Fordham Law


Paul Domowitch: Roseman motivated entering first draft as Eagles GM

Howie Roseman '00 in Philadelphia Daily News, April 15, 2010

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HOWIE ROSEMAN is an easy target. There's his age - only 34 and already a general manager in the National Football League. And there's his background, which includes a law degree from Fordham, but very little - OK, nothing - in the way of put-on-a-jock-and-jack-somebody-up playing experience.
 
When he goes on a scouting trip, Roseman can feel the occasional cold stares from other league scouts 15 to 20 years his senior who gripe under their breath about the unfairness of this kid lawyer getting the opportunity to run an NFL operation while they're still beating the bushes as an area scout.
 
A couple of weeks ago, before the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb, a columnist for Yahoo! Sports, Michael Silver, did a nifty little hatchet job on the guy, blaming him for the team's difficulty in moving its six-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
 
He wrote that Roseman "wants to make a name for himself" by making a "sweet deal" for McNabb. Wrote that Roseman "is the guy trying to prove to the rest of the league that he belongs," and "seems to be on a mission to prove how shrewd he is to his peers." He quoted an anonymous league general manager saying, "Roseman is trying to be too smart for his own good."
 
The Eagles' general manager wasn't surprised by the column. The only thing that surprised him was that it took as long as it did for somebody to write it.
 
"There are people in the league who don't know me," Roseman said. "I understand that. Perception often becomes reality if you don't know someone. I've been guilty of the same thing.
 
"I'm comfortable in who I am and what I'm trying to do. I'm certainly not trying to prove to anyone that I'm smarter than they are or am trying to get something over on them. This is a bottom-line business. I and we are going to be judged by wins and losses and the talent that's on this football team. I'm comfortable with that. I understand that's how we're all judged."
 
The perception is that because he never played the game, Roseman can't possibly be qualified to be an NFL general manager. The reality is that there have been a ton of successful GMs with thin or nonexistent playing portfolios.
 
New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, whose team won the Super Bowl in February, is an accountant by trade. New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, like Roseman, is a lawyer who got his start as a salary-cap and contracts guy. Late Giants GM George Young, who won two Super Bowls, was a high school history teacher. Former Packers personnel chief Ron Wolf, whose dream had been to work for the CIA, was hired out of the University of Oklahoma as a scout by Al Davis because he was a whiz with names and numbers.
 
The perception is that Roseman is Joe Banner's Manchurian Candidate, promoted to GM as part of a grand plan by the club president to wrest control of the personnel department from head coach Andy Reid. The reality is that Reid is as powerful as ever and that Roseman wouldn't be the GM today if Reid hadn't wanted him to be his top personnel adviser.
 
"The whole did-he-play, didn't-he-play thing, I don't care about that," Reid said. "As long as you're good, and I think Howie is. I love his energy. I've loved it since I've been here with him.
 
"His eagerness to learn and his ability to evaluate, I think they're second to none. There are certain people that have an eye for [evaluating talent] and certain people that don't. He's got the eye."
 
We'll find out soon enough just how good Roseman's "eye" is. The Eagles have five of the first 87 picks in the April 22-24 draft, and 11 selections overall. With a solid draft, the Eagles could assure themselves of being a playoff contender for years.
 
"I believe that whatever you do in life, whether you're a writer or a general manager of a football team, there have to be some instincts there or you're just not going to be very good," Roseman said. "Hopefully, I've showed that through the process. And that gave me opportunities. And with the opportunities came exposure to other people. And then just absorbing as much as you can, like a sponge."
 
While Roseman started with the Eagles in 2000 as a just-out-of-law-school, cap-and-contracts adviser, he has been involved in scouting since 2003, when he was named director of football administration. He credits Reid and his predecessor, Tom Heckert, with helping him develop his talent-evaluation skills.
 
"Andy's been unbelievable," he said. "He's just been an unbelievable influence on me. Same with Tom. He and Andy and Joe exposed me to so much that has allowed me to develop."
 
Tannenbaum's rise through the NFL ranks was similar to Roseman's. He began his NFL career in 1994 as an intern with the New Orleans Saints after graduating from Tulane Law School. He initially focused on salary-cap issues and contracts, but also was involved in scouting.
 
"I started with [Saints GM] Bill Kuharich, and back in those days we were a four-person front office," Tannenbaum said. "So you did everything. It was a great opportunity.
 
"I've been around the game for a while now. It's more about the environment you put yourself in, and your passion to work at it and get better. In my case, I was fortunate to have great people around me. Just like with players, people in the front office have to make the most of the opportunities that are presented to them."
 
Tannenbaum, who interviewed Roseman for an entry-level job with the Jets in 2000 when he was the team's pro personnel director, thinks he will do a good job as the Eagles' GM.
 
"I have every reason to think Howie is going to be extremely successful," he said. "He's in a tremendous environment there. He's a bright, talented, hard-working guy who's willing to learn what he doesn't know."
Roseman has a couple of things going for him. One is that the Eagles have one of the league's more highly regarded scouting staffs, headed by director of player personnel Ryan Grigson and pro personnel director Louis Riddick. So he's getting pretty good input.
 
The other is that he doesn't have the final call, which is a good thing when you're 34 and still learning. While he'll have considerable influence on the draft-day decisions, Reid still is the guy with the finger on the button. If Roseman were to make an error in judgment, it still has to go through the head coach.
 
"No matter how much [responsibility] Andy Reid chooses to throw at Howie, at the end of the day, Andy still is going to make the decision on who to draft and who to sign and who to trade or let go," said an NFC personnel executive. "So he's got a safety net there."
 
Roseman has impressed Reid and Banner and owner Jeff Lurie with his energy and work ethic. He has spent a good portion of the last three autumns on the road, doing up-close-and-personal scouting, which is something Heckert rarely did.
 
While he still gets the occasional cold stares from some scouts, others are starting to come around.
 
"My perception initially was somewhat negative just because he didn't come up the typical way, on the football side of the operation," an NFL scout said. "But I had the chance to spend some time with him and came away pleasantly surprised. He passed my smell test. He wants to be a good football guy, and he's willing to put in the work to become a good football guy.
 
"He was more on top of the college game than I expected. I felt like he likes to be in the field, likes watching tape. I think he probably bristles a little bit at the non-football-guy thing and has developed a chip on his shoulder over it. But that's good. It probably drives him a little bit. Makes him want to work even harder to prove he can do the job."