June 13, 2024

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Eagles’ reworked front office: Has GM Howie Roseman consolidated his power?

8 min read

After an offseason that saw the most changes since 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles formally announced their new front office. There were 19 title/role changes and 11 new hires. The full list can be found below. Bo Wulf and Zach Berman break down what you need to know about the changes in the front office.

Biggest takeaway

Wulf: There is no direct replacement for Andy Weidl as a true head of personnel. Though Jon Ferrari and Alec Halaby were both promoted to assistant general manager, my understanding is the scouting side will still funnel up directly to general manager Howie Roseman. That leaves two directors of personnel (Alan Wolking and Charles Walls), a director of scouting (Brandon Hunt) and two senior personnel directors/advisors to the general manager (Dave Caldwell and Matt Russell) to either work together collaboratively or jockey for position.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it’s an interesting structure that differs from the rest of the league, especially because Roseman himself does not come from a traditional scouting background. Again, none of this is necessarily bad, but it’s notable that the three highest-ranking employees in football operations are not scouts by nature. After shepherding an impressive roster turnaround over the course of two offseasons, Roseman seems to have fully consolidated front-office power.

Berman: My biggest takeaway was similar — it’s the lack of a personnel head and the advent of two assistant GM roles going to people who have not risen in the personnel ranks. It’s important to innovate and evolve. Frankly, professional football can be slower than other businesses in this area. You should never do something simply because “it’s the way things have been done before.” So the change shouldn’t be interpreted as bad. However, one also cannot ignore why a system was established in the first place.

I was there in 2016 when Roseman returned to power after a one-year sabbatical and owner Jeffrey Lurie emphasized the importance of hiring a player personnel executive. I was there in 2017 when Lurie called the hiring of Joe Douglas “the pivotal moment of the past year” and explained how that hire was key for Roseman’s front office. For the Eagles to deviate from the structure they felt was essential when restarting the operation post-Chip Kelly is especially noteworthy.

There’s no shortage of voices in this new structure, while some are more established than others. But the chain of command becomes more nebulous, and there appears to be less of a funnel up to Roseman. If you’re making a flow chart, start with Roseman’s name and leave room for plenty of lines going directly to him.

I try to avoid the label of “football guy” because I think that becomes a trope and belittles the range of experiences and skills that go into the job. And I also understand why Roseman would value internal promotions because there’s merit to rewarding those who do good work and have growth potential.

But when it comes to the range of experience and skills, it’s worth noting that the Eagles now have two assistant general managers who haven’t worked for any other NFL teams and whose career ascensions have come under Roseman’s leadership. It should be important for the front office to welcome different ideas and approaches and create an environment where the status quo is challenged. Those jobs must provide perspective and not simply be trusted lieutenants. Otherwise, as Bo framed it, it becomes even more of a case of “fully consolidated front-office power.”

Most intriguing internal promotion

Wulf: The Eagles have long invested in their analytics department under Jeffrey Lurie. Not only is Halaby’s promotion to assistant general manager notable, but two promotions within the analytics department (James Gilman from assistant director of football analytics to director of football analytics and Jon Liu from football operations analyst to assistant director of football analytics) and the hiring of a new quantitative analyst (Zach Drapkin) were also buried within the list of front-office changes. That makes at least four full-time employees under Halaby in the analytics department according to the front office roster on the team’s website.

For all the intrigue surrounding that department, the sweeping promotions send a pretty clear message that Roseman is happy not only with their performance but the way they’ve meshed with the new coaching staff.

And after losing four employees to assistant general manager jobs this offseason, Roseman dished out that title for the first time in his tenure to both Ferrari and Halaby. That means, in all likelihood, they won’t be leaving unless it’s for a general manager job elsewhere.

Berman: Dom DiSandro, the team’s security chief, going from vice president of team security to special assistant to the general manager is a fascinating title change. DiSandro, both in his job overseeing security and with his deep knowledge of players and teams from the past decade, has a complex understanding of the backgrounds and personalities of the players on the roster.

“There’s nobody better in the (NFL) than Dom DiSandro about getting to the bottom of guys and figuring out guys and talking to guys and understanding who are risks and who are fits for this team,” Roseman said in April. “He knows our team backwards and forwards. He knows the players that fit for our culture, for our team and our city.”

I would guess that teams miss more often on the person than the player. There is a draft adage to “trust the tape,” which has validity. However, every team has access to the same tape. There can be interpretation and projection, but the available on-field reference points are the same. It would be advantageous to teams to have a better or more nuanced understanding of the person they are acquiring as that would better project how he’ll fit in the organization and the market.

Of course, scouts do this, too. That’s a major part of what they try to decipher. DiSandro knows the players on the team perhaps better than anyone on the organizational flow chart. If I were a general manager, I’d invest as much as I could in understanding the person. DiSandro strikes me as someone who can contribute in that area.  If that is the spirit behind the promotion (which is more than simply a title bump), then kudos to the Eagles for thinking that way.

Most intriguing external hire

Wulf: I think it’s Walls, who makes a significant jump from national scout with the Browns to one of two directors of player personnel with the Eagles. You can sort of read between the lines of the poaching done between the two teams that the Browns and Eagles value similar characteristics in their employees. I don’t think the John Maddenism about having two quarterbacks meaning you have none applies to directors of player personnel, but it is an interesting dynamic.

When Roseman promoted Ian Cunningham and Brandon Brown last offseason, the idea was to cross-train the two of them in their areas of less experience (Cunningham had a college background and would be exposed more to pro scouting, vice versa for Brown). One wonders if that will be the case in this setup with Walls and Wolking spending more time on the pro side than they did in the past and Hunt spending more time on the college side. Wolking, meanwhile, continues his rise up the only NFL organization for which he’s worked. Only senior director of college scouting Anthony Patch has been with the team longer on the scouting side.

Berman: I’ll also go with Brandon Hunt, who was hired away from Pittsburgh as the director of scouting. Hunt, who had been the pro scouting coordinator for the Steelers, interviewed for Pittsburgh’s GM job and was also a candidate for Las Vegas’ GM vacancy. He has been with the Steelers since 2010, maintaining a role in a respected front office working under Kevin Colbert.  Hunt comes highly regarded, and the Eagles have tried to hire him in the past. Although his experience has mostly been on the pro scouting side, he’ll have an opportunity to take on a bigger role in Philadelphia.

It’s worth noting Roseman essentially created a title for Hunt; the Eagles haven’t had a “director of scouting” in the past. It’s one that the Patriots used for Eliot Wolf this offseason. Wolf has similarly been a GM candidate elsewhere, so that could be a reference for the type of role Hunt will have in the Eagles front office.

The optimist says …

Wulf: If the goal is for everyone in the organization to be pulling in the same direction, a staff compiled of Roseman loyalists makes a lot of sense. And if this is the continuation of the process that led to the moves of the last two offseasons, all the better.

Berman: If you believe you’re hiring smart, talented people, then they should be poached for bigger jobs elsewhere. If other teams aren’t interested in your employees, they’re not as talented as you think. So the turnover is both a good thing and to be expected, and it’s an opportunity to reimagine a front office that’s progressive and forward-thinking rather than just trying to fill desk chairs.

The pessimist says …

Wulf: Let’s see what happens when times get tough.

Berman: There’s a reason the Eagles wanted a strong personnel executive in the first place. Also, brain drain poses challenges. Internal promotions can be beneficial — reward those who you’re with every day, and you have more insight on them than anyone else — but they can also lead to hiring the candidates that provide the most comfort.


Title changes

Football Operations

• Jon Ferrari – Assistant General Manager
Alec Halaby – Assistant General Manager
Dom DiSandro – Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Chief Security Officer
Bryce Johnston – Vice President of Football Transactions and Strategic Planning
Paul Lancaster – Senior Director of Player Engagement
Connor Barwin – Director of Player Development
James Gilman – Director of Football Analytics
Jeff Scott – Director of Football Operations
• Jon Liu – Assistant Director of Football Analytics
Kathy Mair – Player Resource Coordinator/Assistant Director of Player Engagement
Patrick McDowell – Player Development Assistant/Scout
• Nick Still – Assistant Equipment Manager

Scouting

Dave Caldwell – Senior Personnel Director/Advisor to the General Manager
Alan Wolking – Director of Player Personnel
Phil Bhaya – Director of Draft Management
Max Gruder – Director of Pro Scouting
Ameena Soliman – Director of Personnel Operations/Pro Scout
Ryan Myers – Assistant Director of College Scouting
Matt Holland – Senior College/Pro Scout

New hires

Football Operations

• Zach Drapkin – Quantitative Analyst
Marlon Sanders – Video Assistant
Elsie Reyes – Administrative Assistant, Football Operations

Scouting

• Matt Russell – Senior Personnel Director/Advisor to the General Manager
Brandon Hunt – Director of Scouting
Charles Walls – Director of Player Personnel
Jeremy Gray – Assistant Director of Pro Personnel
Jordon Dizon – National Scout
Jarrod Kilburn – College/Pro Scout
Rod Streater – Northeast Area Scout
Ben Ijalana – Scouting Assistant

(Photo of Howie Roseman: Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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