How Persistent Letter-Writing Got Eagles GM Howie Roseman His NFL Start

Super Bowl LVII presents a dilemma for me: I’m not sure who to root for.

My roots are planted deeply in both organizations, having hired Eagles GM Howie Roseman and Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and being in Philadelphia all that time as team president, with many familiar faces still in that organization.

Brett Veach, the GM of the Chiefs, started his career in Philadelphia as an intern. And Matt Nagy was the ball boy for practice with us in Philadelphia. He rose through the coaching ranks, went to Kansas City with Andy, became a head coach in Chicago, and is now back with the Chiefs.

There are so many people I saw grow up in the Eagles organization, from the baby stage in their NFL careers to now being the people who are going to decide who wins the Super Bowl. It’s kind of incredible to think back about it.

So, yeah, I’m having this dilemma. I probably could get in trouble with either side if I actually went any deeper into it.

I do, however, want to share a story about Roseman, who last week won his second Executive of the Year award. It’s a story of persistence and determination, of being undeterred no matter how bleak a situation might look or how many obstacles are placed in front of you. It’s a story of fearlessness. It’s also a story about picking yourself back up after falling.

At some point in the late 1990s, I started getting letters from a young man who identified himself as a recent graduate of Fordham Law School and a University of Florida undergrad. He thought he could become a great NFL GM, but he had no practical experience in football. None. Never played the game, never coached it. He was never even a ball boy.

Receiving letters from complete strangers was not all that unusual. You would be shocked at how many people write letters with inquiries about how to get into the field. Even if you’re at the NFL level – and they have no experience whatsoever – they still think that starting out in the NFL is a reasonable thing to do. And this young man was literally writing me a letter every single day, and I couldn’t figure out whether he was relentless and passionate … or just crazy. But I took note of it.

The letters continued for a couple of years, and it got him to stand out in a way that mattered. I was in a conversation with Mike Tannenbaum, who at the time was the director of player contracts with the New York Jets, and I don’t even know how or why it would have come up, but we realized in this conversation he was actually writing each of us a letter every day. Every. Single. Day.

We were both wondering, is this guy writing a letter a day to all 32 teams, or is he just writing to a couple of us? Mike and I had some funny conversations about it. One day, Mike called me and said, “You know what? I’ve actually decided I’m going to meet this guy. I just have to see who he is and why he would be doing this.” And I joked back, “Well, make sure you do it in a public place, you don’t know who you’re dealing with here.” No doubt there are fans who are a little bit crazy and you’re better off keeping your distance. 

Mike called me after their meeting and said, “You know what? He’s not crazy. He’s absolutely determined, and I wouldn’t bet against him. This job opening I have doesn’t really fit him. But if you have an opening, I wouldn’t hesitate to meet with him.” 

Sure enough, a little while later, I had an opening and I met him, and I was actually even more impressed with him than Mike was based on the lunch they’d had. The job I had open — an intern position to help with research for cap-related issues and contracts — was a perfect fit for him.

He picked up the cap stuff and learned how to be a good negotiator very quickly, and then took one small step at a time. Ten years after stepping foot for the first time in Eagles headquarters, Howie Roseman got to the place he said he would in all those letters a decade earlier.

It’s kind of an amazing story of the start of a career that’s ended up where it is, especially in the middle of it. He actually got “demoted” to executive VP of football operations when Chip Kelly was hired and given the titles of GM and head coach.

That is a pretty significant slap in the face. Rarely do we see an NFL relationship that breaks down like that and gets put back together. I can’t even think of another example. And here he is, back in the general manager’s seat years later, probably has as much security as anybody in that position in the league and is doing a good job. I think he’s taken what we started to do even further. You know, being aggressive, being fearless, being bold, prioritizing how to build the team with extra emphasis on things like character and intelligence.

These things have served him well.

Joe Banner is a former front office executive for the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns. He was a part of an Eagles franchise that made a Super Bowl and played in four NFC Championship Games. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeBanner13

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