PHILADELPHIA -- With the Eagles' personnel and coaching staffs working side by side in Mobile, Ala., for this week's Senior Bowl, the eternal question of final say is worth contemplating.
The Eagles have long chosen to present their personnel decisions as "Eagles" decisions -- without delineating who, exactly, makes the final call on draft picks and free-agent signings. That has led to some serious issues: the claim that Andy Reid demanded final say two years ago (a decade after he was granted final say), or owner Jeff Lurie's declaration that general manager Howie Roseman was blameless for all drafts before 2012 (while Roseman, to his credit, accepted his share of responsibility for the Danny Watkins pick, among others).
Roseman talked to some of the reporters covering the Senior Bowl practices this week. He described the process a little bit. His personnel staff works full time to evaluate college players all fall. By the time the offseason arrives, the personnel staff has whittled down the number of potential prospects for the coaching staff to consider.
"Our first job as a personnel department is to try and narrow it down," Roseman said, according to philadelphiaeagles.com. "We spend a lot of time on 600 guys, making it down to 400, making it down to 200, making it down to a manageable number for our coaches."
Head coach Chip Kelly said last year that he doesn't consider himself a personnel guy. He's a coach. But Kelly does know what he wants in the players who will run his offensive and defensive schemes, and it's vital for Roseman and the personnel people to be on the same page with Kelly and his staff.
"He's always going to be a part of the process and that's the partnership that you have with your head coach," Roseman said. "You want to make sure that you're putting in front of him players that fit what he's looking for and that he can evaluate them as well."
As for final say, I think it's seldom as big a deal as it appears on the outside. After months of evaluations and discussion, the draft board really is a collaboration between the personnel staff and the coaches. It has to be. Roseman has no incentive to force a player he likes on a coach who doesn't want him. Ultimately, the coaches decide who is on the 53-man roster, who is active on Sundays and who is on the field and on the sideline.
Here's an example: I was told years ago that Reid preferred offensive lineman John Welbourn in the 1999 draft while personnel man Tom Modrak really liked Doug Brzezinski. The point being made to me was that Welbourn had a longer career, therefore Reid made a better evaluation.
But Reid was the coach. He decided which player was on the field more. He determined whether a mistake was proof a guy was overmatched or merely part of the developmental process. That's not an indictment of Reid, either. This is what goes on with every coach and every player on every team.
The point is, winning organizations develop a cohesive way for the personnel side and the coaching staff to collaborate. Assigning blame and pointing fingers result when things go wrong.