The talk and chatter is ramping up more and more and not just in Philly, but outside the fan base. National talk radio shows, ESPN, and local and national press are diving into the prospects of Eagles head coach Chip Kelly moving up from the #20 spot in the NFL Draft to select Oregon QB Marcus Mariota in the first-round.
Since the end of the Eagles season, Len and I have discussed a few times on the podcast show what the drafting strategy should look like. Selecting a defensive player and preferably someone who can contribute to the secondary is Len’s hope. I’ve mentioned that it wouldn’t surprise me if an offensive player was taken in round one. However, I want them to address the defensive right off the bat. Dave Spadaro appeared on our show recently. He was candid as we got into the Mariota talk and he specifically said, the prospect of the Eagles moving up so drastically in the draft was ridiculous and they need to build around QB Nick Foles from an offensive perspective. Len and I both agreed with Spadaro since we’ve been on that same page. I like Foles and I hope he stays. But I’m getting very concerned.
When tweeting, I’ve used the hashtag #InChipWeTrust. Countless other fans have done the same because we like seeing two 10-6 seasons in a row from a two-year NFL coach. We like Kelly’s demeanor and attitude with the press. We like the new vision he’s instilled at the NovaCare Complex. However, more and more of us fans are feeling concerned and nervous.
Much has occurred internally to the Eagles franchise since the end of the 2014 season. How the organization operates in the years to come will look much different than we’ve ever seen. Everything is placed at Kelly’s feet now – personnel, free agency, the draft selections. He holds all the cards. We, to date, don’t have a clue how free agency or drafting will progress. The more I read and hear, we’re going to see significant changes and an altered course of direction. Of course, it’s all rumor and innuendo coming from the media and talking heads, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
With the talk of Seattle CB Byron Maxwell being a top target of the Eagles in free agency to the almost real possibility of Mariota wearing midnight green, all we can do is speculate because Kelly hasn’t made himself readily available to the press. He’s confident, yet silent. We simply have no idea what he’s thinking and the moves he intends to make. As a result, we’re asking ourselves based on glorified hypotheticals; can we really trust Chip Kelly with the future of the Eagles franchise? Why would he gamble so heavily to get Mariota? And the most important question of all; would it truly work?
I like what we’ve seen from Foles, overall, during the past two years. There’s no question in my mind he can bring success, playoff wins and even a championship to Philly. I’ve been saying on our podcast show if the Eagles move up to get Mariota it would be a mistake. They would likely be giving up talented player(s) and top draft picks in the years to come. As fans, we absolutely despise giving up draft picks. We covet them, thanks in part to the old Andy Reid philosophy that still lives on with many of us. With that being said, let’s get into following circumstances and see how you truly feel afterwards.
Conventional wisdom says if the Eagles are in a position to make the “Mariota Deal” with the Titans who have the number two pick or the New York Jets who have the number six pick, based on their quarterback needs, Foles would be gone. He would have to be part of any package. From a personnel standpoint, both teams could use a little help in the run game as well. RB LeSean McCoy could become a victim of the Mariota Deal. Would a bundle consisting of Foles, McCoy and a 2016 first-round (and possibly a third-round or fourth-round pick in 2017) satisfy the Titans or Jets? Perhaps Foles and the Eagles first-round picks in 2016 and 2017 would be suitable. Might they need to give up even more to obtain a quarterback who threw 42 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions and had a rating of 181.7 this past season at Oregon?
Look to the last time a NFL team moved up in the first-round in a drastic fashion to take a quarterback. It was Washington in 2012 to acquire Robert Griffin III. They gave away to the St. Louis Rams four high-value draft picks over three years: their first-round pick in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well as their second-round pick in 2012. One excellent year then turned into turmoil in the locker room and front offices. Look where that team is at today. I’m certainly not comparing the Eagles to Washington, but you get my point. The hope and promise was there. Washington fans were ogling in 2012. Close friends of mine even said depressingly after Griffin’s first year in the league, this guy will kill the Eagles defense over the next decade. Now those early assurances Griffin gave Washington are gone and their team has suffered years later after giving up so much for one player.
Yes, Kelly is a much different coach than Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden. Lurie is unquestionably a much different owner than Dan Snyder. But facts are facts. Hype and promise almost always tend to sour because circumstances simply change.
On the flip side, there really isn’t precedence for the kind of college-to-NFL-marriage that Mariota and Kelly have together. While Marcus would need to learn the speed, pace and utter fury of the NFL – it’s not like playing in the PAC-12 – the coach wouldn’t need to establish the trust factor because it’s already there. Isn’t that half the battle to molding a successful NFL quarterback?
My answer to the previous question of, will it work, is yes…it’s likely. I have slight hesitation because of the game speed. I don’t care that Mariota ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.52 seconds. I care about his ability to adapt to the ferocity and tempo of the NFL. If he can, then his presence on the Eagles would work.
We also must keep in mind how Kelly’s philosophy of drafting best-player-on-the-board versus team-need will play out. The Eagles consistently say, they always target who they feel is the best-on-the -board. Perhaps Kelly believes Mariota is the very best of all 224 players who will be drafted. So, why not get the best? If he makes a such a deal he can always say, Mariota is the cream of the crop and they drafted the very best of the 2015 draft class.
From now until after the NFL Draft in early May, I’ll be batting around the question in my head; if any Mariota deal is made, can we trust Chip Kelly? He is a coach and presence in the Philly sports world who has taken many of us outside our “comfort zone” already during his short tenure. While it’s difficult to trust those who do that in life situations, I still have confidence in his abilities and decision-making prowess. Only time will tell if countless other fans and I continue to embrace him.