When Howie Roseman broke into the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization, he was about the last guy you’d expect to one day become the guy who built the club’s first Super Bowl roster. But now, having lived through the Moneyball revolution and Theo Epstein’s conquering of baseball, he’s exactly the type of guy you’d expect to put all the pieces together in a way no one else can see.
Roseman did not play football growing up and attended law school after college. After a couple of internships, Roseman broke into the Eagles’ front office in 2000 as a lawyer advising on the salary cap. Then, in 2003, he was promoted to director of football administration, with another promotion to vice president three years later. Then he became VP of player personnel. And then, in 2010 and still south of his 35th birthday, the law school kid who was brought in to look over contracts was suddenly overseeing the entire organization as general manager.
Today, Roseman is the Eagles’ executive VP of football operations and general manager and in March he crossed Philadelphia to speak to the Wharton School of Business’s People Analytics Conference.
One of the first questions asked of Roseman, naturally, was how someone without a football background gains the trust of people who have spent their entire lives eating nothing but Xs and Os cereal for breakfast.
“You have to do whatever it takes,” he said. “Whatever you can do is important, so some of the menial tasks that maybe you don’t feel necessarily fit your job description or what you view your job description, having people see you do those roles helps get you trust. The more you can do is important.
“The second thing is, I think you have to be yourself. You have to engage in conversations and start developing personal relationships with people. The world is so interconnected now that these things matter, where maybe even when I started they didn’t matter as much. Having these relationships, putting yourself out there, making yourself a little vulnerable actually helps you endear yourself to others.”
Roseman told two stories of how he won the trust of the top football people with the Eagles. To get to know then-defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, Roseman offered to chauffeur him around town while on a location at a college all-star game, which led to Roseman inviting Johnson to lunch, which led to a relationship. Roseman used a similar tact to build a relationship with then-head coach Andy Reid. The two men had nothing in common; Reid was from Los Angeles, Roseman New York. Roseman never played football, Reid was a punt, pass and kick champion as a kid. But both of them loved pizza. So Roseman brought Reid pizza.
“It leads to, ‘Hey, sit down and eat with me.’ And then, ‘Who do you like? Who do you like in the draft? Who do you like in free agency?’ People are listening. You may not think that they’re listening, but they’re listening,” he said. “When you develop a track record, that’s when you start moving up.
“You can have the smartest person in the world; if they’re not conveying the information in a relatable way, it’s not going to have benefit.”
While Roseman’s advice was directed toward Northeastern, private law school graduates looking to become the next Theo Epstein or the next Howie Roseman, it works just as well for the job applicant looking to volunteer with a football coaching staff, or the volunteer looking to become an analyst, or the analyst looking to join the full-time staff, or, well, you get the point.