Philadelphia Eagles fans are a passionate group.
We eat, sleep and breathe the Eagles. We live and die with what happens on Sundays and consume every nugget of information that comes out between.
A long time had passed between the moment New Orleans kicker Shayne Graham hit a 32-yard field goal to end the Eagles’ season on Jan. 4, and the start of the NFL Draft on Thursday night. During that four-month stretch, here are the things that kept us busy:
– Free agency saw the Eagles not pursue any “big-time” stars
– The Eagles randomly released one of their “big-time” stars, wide receiver Desean Jackson
– Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly told us their draft philosophy was based in selecting the best player available, not necessarily filling a “need”
– A delayed NFL Draft gave us extra weeks of “expert analysis” telling us exactly who the best players would be when the Eagles came up at No. 22
So, with all that knocking around in our heads and the draft several hours old, the Eagles were on the clock at No. 22. They promptly traded the pick to the Cleveland Browns, who selected much-heralded Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
This came immediately after the New Orleans Saints selected Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks and the Green Bay Packers picked Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at Nos. 20 and 21, respectively.
Two top targets were gone, and then so were the Eagles, dumping their pick to drop four spots in the first round (and add a third-round selection in the process). And then we waited some more, sweating it out and hoping names like USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard would still be there at No. 26, because that’s who the experts told us we wanted. The Cincinnati Bengals took care of the latter at No. 24, but Lee was still there when the Birds went back on the clock. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strode to the podium to announce the selection, said something that sounded like “Marqise” and followed that up with a last name “Smith” that was so stunning, it felt like the world had stopped spinning.
Actually, it felt like something we’d all experienced many, many times before.
It felt like Andy Reid.
Louisville defensive end/linebacker Marcus Smith will hopefully end up being a heck of a football player. He was second in the NCAA in sacks last season and will be brought in to do a very specific job: sack the quarterback. This is an area in which he seems to excel.
But nobody had really heard of the guy until Goodell uttered his name, and when the “experts” began talking about how Smith was rated on various draft boards as a second or even third-round kind of guy (Heck, Smith himself didn’t even think he would get picked – he was at a bar), well, Andy Reid.
We all remember those drafts, when the commissioner would call out the Eagles first-round pick and it felt like forever until the ESPN producers found the guy’s highlight tape buried in the “Day 2″ pile. If Andy identified the team most needed an offensive guard, he was taking an offensive guard in the first round. It didn’t matter if everyone, including the Eagles, had him rated in the second or third round. The guy filled a pressing need.
That was frustrating, maddening, especially because so often it didn’t work out.
Is it fair to lump Chip Kelly and Marcus Smith into that mess? Of course not, but we’re carrying a lot of baggage.
In the days since the first round, we’ve reminded ourselves that the “experts” don’t really know anything and, truly, who is to say where Smith was on a majority of NFL teams’ draft boards?
We’re also reminded that Chip Kelly took over a team coming off a 4-12 season and took them within a few seconds of the second round of the NFL playoffs. He’s earned some trust.
Despite that, when you do something completely unexpected, we’re going to react with passion. That’s just who we are, it’s not going to change, nor should we want it to.