Joe Douglas hits the ground running as the vice president of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles. He has his staff in place, with eyes on the 2017 NFL Draft. We're still 11 months away, but there is already a lot to do.
He has to become acquainted with the Eagles' position specifics -- called critical factors -- and learn the 90-man roster up and down and, in a matter of weeks, take his staff to the national scouting meetings and point toward 2017.
"We're always staying out in front of everything," Douglas said. "It's a 12-month-a-year job for us when you're talking about personnel, especially on the college side."
Douglas is a football lifer, a former player at the University of Richmond who knew he didn't have an NFL playing future despite 45 consecutive starts at offensive tackle for the Spiders, but who had the foresight to have his résumé handy during Richmond's Pro Day ahead of the 2000 NFL Draft. He sought out the scouts who attended the Pro Day, told anyone who would talk to him that he would work for free and would do any kind of internship and, in an example of being in the right place at the right time, finagled his way into some interviews, eventually gaining a job as Northeast area scout with Baltimore.
Fifteen seasons, two Super Bowl rings and hundreds of players' reports later, Douglas was hired by the Chicago Bears as their director of college scouting. One year later, he's in Philadelphia, hired along with assistant director of player personnel Andy Weidl by Howie Roseman, who has full accountability of the team's personnel department.
"The team fit is the most important thing," Douglas said, "because I see the scouting staff as an extension of the coaching staff. We need to get the right type of people and players for them, to help them succeed on the field.
"The Eagles' job was very attractive to me because I know what kind of people Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie and Howie are. I heard so many good things about those guys. We have a lot of former Eagles in Baltimore -- coach (John) Harbaugh, (offensive line coach) Juan Castillo ... quite a few. They couldn't say enough great things about this place, this organization. Not just at the top, but everywhere. It got me real excited."
Said Roseman: "They are huge additions to our football team and our front office. You start with Joe and the background that he has, coming from great organizations, one of the best talent evaluators in the National Football League and a great person. He's someone we're very fortunate to have, not only for his talent evaluation, but for his leadership. Then you talk about Andy and what he brings to the table, the two of them having worked together and the chemistry that they have was something that was very attractive to us. And again you're talking about someone who has shown his ability to evaluate talent in the National Football League, worked for a world championship organization and the character that he comes with as well."
Douglas is in charge of the player personnel department and he reports to Roseman. "At the end of the day, it's on me. All of this is on me. It's my responsibility to make sure that we have the best people in every aspect, certainly in player personnel, but all throughout the organization," Roseman said.
They move forward as a complete and united personnel department, excited about the future. For the immediate time, the Eagles are preparing for this weekend's Rookie Camp, an introduction to the 2016 Class on everything the coaching staff wants. Organized Team Activities start next week and there is optimism in the air. Quarterback Sam Bradford, who stayed away for two weeks of the voluntary workouts, has returned and Roseman is confident in his starting quarterback.
"We're excited to have Sam back on the field," Roseman said. "We said all along that he was our starter and that whenever he came back, we were excited to get him back. This whole period is voluntary, obviously, and just seeing those guys and getting our rookies in place, it's an exciting time of year."
We're in the middle of May and the foundation for 2016 is being put in place. The veterans have a good sense of the schemes and the coaching staff's demands. The rookies are next. This whole thing wraps up in about a month, and then comes a respite before Training Camp starts. It really isn't that far away. Roseman and the Eagles have most of their pieces in place. How quickly does it all come together? How much of a postseason factor will a team with a new coaching staff and some critical new faces on the roster become?
Can't wait to find out. One of the most fascinating seasons and the start of an era is just around the corner.