The Philadelphia Eagles are the latest NFL team to have a power struggle between their coach and their general manager.
According to widespread reports, the relationship between coach Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman has deteriorated.
On New Year’s Eve the team fired player personnel executive Tom Gamble. Kelly and Gamble reportedly had a close relationship. According to Mark Eckel of NJ.com, it was thought that the Kelly-Gamble alliance would try to force out Roseman:
During the season, Kelly joined Gamble on scouting trips and the alliance created tension in the front office. Some speculated that Kelly — a popular head coach with a massive contract — and Gamble would team to force out Roseman, and Gamble would be elevated to general manager.
Instead Gamble was escorted from the team’s facility on Wednesday.
The Philadelphia media painted it as a massive win for Roseman in the power struggle.
One source told CSN Philly that owner Jeffrey Lurie sees Roseman as a “messiah,” and beat writer Geoff Mosher wrote, “Given the bond between Kelly and Gamble and the tensions between Kelly and Roseman, it’s fair to wonder if Kelly will stick around for the long haul, even after telling reporters on Monday that he loved coaching in the NFL and his job with the Eagles.”
According to Eckel, the Kelly-Roseman tension increased on Monday when Kelly narrowly painted the GM as just a salary cap manager in a press conference. The quote:
“I understand [the salary cap], but that’s really what [Roseman] does an outstanding job of. I think since I’ve been here, one of the attractive things about this job, there are not cap issues. You don’t look at it and go, ‘Oh, my God. We’re going to have to cut 12 players because we’re going to be $US40 million over the cap.’ He does an outstanding job of that. That’s his training.”
That quote “infuriated” Roseman, Eckel says.
As Philly.com’s Jeff McLane notes, Kelly has never praised Roseman’s football knowledge since he joined the team.
We’ve seen power struggles like this cost coaches their jobs around the NFL over the last few weeks. The most obvious comparison is Jim Harbaugh — whose relationship with GM Trent Baalke and owner Jed York turned so sour that the team tried to trade him, and then allowed him to leave despite remarkable success during his four-year tenure. We also saw it in Buffalo, where coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract after his relationship with GM Doug Whaley had “fallen apart.”
There’s always going to be a natural tension between these two jobs. When asked about the Kelly-Roseman dynamic in November, Lurie said that a little combativeness in the front office can be a good thing:
“I see two really valued executives, Chip and Howie. Add [team president] Don Smolenski to that. These are three obsessed-to-being-good executives. They have different roles. They cross over at different points. But I think you know me. I like to surround myself with — not yes-men, but strong, opinionated people that are really dedicated to making us really good. That’s what those three do. I couldn’t be more proud of all three.”
But as we’ve seen in San Francisco and Buffalo, there’s a fine line there. Even if a coach has been successful — and Kelly has in his first two seasons — he can be out the door if the relationship with the front office collapses.
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