PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Howie Roseman wrapped his arms around Doug Pederson on the sideline in the final minute of Philadelphia’s lopsided win over Minnesota in the NFC championship game and flashed a big smile.
The most criticized team executive in the city engineered a dramatic turnaround.
After finishing last in the NFC East last season, the Eagles (15-3) are in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots (15-3).
Radio hosts, columnists, writers, fans and even bloggers are not blasting Roseman anymore because he made all the right moves to build a team that’s one victory away from the franchise’s first NFL title since 1960.
It’s been quite a journey for Roseman, the once-exiled executive vice president of football operations.
Roseman rose from being a non-paid summer intern in 2000 to youngest general manager in the NFL at age 34 in 2010. But in January 2015, Roseman lost control of personnel decisions in a power struggle with former coach Chip Kelly.
Owner Jeffery Lurie elevated Roseman to his current position, but gave Kelly full control on the draft, trades and all player moves.
Kelly bombed and was fired less than 12 months later. Roseman, after spending a year self-reflecting, regained control over personnel decisions. He hired Pederson to coach and Joe Douglas to be vice president of player personnel and quickly began undoing the mess Kelly created.
Roseman traded players Kelly signed to horrible contracts — DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell — and built enough assets to help the Eagles move from No. 13 in the draft to the second spot. With the second overall pick in 2016, the team selected Carson Wentz from North Dakota State.
Wentz is the main reason Philadelphia was in position to get to the Super Bowl. He had an MVP-caliber season before tearing his ACL in Week 14 when the Eagles secured the NFC East title.
The Eagles didn’t crumble after losing their franchise player because they have a solid backup in Nick Foles . Kelly traded Foles, one season after he was offensive MVP of the Pro Bowl. Roseman brought Foles back last March, giving him an $11 million, two-year deal to provide insurance behind Wentz.
Foles shredded the Vikings and their top-ranked defense last week.
“It’s a credit to Howie and Joe to bring a guy like that in here who is very capable of getting the job done,” Pederson said.
Many of the players Roseman acquired before the season made big plays in the 38-7 rout over Minnesota. He signed wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, running back LeGarrette Blount and cornerback Patrick Robinson to team-friendly contracts in free agency. They combined to score Philadelphia’s five touchdowns.
“He’s a very, very smart guy,” Lurie said. “In the role today to be in charge of football operations, it is so much more than simply what has been in the past decades with scouting. Scouting is a big part of it, but you have to manage in so many ways short-term needs, midterm needs, long-term needs.”
The Eagles entered the season with modest expectations, but Wentz was spectacular and the defense was excellent. After a 7-1 start, Roseman bolstered the offense by getting running back Jay Ajayi from Miami for a fourth-round pick. Ajayi has become a valuable addition.
“We found ourselves in an interesting situation where this is Year 2 of the plan but we have a quarterback that was advancing by leaps and bounds and a team that was playing great, great defense, and an offensive line that was really good,” Lurie said.
“We thought: ‘Why can’t we win it all?’ We took an approach where we were going to do everything possible that could help our team this year, and at the same time not relinquish any options going forward. I think that was the key to the strategy. We were aggressive at the trade deadline because we thought we had a chance. Normally you wouldn’t do that, but we thought we had a chance.”
Other key starters Roseman acquired in trades or free agency since reclaiming his role as personnel boss: defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, cornerback Ronald Darby, safety Rodney McLeod, Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, left guard Stefen Wisniewski and kicker Jake Elliott. He also drafted starting cornerback Jalen Mills in the seventh round in 2016 and starting left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the fifth round that year.
The Eagles have overcome season-ending injuries to Wentz, nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, return specialist/running back Darren Sproles, special teams captain Chris Maragos and kicker Caleb Sturgis because of the depth of a roster Roseman put together.
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