Late in Sunday’s 38-7 blowout over Minnesota, after the TV cameras showed celebrity fans Bradley Cooper and Charles Barkley cheering, just before they found Eagles owner Jeff Lurie clumsily dancing on the field, they panned to a skinny guy in the back of his luxury box – standing alone, too lost in the action to notice he was on TV.
Fidgety and unassuming as he looked, Howie Roseman deserved a moment of celebration as the real star power of this NFC title game. He built the machine that roared over the NFC, crushed the ‘Skol’ out of the Vikings and now flies on to challenge the Evil Empire in Super Bowl LII.
This Eagles roster boasts 25 players – all recruited or drafted by Roseman – who were not on last season’s 7-9 club. Sunday night, it seemed each one of them played a major role.
Retread CB Patrick Robinson turned the game early with a snaking 50-yard interception return for the Eagles first TD. That pickoff was created by DE Chris Long – another Roseman recruit – who bashed QB Case Keenum’s arm just as he threw.
Long also recovered a fumble after Keenum was strip-sacked by Derek Barnett, this year’s first-round draft pick.
Roseman added three new RBs this season, all at affordable salaries. LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement combined for 26 carries and 114 yards against a Vikings defense that had been compared to the ’85 Bears. The highlight was the Blount-force 11-yard TD run in the 2nd quarter that left four Vikings lying dazed on the field.
Roseman retooled the receiving corps last off-season, and it paid off Sunday night as Alshon Jeffery scored two TDs and Torey Smith added another. Jeffery came here on a one-year value deal and has since re-upped for another four. Smith, frankly, has been a disappointment most of the season, but is a respected part of the player’s leadership team.
Oh, and let’s not forget Nick Foles – whom Roseman brought home to back up young QB Carson Wentz. Every Eagles fan fretted when Foles had to take over as starter. But Nicky Six has found his groove after a few weeks of practice. He looked like the 2013 Foles Sunday night.
Roseman must take particular pride in Foles’ resurrection. It was just three years ago that Howie lost a public power struggle to Chip Kelly and was banished to the broom closet. He’s been mocked by both fans and insiders as “not a football guy.” But he stuck it out. And when Kelly blew up both the franchise and his own job, there was Roseman, waiting for Lurie to tap him on the shoulder to rescue his football team. Now he’s the NFL Executive of the Year.
To Lurie’s credit, he insisted that Roseman add a personnel wiz. And Joe Douglas – whose title is vice-president of personnel – has his handprints on many of this year’s best moves. There was concern in recent weeks that Douglas might be lured to another franchise looking for a sharp GM, but indications now are that he’ll be back for 2018.
And so here we are, the improbable 15-3 Eagles headed to the Super Bowl far quicker than anyone’s timetable would have projected. And while no fan is going to buy a Howie Roseman jersey to show his or her passion, hey, at least give the guy the respect he deserves.