Just An Aberration?
Head-Scratching Collapse Summary Offered By Howie Roseman Raises Questions
One of the most transparent vices of pro and college football coaches is their tendency to present the most hollow, most disingenuous, most insincere offerings of accountability.
The NFL’s loudest echo chamber is at the podium of a losing head coach, where “need to do better” is the preset response to any and every question.
Andy Reid didn’t lose very often during his 12 seasons as Eagles head coach – at least compared to league average – but surely led the league in nauseating refrains of “I just need to do better.”
If “I Need To Do A Better Job” were a drinking game, the league’s entire beat reporter corps would’ve checked itself into the Betty Ford Clinic.
The concepts of players failing to execute, and of assistants doing a lousy job game-planning, simply don’t exist in the public lexicons of NFL coaches.
Behind closed doors, though, Big Red was never afraid to fly his Irish temper flag around those who actually did need to do a better job.
With that in mind, you had to feel a little for – maybe even tip your cap to – the most recent Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, who went above and beyond the template Wednesday in his anticipated end-of-season press conference alongside personnel chief Howie Roseman, who both looked like they’d rather be undergoing root canals than discuss the team’s 1-6 record down the stretch and 32-9 playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
Sirianni revealed he had essentially been relieved of his duties as architect of the Eagles’ offense; that he’d be hiring a new offensive play caller tasked with implementing a newer, more progressive scheme; that his milquetoast offensive blueprint welcomed “fresh ideas.”
He even used the word “stale” or “staleness” at least six different times in describing his team’s offensive implosion, promising that the 2024 version would be the “Eagles’ offense,” instead of “my offense,” as he insisted upon calling it whenever coordinator Brian Johnson came under fire.
Sirianni, on a tremendous self-own streak throughout the press conference, later promised to re-prove himself despite his 34 wins in three season, a playoff appearance in each season, a Super Bowl appearance that included a 10-point halftime lead, and a 67-percent win clip that ranks second among active NFL coaches.
“That’s how I feel right now,” he said. “That’s how I’m attacking this off-season. Just hungry to be able to prove myself again to Mr. Lurie and the faith that he’s had in me and Howie and the faith he’s had in me and the rest of the team and the city.”
Whether or not this reverse course was mandated from team owner Jeffrey Lurie mattered less than Sirianni’s impressive steadfastness in backing the bus over himself during the 20-minute session.
Simultaneously, it was hard not to notice Roseman sitting alongside Sirianni, clinging to a life preserver while the head coach nearly drowned himself.
Roseman, architect of the team’s 53-man roster, including a defense that careened to rock bottom as the season progressed, wasn’t ready to nose-dive on a sword.
The team’s executive vice president of football operations, who never made offers to his two starting linebackers from last year’s team before they bolted in free agency, oddly reminded reporters that “linebacker play was good” in 2017 and 2022 – the team’s last two Super Bowl appearances – perhaps not picking up on his own contradiction.
Roseman quickly diverted a question about the team’s underperforming pass rush into a discussion about linebackers and the promise of Nakobe Dean, who played five games in his second season and spent two stints on Injured Reserve.
But maybe the loudest alarm sounded when Roseman was asked how he felt this year’s roster stacked up against the only four teams still playing Sunday to get into the same game the Eagles played in last year.
“Sometimes you can have a vision, have a process, and the result is not what you want,” Roseman said. “So you’ve got to make sure that you’re not overreacting to a result that maybe just kind of was an aberration in the moment, and then you’ve got to look at maybe is the process right.”
If Roseman’s thinking is that bad luck – or some historical outlier – is the reason that Terrell Edmunds, Reed Blankenship, Nic Morrow, Zach Cunningham, Kevin Byard, Bradley Roby, and a group of undrafted rookies and second-year pros jockeying at nickelback couldn’t replicate the 2022 defense’s success, the Eagles have a much bigger problem.
Let’s hope Roseman just has a harder time playing “Hold My Beer” than Sirianni does, because the Eagles aren’t just one or two upgrades on defense – or the hiring of Vic Fangio – away from rebuilding their defense.
They need multiple reinforcements at multiple positions.
Roseman did “accept responsibility” for the defense’s shortcomings, but only at the end of a lengthy diatribe about reminiscing on “how many good people we’re going to lose” after last year’s Super Bowl and only after touting the “good, young players” they’ll welcome back in 2024.
He would’ve been better off just saying he needs to do a better job.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.