Unless Eagles head coach and “final say guy,” Chip Kelly, makes some kind of dramatic move(s) over the next few weeks, the Marcus Mariota talk will continue to persist from now until draft day. And for good reason. I have every reason to believe that Kelly is going to maneuver, deal and strategize any way he possibly can to draft Oregon QB Marcus Mariota in the first-round come April 30th. Here’s my thought process and rationale.
The entire plan of action for the Eagles personnel overhaul began with the release of WR DeSean Jackson. While he’d never admit it now (or ever, quite possibly), Kelly didn’t see Jackson as part of a winning culture in Philly. Sure, the word “culture” gets thrown around a lot. However, that is the essence of Kelly as a head coach and as he’s reshaping this organization. Players must be willing to commit 100-percent on and off the field. Jackson may have committed 99-percent, but it wasn’t good enough for what Kelly had in mind for his long-term vision.
Criticisms have been aimed at Kelly for acquiring too many Oregon players. There are currently 10 Eagles who are from that football program where Kelly saw great success as a college coach. There’s a reason why they’re wearing midnight green. They are here because they understand the vision and the culture.
Culture, according to Kelly, is more important than the system, more important than the player. The culture is what creates Kelly’s vision of winning, accomplishment and ultimate success. Did RB LeSean McCoy give 100-percent toward the culture on his end? Did QB Nick Foles, WR Jeremy Maclin, TE James Casey, LB Trent Cole give that much as well? It’s certainly debatable, but there are also other factors that have opened our eyes to the Chip Kelly way of doing business. Casey was a great special teams player and blocker, but the guy just cost too much. In terms of salary, the same can possibly be said of Maclin and McCoy. Culture aside, business decisions needed to be made as well.
But wait. Hold on a minute. Trades and deals were made in free agency. What most of us thought was the end of the show, a slight rebuild of the Eagles over the past couple of years (based on two 10-6 seasons), the curtain didn’t close but actually opened up and we found ourselves looking at former St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford on the stage. This is a QB who is going to cost the Eagles $12.9 million this coming season. For many, it still makes no sense – and we’ve had some time to digest the move. This does not feel like, look like or seem as though it’s a visionary and long-term move for Kelly to have made no matter how good he thinks Bradford can be.
So, the vision is bringing in a severely injury-prone quarterback who has a one-year deal left? No way. I’m not buying it. Maclin had one-year to prove his worth to the offense and Chip’s culture. In my opinion, he did what he needed to do to secure his legacy as an Eagle, but look where he is now.
Some might say, well, Kelly and “cap sergeant” Howie Roseman can restructure Bradford’s deal. It’s certainly an option. But let’s take what an agent recently said who was quoted in a recent NJ.com piece. The individual who requested anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak about another player said, “Why would he (Bradford, want to restructure)? If he plays well — and if he stays healthy in that system he’ll play well — he’ll get $20 million, or more, next year. There’s no reason for him to agree to an extension now.” Makes sense, right? Conventional wisdom says, yes.
However, does it really make sense for Kelly who’s looking for the long-term quarterback to lead his fast and unconventional offense. When one looks at recent history, there is no long-term vision with Sam Bradford since culture and long-term vision is ultimately what drives Chip.
Oh yeah, here’s another interesting fact. Bradford has never played a snap for Kelly. He knows and understands absolutely nothing about “the culture.” How long will it take for him to “get it?” That should be one of the most asked questions of the Eagles new quarterback.
But of all the quarterbacks, if there’s one young and dynamic quarterback in this world who already “gets it” and already understands the vision and the culture – it’s Marcus Mariota. Chip has said, Mariota is the best quarterback in the draft and in so many words the best football player to be coming out of college. He will do what it takes to draft his “vision.” What a perfect nickname for Mariota – The Vision.
It is obvious that Bradford will be an experiment in culture, which just doesn’t make sense based on the Chip Kelly philosophy. It has now become obvious that Nick Foles was an experiment. While he was very good, he was traded away. I believe the same will happen to Bradford so that Kelly, after two seasons, can finally have his long-term quarterback and culture-based philosophy hand-in-hand. He will do what is possible to make sure Marcus Mariota will be in an Eagles uniform after the 2015 NFL Draft.