Browns and Eagles have under the radar rivalry
The Philadelphia front office was, once upon a time, regarded as one of the NFL's best.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Just as former Eagles president and current Browns CEO Joe Banner was being vilified in Philadelphia for a few bad drafts on "Black Monday", he was remaking the Cleveland franchise in his image, jettisoning both general manager Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur.
Interestingly both Heckert and Shurmur worked extensively with Banner in the City of Brotherly Love.
Heckert reported to Banner with the Eagles from 2001-2009, first as director of player personnel before ascending to general manger by '06. Shurmur, meanwhile, was the team's tight ends coach before moving on to mentor the quarterbacks from 1999 to 2008. Both were "Andy Reid guys," however.
The Eagles organization is an interesting case study in ego. While never the "Gold Standard" as once claimed by team owner Jeffrey Lurie, the Philadelphia front office was, once upon a time, regarded as one of the NFL's best.
Lurie was content behind the scenes. Banner was brilliant at running day-to- day business operations and Reid put together quite a staff both on the field and in the personnel department, having the final say in all football related matters with Heckert serving as his "rubber-stamp general manager."
It was a storybook operation, resulting in five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance until hubris and Reid's troubled sons took things off the rails.
Most trace the Eagles' downfall back to Reid's leave of absence after his sons were both arrested on drugs and weapons charges back in February of 2008.
In the ensuing months, Reid lost some power in the organization to Banner, who replaced Heckert with his own protege, Howie Roseman.
By all accounts Banner and Roseman, two salary cap guys, got a taste of what it was like to put together a team. Neither had much of a resume as talent evaluators but both men thought they did a better job than Reid, the life-long football guy.
When things started to go south quickly, fingers started pointing and Banner, despite his long time friendship with Lurie, was forced out of the organization.
After a dismal 4-12 season in 2012 Reid was the next to be shown the door on Monday with Roseman, the youngest general manager in football, being made up to be Ron Wolf by a smitten Lurie.
"I keep voluminous notes on talent evaluation -- not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each person that is in the organization that's working here," said Lurie. "And I came to the conclusion that the person who was providing by far the best talent evaluation in the building was Howie Roseman."
Lurie wouldn't play the blame game and name names but noticeably placed the lightly-regarded Roseman above the fray, giving his new right-hand man a get out of jail free card in front of the notoriously tough Philly media.
"I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason, and that's the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for," Lurie said.
That means someone other than Roseman, either Banner, Reid or former personnel chief Ryan Grigson, who is doing quite a job in Indianapolis these days, was to blame for the disastrous 2011 Eagles draft, which unleashed Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett on the city.
"The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie's evaluations and I think it was important for me to own up to the mistakes that were made and understand where they were coming from and it was awfully clear," the Birds owner said.
Since Reid has the history and Grigson is a candidate for 2012 NFL Executive of the Year as the Colts general manager, it's pretty clear Banner was "the problem," at least in Lurie's eyes.
New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam thinks Roseman turned on Banner and grifted Lurie. So Haslam gave the keys of his organization over to Banner, who promptly fired his two old employees, taking a quick swipe at Shurmur's leadership skills in the process.
"The top quality in a coach that we're going to look for going forward is somebody with some really strong dynamic leadership," Banner said. "I think there was also an element of feeling the need to kind of maybe create a fresh energy and a fresh start."
That fresh start would presumably be NFL Flavor of the Month Chip Kelly and his 13-seconds-or-less-offense.
But, guess who also wants the University of Oregon coach?
Survey says ... Roseman.
"I've got a game to play," Kelly said during the Fiesta Bowl's media day on Monday when asked about the NFL. "We're playing in the Fiesta Bowl. That's the biggest thing in my life. If I allowed other things to get into my life, then they would be distractions, but there aren't. Our focus 100 percent is on the Fiesta Bowl."
Kelly, who is 45-7 in four years as head coach at Oregon, turned down Tampa Bay last offseason after effectively agreeing to take the job but with possible NCAA sanctions hanging over Oregon like a Sword of Damocles now, it's probably time for Kelly to flee the Pacific Northwest.
Someone is going to get Kelly and both the Browns and Eagles want him.
It's the mentor versus the protege, the Jedi trying to hold off his Padawan.
This time, however, any veil of secrecy is long gone and both Banner and Roseman will be held accountable moving forward.
NFL POWER POLL
The Sports Network's final regular season NFL Power Poll, which ranks all 32 league teams, can be found here.
Wild Card Weekend: (All Times Eastern)
Cincinnati (10-6) at Houston (12-4), Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
LINE: Texans by 4 1/2
THE SKINNY: The 2012 postseason starts with the Bengals visiting the Texans for the second consecutive year. A season ago, Houston's Arian Foster rushed for 153 yards and two TDs as the Texans knocked off Cincinnati 31-10.
"We're in the same exact spot we were last year, playing at home against Cincinnati," said Texans center Chris Myers. "One thing that we have on our side is that we're playing in our home stadium and we've got to use that to our advantage. We've got to go into the playoffs with a fresh start."
The Texans lost three of four to end the season and blow a potential first round bye but are plenty talented, leading he AFC with eight Pro Bowl selections.
"This month decides everything," said Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt, who led the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks. "We still have everything in front of us."
The Bengals enter the postseason having won seven of their last eight games, including the final three to close out the regular season.
"Our guys realize that just being in the playoffs is not what we're here for," said Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis. "We want to go win the championship. That's what it's all about. We're starting over and we realize how critical that is."
PREDICTION: Texans 31, Bengals 20
Minnesota (10-6) at Green Bay (11-5), Saturday, 8 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 8
THE SKINNY: The back end of a rare home-and-home NFL set will take place Saturday night at Lambeau Field when the Vikings and Packers knock heads again.
In Week 17, Minnesota MVP candidate Adrian Peterson rushed for 199 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Vikings defeated Green Bay to advance to the postseason. Rookie Blair Walsh kicked the game-winning field goal to push Minnesota into the playoffs and set up a rematch at Lambeau Field on Wild Card Weekend.
"We came in and accomplished the ultimate goal, which was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs," said Peterson, who finished with 2,097 rushing yards, the second-most in a season in league history and just nine shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's NFL record (2,105 in 1984).
Peterson recorded seven games with at least 150 rushing yards in 2012, matching Earl Campbell (1980) for the most in NFL history. In two meetings against the Packers this year, A.P. rushed for 409 yards (204.5 per game).
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, led the NFL with a 108.0 passer rating, the second consecutive season he has topped the league. Entering the 2012 playoffs, Rodgers has the highest passer rating (105.5) in NFL postseason history.
"It's playoff football," said Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. "The door is open for the playoffs to begin. We're one of six NFC teams with the opportunity to go to New Orleans. That's what we're focused on. This is the time of year we live for and work for. Our players know what this is all about. It's the playoffs."
PREDICTION: Packers 24, Vikings 23
Indianapolis (11-5) at Baltimore (10-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Ravens by 6 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Colts return to their former home city hot, having won nine of their final 11 regular season games and becoming just the second team in NFL history to win at least 11 games following a season with two or fewer victories. In Week 17's 28-16 win over Houston, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano made his triumphant return to the sidelines after a three-month leave for chemotherapy treatments for leukemia.
"This has been a great year, a storybook ending," said Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne. "Let's keep it going. Hopefully we can continue to write this movie."
Baltimore enters the postseason as the AFC North champions but started the 2012 campaign at 9-2 before faltering down the stretch and finished by losing four of five.
"This team's getting healthy and we're going to hit our stride going forward in the playoffs," said Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.
PREDICTION: Ravens 27, Colts 17
Seattle (11-5) at Washington (10-6), Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 3
THE SKINNY: Rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III of Washington and Russell Wilson of Seattle lead their teams into the playoffs. RG3 (102.4) and Wilson (100.0) are the only freshman quarterbacks in NFL history to post 100-plus passer ratings.
Both have been complemented by strong running games. For the Redskins, rookie running back Alfred Morris finished second in the NFL with a team-record 1,613 rushing yards. The Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch, meanwhile, ranked third in the league with 1,590 yards and was selected to his second Pro Bowl.
As a whole Seattle and Washington enter the postseason as two of the hottest teams in the league. The Seahawks have won five in a row and seven of their past eight while the Redskins are riding a seven-game winning streak and are just the fifth team in NFL history to make the playoffs after a 3-6 start.
"This is a big deal to finish like this and win all these games in a row," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "We finished the regular season and now we'll start it up again with a new season. We're really excited about that."
PREDICTION: Seahawks 20, Redskins 17