Carson Wentz a Smart, Calculated Gamble by Howie Roseman

Howie Roseman seemed pleased with himself. And why not? Thursday was a big night for both him and the Eagles organization. As he walked into the NovaCare Complex auditorium, Roseman tried to suppress a smile forming at the corners of his mouth.

As expected, the Eagles took quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. It was the final component of a strategy Roseman started implementing after he was brought back from exile to reclaim authority over the front office. Wentz represents hope for the Eagles and their fans - but more than that, he's an avatar for Roseman's will. For as long as he's around, you will look at Wentz and you will remember why he's here and who made it happen.

When Rosemen addressed the media, he hit all the expected notes. He mentioned Wentz's "grit" and "fortitude" and "work ethic." He praised the quarterback's "knowledge" and "smarts." He called him "humble." And he naturally played to the crowd and the town, making sure to use the two words so many Philadelphians reflexively lap up: "blue collar."

It was standard stuff. But if those descriptions were prepackaged, there was brutal candor in an otherwise simple statement.

"One player can change your team," Roseman said. "For us, we know how important that position is."

There aren't too many lines to read between there. Wentz is the guy they want long term. The other guy isn't.

Sam Bradford isn't happy about any of this, of course. According to Adam Schefter, Bradford was "visibly upset" when the Eagles traded up for the second overall pick. After Bradford reportedly demanded a trade earlier this week, his agent went on the radio and explained how the Eagles wronged his client. His agent said "Sam wants to be the guy" (see story) - which is sort of hilarious considering  the Eagles keep insisting he's the starting quarterback. Between Bradford balking, the attendant locker room chemistry issues and the fact that the Eagles invested a lot of money and assets to secure three players at the same position, the situation might appear complicated to some. It isn't. Messy, maybe. Dramatic for sure. But not so complicated.

To the extent that anything in the NFL is transparent or easy, Roseman's motivation over these last few weeks seems pretty clear. In the process of moving the Eagles from the 13th pick to the eighth to the second, he reclaimed his organizational agency and undid the work of his one-time NovaCare nemesis Chip Kelly. If there was any doubt about Roseman's career resurrection, there isn't any longer. The man is fully in charge. No one could possibly deny that now. But while it was an impressive and improbable return to power, Roseman knows better than most that power is ephemeral. The next palace coup is never that far in the future for anyone running an NFL kingdom. General managers are deposed almost as quickly as they're installed. Roseman will be exiled again one day for good. It's inevitable. The only question is when.

That's what this Wentz business is about, and Roseman - from a selfish, careerist perspective - was right to enact the plan. Bradford isn't a solution to any problem worth solving. Neither is Chase Daniel. Wentz is an unknown. Figuring out what he can and can't do will take a while. Roseman willingly tethered himself to that timetable. It's a savvy strategy. If Wentz doesn't work out - if he's just another guy who was overhyped and then underperforms - Roseman will get fired. That would have eventually happened even if Roseman didn't gamble on Wentz and instead played it safe. At least this way Roseman bought himself some time. But if Roseman hits on Wentz, if Wentz becomes an above average quarterback or something special, he will extend his front office career with the Eagles by a significant margin. If that happens, if Wentz can play, Roseman won't just stick around for a while, he'll suddenly be thought of as one of the best executives the Eagles and the town have seen. Imagine that - Roseman's image once again recast in improbable fashion.

Those are big ifs, of course. The Wall Street Journal framed the Wentz bet as a losing proposition. According to the WSJ, "since 1990, there have been 14 years in which at least two quarterbacks were selected in the first 10 picks, according to Pro-Football-Reference. On 11 of those occasions, the player picked first proved to be more effective." Not great odds for Roseman. But, again, anyone in charge of player personnel for any franchise is faced with ugly odds. Either you take a shot and get lucky or you don't and you bust out of the game anyway.

There's a sentiment among some Eagles fans and media members that if Roseman is wrong about Wentz, it will set the franchise back. That's probably true, though it's amusing to think that an organization that's never won a Super Bowl, and that hasn't won a playoff game in forever, could get set back any further than it's already set itself back. There is risk here, no doubt - for the Eagles and Roseman especially. But there is also potential reward.

It might not work out, but it's not hard to understand why Roseman made the play. Jeffrey Lurie seems to see the logic (see story). In March, while Roseman was still moving pieces around the board, Lurie called Roseman's maneuvers "pretty outstanding in a league that values salary cap and draft choices." The owner said Roseman was thinking strategically. That's what this is - a strategy of obvious design that might even save Roseman's career. Again.

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