Power Play Between Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman Results in Front Office Shakeup in Philadelphia

By Jason Lisk
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The Philadelphia Eagles made major waves yesterday with news that Tom Gamble was out as vice president of player personnel. The team announced it as an “agreement to part ways,” but there were rumblings that Gamble had to be escorted from the building.

How big a move is this? Gamble was rumored to be a potential GM candidate in other locations, including Oakland and Chicago. He was considered to be Jim Harbaugh’s top choice if Harbaugh had stayed in the NFL and moved to a different organization (Gamble was in San Francisco before joining Philadelphia in the 2013 offseason, along with Chip Kelly).

Before he had that chance, though, he was moved, in what should almost certainly be seen as a power play within the Eagles organization. Jeffrey Lurie sided with GM Howie Roseman over the Chip Kelly/Tom Gamble side of things. A year ago, we were hearing rumblings about the disconnect and “philosophical differences” between Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco GM Trent Baalke. We saw where that ended up with a high profile former college coach and a front office after a year of leaks.

Back in November, Tim McManus reported about a growing divide between Roseman and Kelly.

There have been persistent rumblings about shifting dynamics behind the scenes: Namely, that Kelly and Roseman’s relationship has cooled and that the collaborative process between coach and general manager is not where it once was (Kelly and Gamble remain tight, per sources).

That article noted that Kelly bristled after leaks emerged that some in the organization including Roseman had soured on Nick Foles. Chip Kelly provided a response that seemed to fire a shot about who was in control of personnel decisions.

“I don’t know where that stuff comes from,” he said. “I know this, I know I control the roster. And I think you guys can say first-hand, I don’t talk to anybody. So whoever says they have a source in terms of what’s gonna go on with roster maneuvers or people going up and people going down, they never talked to the right person because that comes from me, and that never was the case.

In his post-season press conference, Chip Kelly delivered what could be seen as a back-handed compliment in football circles. Being a “cap guy” is the equivalent of being called a “game manager” in quarterback circles. He referred to Howie Roseman as being great at handling the cap. “He does an outstanding job of that. That’s his training.” Roseman’s training was not as a scout or former player or coach. Meanwhile, he called the now-gone Gamble “a heck of a football guy.”

According to NJ.com, those quotes infuriated Roseman, and two days later, Gamble was out. Back in October, I wrote about all the stuff coming out of Philadelphia about their superior culture. It sounds like that culture doesn’t extend to the highest levels, where a personality conflict may be playing out much like in San Francisco this past year. That article talks about how Kelly was tolerating Roseman this summer.

There have been plenty of divisive areas, from the release of DeSean Jackson, which was a Kelly culture move, to the recent drafts. The best draft class of recent years was in 2012, before Kelly’s arrival, when Howie Roseman was there before Tom Gamble and Kelly. Last year’s draft, heavy on college graduates, produced nothing with first round pick Marcus Smith (who was viewed as a reach by many draftniks) and only got significant production from Jordan Matthews. There may be a rift in the view of the quarterback situation, where Kelly seems to trust his offense to elevate the quarterback, but other options may be better long-term than Foles.

Last year, I wrote about how college coaches–contrary to some popular opinion–had been the most successful NFL hires in terms of playoff appearances. However, they also had the shortest tenures, compared to, say, NFL lifer defensive coordinators who were the least successful but given the longest rope. Why is that? It may have to do with integrating a culture of a strong coach authority figure used to running everything in college, with lifers in a front office who may bristle at the attention given the coach.

Harbaugh has moved on. Chip Kelly just got a major shot across the bow as an early 2015 present. If Kelly and Roseman can’t get along, then you may have another big coach story next season.

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