeck (6)
2007 E Manning (1) T Brady (6)
2008 B Roethlisberger (1) K Warner (Undrafted)
2009 D Brees (2) P Manning (1)
2010 A Rodgers (1) B Roethlisberger (1)
2011 E Manning (1) T Brady (6)
2012 C Kaepernick (2) J Flacco (1)
2013 R Wilson (3) P Manning (1)
2014 R Wilson (3) T Brady (6)
2015 C Newton (1) P Manning (1)
That’s 26 games and 52 quarterbacks. The breakdown of appearances by round is as follows:
  • 1st: 28 (54%) (!)
  • 2nd: 4 (7%)
  • 3rd: 4 (7%)
  • 4th: 1 (2%)
  • 5th: 0 (0%)
  • 6th: 9 (17%)
  • 7th: 0 (0%)
  • Undrafted: 4 (7%)
The 6th round aberration can be explained by two words: Tom Brady. Otherwise, there is a very clear separation between first round quarterbacks and everyone else.
Best Single Season Based on Approximate Value
Have a gripe with evaluating quarterback play based on team success? Fair enough. Even if we focus on the best single seasons that have occurred from 1990-2015, based on Pro-Football-Reference.com’s approximate value, we see the first round picks carrying the day yet again:

Name

Year

AV

Round

Tom Brady

2007

24

6

Aaron Rodgers

2011

23

1

Steve Young

1993

23

1

Steve Young

1994

23

1

Steve Young

1992

22

1

Tom Brady

2011

21

6

Daunte Culpepper

2000

21

1

Peyton Manning

2004

21

1

Aaron Rodgers

2014

21

1

Drew Brees

2011

20

2

Daunte Culpepper

2004

20

1

Rich Gannon

2000

20

4

Jeff Garcia

2000

20

Undrafted

Peyton Manning

2006

20

1

Cam Newton

2015

20

1

Kurt Warner

2001

20

Undrafted

Steve Beuerlein

1999

19

4

Randall Cunningham

1990

19

2

Randall Cunningham

1998

19

2

Peyton Manning

2013

19

1

Warren Moon

1990

19

Undrafted

Cam Newton

2011

19

1

Philip Rivers

2009

19

1

Aaron Rodgers

2009

19

1

Kurt Warner

1999

19

Undrafted

14 of the top 25 single seasons were produced by first round picks. Undrafted quarterbacks produced the next highest total (4), thanks in part to Kurt Warner. Unsurprisingly, the second round had the next highest total (3), followed by Tom Brady holding down the 6th round (2), which tied with the 4th round.
In other words, 56% of the best single seasons were produced by a first round pick, only 2% points off the percentage of first round quarterbacks that have played in the Super Bowl during that same time period.
Football Outsiders Study:
Football Outsiders tackled this very question back in 2013, measuring quarterback success for all quarterbacks from 1994-2013. While the data is three years old, we haven’t seen anything to suggest that the data is unreliable to date.
It’s an exhaustive study worth reading, but I wanted to focus in on three relevant findings: win/loss record, playoff success, and leaders in single season weighted passer DVOA.
Wins/Loss Records
Below is the win/loss record of quarterbacks by round drafted:
  • 1st round: 1724-1614-5 (.516)
  • 2nd round: 440-413 (.516)
  • 3rd round: 196-246-1 (.44)
  • 4th round: 157-224-1 (.412)
  • 5th round: 33-60 (.355)
  • 6th round: 317-266 (.544)
  • 7th round: 124-195-2 (.389)

Again, we see a sharp decline after the first two rounds, lending credence to the idea that drafting a quarterback is a certifiable crapshoot after the second round. Heck, it’s even a crapshoot drafting quarterbacks in the first two rounds, but I digress.

And we see a spike in the 6th round, which — yet again — we can easily explain with two words, (say it with me): Tom Brady.

And before we get too excited about finding the next Tom Brady, consider this: 86 quarterbacks were drafted in rounds six and seven. 43.0 percent (37) of the quarterbacks have played zero games. So for every one Tom Brady you find, 37 more don’t even play a single snap.

Playoff Success:

Different metric, largely the same result. Quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds were much more likely to have success in the playoffs than their counterparts taken in rounds three through seven:

Rounds

1-2

3-7

Number

71

166

Playoff Games

Started

201

116

Playoff Wins

101

50

On Average Starts

2.83

.69

On Average Wins

1.38

.30

Without Tom Brady:

Average Starts

.54

Without Tom Brady:

Average Wins

.16

In other words, every quarterback drafted in the first two rounds produced, on averaged, 2.83 playoff starts, compared to .69 for quarterbacks drafted in rounds three through seven. The win totals were equally disparate, with the top rounds producing an average of 1.38 wins per quarterback drafted, compared to .30 for the later rounds.

And those latter statistics were inflated by the presence of — you guessed it — Tom Brady. If we removed him from the equation, the numbers are even less inspiring: .54 starts per quarterback and .16 wins per quarterback, respectively.

Weighted DVOA By Round:

FootballOutsiders.com also compiled a list of the top rated single seasons based on its advanced metric, DVOA. While there are slight differences with PFR’s approximate value ranking highlighted above, the end result is still the same: first round quarterbacks dominate:

Leaders in Weighted Passing DVOA (1994-2013)
Rk Quarterback Round Total DYAR PASS DVOA
1 Peyton Manning 1 25,299 32.5%
2 Tom Brady 6 17,498 26.9%
3 Aaron Rodgers 1 7,693 23.1%
4 Drew Brees 2 14,827 20.3%
5 Philip Rivers 1 8,772 20.0%
6 Tony Romo UFA 7,809 19.1%
7 Matt Ryan 1 6,381 17.1%
8 Ben Roethlisberger 1 8,065 14.9%
9 Chad Pennington 1 4,581 14.8%
10 Kurt Warner UFA 7,151 14.4%
11 Jeff Garcia UFA 6,404 11.8%
12 Matt Schaub 3 4,886 11.1%
13 Steve McNair 1 7,764 10.5%
14 Carson Palmer 1 6,779 9.9%
15 Daunte Culpepper 1 4,919 7.0%
16 David Garrard 4 2,859 4.0%
17 Byron Leftwich 1 1,608 3.4%
18 Matthew Stafford 1 2,478 3.3%
19 Donovan McNabb 1 6,229 3.1%
20 Eli Manning 1 4,698 2.5%
21 Marc Bulger 6 2,864 2.0%
22 Cam Newton 1 1,689 1.5%
23 Brian Griese 3 2,527 1.5%
24 Andy Dalton 2 1,410 0.6%
25 Jay Fiedler UFA 1,581 0.6%
Only includes QBs who debuted since 1994 (min. 1,000 passes)

As with PFR’s metric, 14 of the 25 top single seasons since 1994 came from first round picks. We are getting beyond the point where we can write this off as a statistical fluke, folks.

 NumberFire.com’s Study:
I am at the point at which the dead horse has been thoroughly beaten.
But for the sake of comprehensiveness, let’s top this off with another study done by NumberFire.com.
NumberFire uses an advanced metric called Net Expected Points, which essentially measures how much more value a player adds on a single play compared to what the historical average is for that very play. Taking it out of the abstract, here is a helpful example from NumberFire.com’s website:
The Chiefs may be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a third-and-two on the 50-yard line. That’s a ton of variables, but luckily, numberFire has data from the past dozen years of every single play, so most situations have come up at least once. According to our data, an average team may be “expected” to score 1.23 (estimated number) points on that drive. However, Jamaal Charles reels off a 32-yard run to bring the Chiefs into the red zone, increasing the “expected” point value of the next play to 4.23 (still an estimated number) points. Jamaal Charles then gets credit for the difference, in this case 2.96 points, as his NEP total.
Get it? Got it? Good.
NumberFire compiled all of the quarterbacks drafted out of the first round since 2000 that have finished in the top 10 of Total NEP in at least two seasons. Here is the list:
Quarterback Year Drafted Round Drafted Years in Top 10
Tom Brady 2000 6 9
Marc Bulger 2000 6 3
Drew Brees 2001 2 11
Tony Romo 2003 UDFA 6
Matt Schaub 2004 3 3
Russell Wilson 2012 3 3

136 quarterbacks had been drafted in rounds two through seven since 2000. Only five, or 3.6%, had produced top 10 seasons more than once. Only one undrafted quarterback — Tony Romo — fits the bill.

Needless to say, those are staggering odds.

NumberFire also found that of all the quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round from 2005-2011, not one ranked in the top 10 in Total NEP more than once.

Conclusion

To be clear: this is not to say that a team should never draft a quarterback after the first round or two. That’s nonsensical. But this is to say that a team should not plan on finding its franchise quarterback in the middle or tail end of the draft.
Drafting a quarterback is a lot like buying a suit. Sure, you can get a quarterback at a discount in the 5th round, just like you can go to Joseph A Bank and get a buy one suit get 18 free deal. But odds are the quarterback sucks as much as those cheap ass suits.
So buy the good suit, and draft the good quarterback. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.

On Doug Pederson, The Front Office and The Quarterback, Part 3

Sam Bradford improved considerably down the stretch, but key statistics suggest he might not be the Eagles long-term solution.

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

A quick note before we start: We are at the end of a three part series analyzing the Eagles head coach (read here), front office (read here) and now, quarterback. A special thanks to David Menard, who helped me with the Chip Kelly statistical comparisons in this piece. Give him a follow on Twitter @heyyou_ca.

The Eagles are at a crossroads right now, starring square in the face of a franchise altering decision that could have far reaching implications for the next half decade. What should the Eagles do with soon-to-be free agent quarterback Sam Bradford?

Debating the Eagles quarterback position has become an offseason tradition of sorts since Donovan McNabb was traded. It provides the perfect opportunity to pass the time between the end of another disappointing season and the eternal optimism that comes with the summer, when we somehow talk ourselves — yet again — into believing that “this year will finally be our year.”

The options facing the Eagles are simple: they can sign Bradford to a long term deal, let Bradford walk and fill the quarterback void via the draft and/or free agency, or use the franchise tag to evaluate Bradford for another year or trade him to a quarterback needy team.

The one option that can easily be dismissed is releasing Bradford outright. The NFL is starving for quarterbacks and Bradford showed enough promise down the stretch that, at a minimum, the Eagles should be able to trade him for a valuable draft pick (how valuable remains to be seen).

But choosing between the remaining options — signing Bradford long term or franchising him — is anything but simple. So I broke this down by using an easy decision making matrix: look at the positives, look at the negatives, and then come to a solution (profound stuff, I know).

When viewed through this prism, a clearer picture starts to emerge. Bradford undoubtedly has positives working in his favor: he has all the tools of a franchise caliber quarterback, tools that have tantalized scouts, coaches and football executives since he burst onto the scene during his Heismann trophy campaign at Oklahoma. We saw glimpses of those tools, first during training camp and the preseason, and then at the tail end of the 2015 season when he finally started to look like the quarterback we had all hoped he would become.

But sandwiched in the middle of those strong performances was a reminder why Bradford was traded by the Rams in the first place: his sporadic accuracy, faulty mechanics, and refusal to attack defenses deep were significant impediments to the Eagles offense. And when we take a step back and analyze not just the 2015 season, but Bradford’s entire career, the scales start to tip decidedly in favor of franchising Bradford instead. Indeed, we would be foolish to ignore the risk of relying on such a small sample size of good games from Bradford when making our decision. We would be remiss to ignore the impact that playing in Chip Kelly’s quarterback friendly offense had on Bradford’s strong play. We would be wise to recognize the limitation that Bradford’s risk adverse approach to playing quarterback (i.e., refusing to attack defenses deep) has on the Eagles ability to score points. And we must remember that any long term deal risks coinciding with Bradford suffering another significant injury.

Let’s break this down further.

In Support of Bradford

Bradford’s Improvement Over The Course Of The 2015 Season

If we look at Bradford’s season as a whole, his mediocre numbers largely mirror his mediocre career, leading to the inevitable conclusion that Bradford is nothing more than a mediocre quarterback.

Year Rec Cmp% TD TD% INT INT% Y/A Y/G Rate QBR
St. Louis 18-30-1 58.6 59 3.4 38 2.2 6.3 225.8 79.3 N/A
2015 7-7 65.0 19 3.6 14 2.6 7.0 266.1 86.4 41.83

But, as is often the case, extenuating circumstances exist which require us to take Bradford’s 2015 numbers with a grain of salt. Bradford came off a two-year layoff thanks to consecutive ACL tears, missed significant time in training camp thanks to rehab, and had to learn a new offense and develop chemistry with new teammates. So as I said back in training camp, some growing pains were to be expected.

And as we saw, Bradford’s play improved as the season progressed, which suggests that he was indeed rusty. If we break Bradford’s season down into halves, that improvement becomes apparent (Bradford’s rank among qualifying quarterbacks are in parentheses):

Cmp% Acc% Yards Y/A TDs INTs Drops QBR PFF Rate
1st Half 62.0 (23rd) 9th 1,766 (17th) 6.4 (32nd) 9 (20th) 10 (4th) 25 (1st) 31st -0.4 (12th) 76.4 (32nd)
After Week 9 68.2 (3rd) 4th 1,959 (21st) 7.6 (11th) 10 (20th) 4 (19th) 17 (12th) 17th 11.5 (8th) 97.0 (10th)

The two areas where he either maintained or regressed in rankings — total yards and touchdowns — were likely the byproduct of Bradford missing 2 1/2 games more than an issue with his play.

Still, those numbers aren’t overwhelming. At best, these numbers show that Bradford went from one of the worst quarterbacks in the league to middle of the pack.

But what if we limit our focus to the last five weeks of the season, after Bradford came back from injury? That was, without question, Bradford’s best stretch of the season:

Cmp% Acc% Yards Y/A TDs INTs Drops QBR PFF Rate
67.0 (9th) 4th 1,428 (5th) 7.2 (17th) 8 (10th) 4

(9th)

15 (2nd) 20th 10.9 (7th) 93.2 (15th)

These numbers are something worth considering. As I’ve laid out before, history suggests that on average, you need at least a quarterback that ranks in the top 13 of DVOA and DYAR to realistically compete for a Super Bowl. If Bradford could replicate these numbers for the entire season, he would certainly be within striking range of that baseline production.

We can also see Bradford’s improvement over the course of the season by comparing each game he played to how the rest of the NFL has performed against that defense. On the left, you see the averages for each defense that Bradford faced on the year. On the right are Bradford’s stats for each particular game. The numbers highlighted in green are the areas in which Bradford outperformed the defense’s average, the numbers in red are where Bradford under-performed.

You will notice a lot of red in the early part of the year, but  see that the green starts to predominate as we get down the stretch.

Averages                                                                Bradford

Team  Cmp%  Yards TD INT Rate Cmp% Yards TD INT Rate
ATL 66.0 249.9 1.2 0.9 86.9 69.23 336 1 2 77.1
DAL 65.2 241.6 1.2 .5 94.2 62.16 224 1 2 65.6
NYJ 57.1 248.7 1.4 1.1 79.0 50.00 118 1 0 73.2
WAS 62.5 274.5 1.9 .7 96.1 53.57 270 3 0 122.6
NOR 68.4 297.2 2.8 .6 116.2 71.11 333 2 2 88.5
NYG 66.3 307.5 1.9 .9 95.9 63.16 280 1 3 61.3
CAR 60.0 253.4 1.3 1.5 73.5 56.52 205 0 1 58.7
DAL 65.2 241.6 1.2 .5 94.2 69.44 295 1 0 103.4
MIA 64.6 264.1 1.9 .8 97.4 76.00 236 1 0 118.1
NE 60.6 263.1 1.5 .8 87.0 58.33 120 2 0 99.3
BUF 57.6 255.5 1.9 1.1 83.3 60.53 247 1 1 77.4
ARI 59.9 247.3 1.5 1.2 80.9 68.29 361 2 2 91.6
WAS 62.5 274.5 1.9 .7 96.1 66.07 380 1 0 91.4
NYG 66.3 307.5 1.9 .9 95.9 78.95 320 2 1 108.3

These statistics lend credence to what many of his supporters have been saying: Bradford struggled early on because of his time off from the game and his adjustment to a new offense. But once he became comfortable, Bradford’s play started to improve.

And to an extent, that theory is backed up by the tape as well. I brokedown the tape on Bradford four times this year (which you can read herehere, here and here). I can’t rehash all of it, but I do want to briefly cover some of the areas where we saw Bradford’s play improve the most: accuracy, throwing under pressure, and manipulating the defense.

Accuracy

Per PFF.com, Bradford ranked 11th in completion percentage on the year, completing 65% of his passes. But if we account for drops — which were an issue all season long for the Eagles — Bradford was the fourth most accurate passer in the league, with a 78.1 accuracy percentage according to PFF.com.

But accuracy goes beyond just completion and accuracy percentages. Ball placement is critical in the NFL. It requires quarterbacks to fit a ball through impossibly tight windows with regularity. That repetitive accuracy is what separates the good quarterbacks from the great ones, the latter of whom are able to carve through a defense with surgeon like precision to move the ball down the field.

Bradford struggled mightily with his accuracy early in the year, something which I attributed mainly to his faulty mechanics. But as the season progressed, Bradford’s accuracy started to improve. Whether it was building more confidence in his knee or thinking less on the field (or both), we started to see the pinpoint accuracy that was so often discussed during training camp:

Throwing Under Pressure

When the Eagles acquired Bradford, I was concerned with his inability to perform well under pressure. As this chart shows, Bradford was one of the worst passers in football when facing pressure in St. Louis:

Year Cmp% TD INT
2010 41.1 (23/29)* 4 (T-18) 7 (T-5)
2011 38.4 (23/24) 6 (21) 2 (22)
2012 41.6 (20/27) 5 (11) 2 (T-23)
2013** 38.8 (26/29) 2 (T-12) 1 (T-21)

About halfway through the year, Bradford was still struggling, completing only 44.6% of his passes under pressure, which ranked 26 out of 31 qualifying quarterbacks. His 4 touchdowns and interceptions also ranked 2nd and 3rd worst in the league.

But Bradford improved considerably as the season progressed and ultimately finished the season as PFF.com’s top passer under pressure. While you can (and arguably should) quibble with PFF’s ranking system, his numbers were still impressive: he completed 56.6% of his passes (4th best), had a league high 74.6% accuracy percentage, and threw the 9th most touchdown passes in the league.

Go back and watch the Arizona Cardinals game; it was an absolute clinic on how to deliver passes under pressure:

Manipulating the Defense

There are certain things that separate the best quarterbacks in the league from the mediocre ones. Repetitive accuracy, smart decision making, and manipulating the defense are near the top of that list. While Kelly prevented Bradford from making adjustments at the line of scrimmage presnap, Bradford was still able to show off the cerebral part of his game on occasion.

I’ve covered this play before, but it is the quintessential example of how a quarterback can outsmart a defense:

The player whose ankles Bradford just broke with his eyes is Carolina’s All Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. Bradford deftly manipulated Kuechly to open up the middle of the field for Jordan Matthews.

We didn’t see this from Bradford with any sense of regularity until the second half of the season. But it was an encouraging sign nonetheless, providing hope that Bradford could build off this next year.

All good things right? Let me channel my inner-Lee Corso for a moment: Not so fast my friends.

For starters, Bradford’s improvement occurred over a small sample size of five games. And as we have seen in the past, putting too much stock in good production over a short period of time is fraught with risk. (Remember Nick Foles?)

We would also need to consider two other factors that suggest Bradford is not the long-term solution: whether Chip Kelly’s offense has artificially inflated Bradford’s stats and how much value Bradford actually contributed to the Eagles.

(Note: this article was split up into separate pages due to its size. Please click on 2 to continue)

On Doug Pederson, The Eagles Front Office, And The Quarterback, Part 2

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, and Peyton Manning.

John McVay, Bill Walsh and George Seifert, and Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Kevin Colbert, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, and Big Ben.

The history of the NFL is replete with examples of Super Bowl winners having a strong general manager, a great head coach, and a franchise caliber quarterback.

The Eagles currently have Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and Sam Bradford.

Is this triumvirate good enough to finally end the Super Bowl drought that has plagued this city’s loyal fan base for over 60 years? In order to answer that question, I wanted to analyze each position — head coach, front office and quarterback — in a three-part series.

As I mentioned in Part 1 (which you can read here), it is too early — and indeed, impossible — to judge how Pederson will turn out. But we have enough information from which to draw reasonable conclusions on Howie Roseman (Part 2) and Sam Bradford (Part 3).

Digging deep into the Eagles front office leaves an indelible impression that you are watching an episode of “NovaCare 90210“: politicking and in-fighting begetting backstabbing and constant turnover.

A lot of the finger pointing has been aimed at de facto general manager Howie Roseman. And as we will see in a moment, some of it is justified. But by focusing all of our efforts on Roseman, we run the risk of ignoring the fact that Jeffrey Lurie is just as, if not more, responsible for the mess facing this Eagles franchise.

It Starts With Jeffrey Lurie

To be fair, it isn’t all doom and gloom.  Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Eagles have enjoyed their best run in franchise history under Lurie with a record of 186-148, a 55% win percentage that considerably bests the Eagles franchise record prior to Lurie’s arrival of 362-434 (45%). During his 21 years as owner, the Eagles have made the playoffs 12 times, played in 5 conference championships, 1 Super Bowl, and as Brent pointed out last week, have 12 seasons of at least 10+ wins, and only 6 seasons of below .500 football.

The level of consistency that Lurie has achieved is not easy in a league that is designed to manufacture parity.

But if we peel back the layers of this onion a little more, we see a clear delineation point between when the Eagles were close to the gold standard that Lurie espoused over a decade ago, to now, where they more closely resemble a model of mediocrity.

From 2000 until 2004, the Eagles were an impressive 59-21, a .737 win percentage. But for the next decade, from 2005 until 2015, the Eagles have amassed a 93-82 record, a .531 win percentage

What happened? What caused the decline? For starters, the team’s prime players of Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, et al, started to age, and the Eagles front office did a terrible job of finding replacements vis-a-vis the draft. That forced their hand to seek to fill holes via free agency, which, as we saw this season, is rarely a successful strategy.

All of this was occurring with a backdrop of constant turmoil and power struggles in the front office, as detailed by Les Bowen of Philly.com said earlier this week:

I’ve covered the Eagles since 2002 and what I recall is intrigue and turmoil, pretty much consistently. Reid pushed out Tom Modrak. Tom Heckert was Reid’s guy; when Heckert left, Joe Banner maneuvered into a greater personnel role, and arranged one for his protégé, Roseman. Roseman pushed aside Jason Licht, now general manager of the Bucs, after Licht privately disparaged Roseman’s “football guy” credentials, people close to the situation have said. Eventually, Banner was cast aside in favor of Roseman.”

In other words, these issues precede Howie Roseman, which is why it isn’t fair to completely blame him for the current state of affairs. The one constant through it all is the owner. Lurie has tolerated these types of power struggles for at least the last 15 years, which has led to a constant turnover that you do not see in the best NFL franchises.

Consider this:

Kevin Colbert has been in charge of the player personnel department for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the director of football operations and then general manager, since 2000. During that time he has worked with only two head coaches, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, winning Super Bowls with each.

Bill Belichick has served as the the head coach and general manager of the New England Patriots since 2000, winning four Super Bowls.

The New York Giants have had three general managers since 1979: George Young (79-97), Ernie Accorsi (98-06) and Jerry Reese (07-Present). During that time, they have had Hall of Fame coaches Bill Parcels and Tom Coughlin, and have won four Super Bowls.

The Green Bay Packers have had only three general manager type figures since 1992, and four head coaches during that time period (three if you don’t count the one year tenure of former Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes). They won two Super Bowls.

Ozzie Newsome has been the general manager of the Baltimore Ravens for 20 years, the only person to hold that position since Art Modell moved the team from Cleveland to Baltimore. He’s had three coaches during that time period, with the latter two, Brian Bilick and John Harbaugh, each lasting 8 seasons (and counting for Harbaugh) and each bringing home a Super Bowl trophy.

Since 1997, those five franchises account for 12 of the 19 Super Bowls.

Obviously talent goes a long way towards bringing in those championships. But we would be foolish to ignore that the best franchises all follow the same blueprint, a blueprint which is predicated on a foundation of patience, continuity, and playing the long game.

Under Lurie, the Eagles have never quite been able to get it right. Sure, Andy Reid coached here for 14 years, and for that, Lurie deserves credit. But the other three coaches under Lurie — Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, and Chip Kelly — lasted an average of 2.66 seasons.

And Lurie has cycled through front office executives like they are going out of style: from Modrak, to Heckert, to Reid, to Banner, to Roseman, to Kelly and now, back to Roseman, there has been a revolving door of executives that is robbing the Eagles of the continuity and consistency that it needs to compete with the best franchises in the NFL.

That is why any discussion about the problems at One NovaCare Way must start and end with Jeffrey Lurie. Until he is able to forge a front office that spends more time working together than they do looking out for their own self interest, the Eagles will continue to struggle on the field.

Roseman Has Made The Situation Worse

When evaluating Howie Roseman as a general manager, it’s important to separate the two discernible roles that the carries: talent evaluation/acquisition and fostering a productive environment in the front office.

The former category yields a mixed bag of results. Rosman is a smart guy that has a reputation for being an incredibly hard worker. He understands value better than most, and has proved especially adept at pulling off trades. He is analytically inclined, something the NFL needs more of, and has good discipline when it comes to managing the salary cap. In those senses, he seems to be the polar opposite of Chip Kelly.

Those positives attributes have undoubtedly played a part in drafting Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews, and Mychal Kendricks, trading for Darren Sproles and DeMeco Ryans, and signing Connor Barwin and Malcolm Jenkins. Good moves by any measure.

But his tenure as general manager has also produced first round busts Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith, second round busts in Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett, and free agent busts Nnamdi Asomugha, DRC, Vince Young, and Ronnie Brown.

In other words, some good, some bad.

But it is that second category that is hard to ignore. Roseman has a history of butting heads with many people inside the Eagles organization, a fact he acknowledged yesterday following the press conference to introduce Doug Pederson.

This issue has led to multiple reports that paint Roseman in an extremely negative light.  And while each of these reports can be explained away in isolation, it is the aggregate that makes it impossible to ignore:

  • Jason La Confora’s report in 2013 when the Eagles head coaching search hit a standstill, which stated “I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me one esteemed coach or another advised one of the Eagles’ top candidates not to take the job precisely because of Roseman’s presence there…The rumblings about Roseman lacking nuance and foresight, about him turning people off with how drunk with power he’s become, only grow louder as his coaching search grows stranger.”
  • Geoff Mosher, one of the best Eagles reporters in the game, has published at least three reports on the problems that Roseman has created in the Eagles front office. The first came in 2014, which pinned the Gamble firing on Roseman and alluded to a growing tension between Roseman and Marynowitz: “…bad blood in Roseman’s scouting department has been brewing and Gamble’s departure could be just the first shoe to drop. Assistant director of player personnel Ed Marynowitz has also butted heads with Roseman, the sources said.”
  • In 2015, Mosher followed up that report with a more in-depth look into what it was like to work with Roseman: “working with Roseman can be unbearable, especially in times of adversity. Roseman was so driven by fear of failure that he didn’t stick to the process and quickly turned on his staff when problems arose. Roseman was also distrustful of his staff, fearing that underlings would try to climb the ladder and snatch away his job the same way he did as he worked his way up the chain for 16 years. His paranoia either drove other talented executives away or landed them pink slips. That’s why guys like Jason Licht, Marc Ross, Tom Heckert, Louis Riddick, Tom Gamble and others had short careers with the Eagles as Roseman worked his way up. “He’s not a leader,” one person who worked under Roseman said. “He’s an authority figure.
  • Another report from Goeff Mosher on the problem in the Eagles front officeAccording to multiple personnel men who have worked under Lurie and Roseman, the team’s unconventional front office structure has enabled management turmoil to prevail year after year despite the rash of changes around Lurie and Roseman. The root of the problem is the flow of information from Roseman to Lurie, which is spun exactly the way Roseman wants it. So although Lurie is known to take “voluminous notes” about the goings-on in personnel matters surrounding his franchise, he’s essentially scribbling down the lecture coming from Roseman’s podium. “A toxic environment,” as one former Eagles personnel executive deemed it. Lurie trusts Roseman blindly and implicitly, which is the only reason to explain why he’s sat back and allowed several well-regarded football men to become fall guys when the Eagles didn’t win or made bad draft picks. Someone always pays the price — Marc Ross, Lou Riddick, Jason Licht — and now Gamble. Someone other than Roseman, of course.”
  • Louis Riddick has repeatedly ripped Roseman and the toxic front office he’s created. When Roseman was first demoted, Riddick had this to say: “And the people who shouldn’t be doing what they are doing are no longer doing it. I mean Tom Gamble, Jason Licht, I’m gonna throw myself in there… these are some quality football person. Some football people who really know what they’re doing. People who know the game, who have strong personalities. Let’s just say they went into Philadelphia one way and left there another way.”
  • When Kelly was fired in 2016, Riddick questioned why everyone but Roseman was held accountable: “I have no idea [why Roseman is still there]. Everyone else has been removed Everyone else has been held accountable except him.
  • Mark Eckel of NJ.com reported that Roseman had a hand in Kelly and Marynowitz being fired: “Howie has been poisoning Ed,” one person with knowledge of the infighting said. “And he has his people doing the same.” According to several league sources, the firings have Roseman’s fingerprints all over it. “I can’t believe it,” a long-time executive for an Eagles rival said when told of Kelly’s firing. “They did what? Are you serious? No, you’re kidding right? You can’t be serious.” When he finally realized it wasn’t a joke, he put the onus on the former and probably future general manager. “Howie got him,” the executive said. “He won. It took him some time, but he got to the owner, and he won. That’s just amazing. What is Lurie thinking? That place is just out of control.
  • Rueben Frank of CSNPhilly.com reported back in 2014 that Jeffrey Lurie thinks Howie Roseman is a messiah that can do no wrong‘But Lurie is fiercely loyal to Roseman, who’s risen through the organization from intern to GM and has been here since 2000. Lurie even kept Roseman over his boyhood friend, team president Joe Banner, when Roseman and Banner were locked in a power struggle a few years ago. “Jeffrey sees Howie as a messiah,” a one-time Eagles front-office exec said Wednesday. “Howie can do no wrong in his eyes.”‘ Frank went on to point out how a number of Eagles executives such as Tom Heckert, Jason Licht, Ryan Grigson (who accepted the Colts‘ GM job), Louis Riddick, and now Gamble have all been removed over the years while Roseman still remains.
  • A week ago, Frank cited another league source acknowledging Roseman is the problem: “Everybody knows Howie is holding back the organization,” an NFL front-office executive said earlier this week. “Everybody but one person. And that person is the only one who matters. Jeffrey Lurie. He just doesn’t see it.”
  • Just on Monday, Peter King, of SI.com, reported that one of the reasons that Tom Coughlin turned the Eagles down because he “wasn’t sure how his working relationship with Eagles football czar Howie Roseman would go.”
  • And during the confusing coaching search, Les Bowen and Jeff McLane insinuated that the Eagles did not interview Sean McDermott because of a personnel dispute he had with Roseman back in 2010.

Again, some of these reports should be taken with a grain of salt. La Confora reported that Roseman prevented the Eagles from hiring a coach, yet a few weeks later the Eagles landed their top target in Chip Kelly. Louis Riddick reportedly lost out on the General Manager position to Roseman in 2010, so it is not a stretch to imagine that some bad blood exists between the two.

But that’s still 11 reports from 8 writers, some of whom cited multiple sources. At some point, we have to accept that where there is smoke, their is fire. And that fire was all but confirmed yesterday when Roseman had to say this:

And this:

And this:

Again, caveats apply, and it would be extremely unfair to pin the Eagles mediocrity entirely on Roseman. But we cannot absolve him of blame either. While the rest of the league, and most of the fan base, has recognized these issues, Lurie seemingly has applied  the ostrich defense so far:

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It Can Still Be Turned Around

The good news is that this can all be turned around. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical. These issues have persisted so long that they seem systemic. But, failure has a funny way of humbling people. So maybe Roseman did self-reflect and grow this last year. And while the coaching search certainly left a bad taste in my mouth, perhaps hiring Pederson, who is described as a laid back guy, might be the perfect yin to Howie Roseman’s yang. If the Eagles can finally find the right mix, focus on building through the draft, and finding a franchise caliber quarterback, this thing can turn around quickly.

If not, perhaps Lurie will finally do what many thought he should have done this offseason: clean house and start over.