Trying to understand what's happening with the Philadelphia Eagles
By PAT RALPH
College Contributor Network
There is a famous song from the 1970's called "The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP)" by MFSB and The Three Degrees which puts you in that awesome brotherly love mood every time you listen to it. Well as of right now, that song sounds more like Philadelphia Eagles fans screaming at head coach Chip Kelly and saying "Who do you think you are?!" or "What the heck are you doing?!"
There is not a more confusing or head-scratching situation in the league right now than what the Eagles are doing so far this offseason. Since taking over as director of player personnel, Kelly has not wasted an ounce of power that has come with his new position.
The first bombshell move came last week when the Birds traded Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who missed the entire 2014 season due to injury. The move sent shock waves through both the NFL and, of course, the City of Brotherly Love. McCoy was a fan favorite, a top-five running back in the league, and well on his way to becoming a Philly legend. Fans like myself were more than upset to see McCoy go, but the move was good for the Eagles long term financially. Paying an aging running back big money with maybe five respectable seasons left is near the top of the cardinal sins list for NFL franchises.
While Alonso did not see the field last season, the young linebacker from Oregon (light bulbs going off!!!) has the potential and talent to be a tremendous football player.
With regards to Kelly's offensive system, one would have believed that McCoy's playmaking skills were ideal. However, McCoy's style of running is not the most suitable for the blocking scheme in Kelly's offensive line. While Kelly's offense calls for a line which can primarily block for north-south runners, McCoy is a running back who dances around like Fred Astaire and hops to the outside like a rabbit. From simply a talent perspective, the move makes no sense and only confuses the fan base as to what Kelly's goals are from an offensive perspective since many have believed it to be a run-first offense. From a financial perspective, the trade was a success. On the other hand, the Bills now have a strong running game which should help improve their offense this season.
It looked as if the Eagles' running back hole was going to be filled when former San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore verbally agreed to sign with the Birds, but Gore apparently got "cold feet" at the last minute about Kelly's offensive system and decided to sign with the Indianapolis Colts. So currently, the Eagles' running core consists of Darren Sproles and Chris Polk. That's bad.
But that was just the beginning of the madness. The Eagles upgraded their secondary quickly with the addition of former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell on a six-year, $60 million deal. In addition to that, the Eagles let veterans like offensive guard Todd Herremans (Colts), defensive end Trent Cole (Colts), and cornerback Cary Williams (Seahawks) walk in free agency.
To make matters worse, the Eagles allowed No. 1 wide receiver and fan-favorite Jeremy Maclin to unexpectedly sign with former Eagles head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, after it was widely believed that Maclin would return to Philadelphia. While Maclin's decision to go to Kansas City comes with more money than in Philly and his familiarity with Reid's system, the move in many respects makes little-to-no sense as the Chiefs did not throw a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver this past season. On the Eagles' side of the equation, Riley Cooper is now the No. 1 wide receiver on the roster. Not good at all.
But then the volcano eruption of them all came on Tuesday afternoon when the Birds traded quarterback Nick Foles and two draft picks to the St. Louis Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford and a draft pick. By far the most scrutinized move from those listed here, the Eagles gave up a healthier, cheaper, and in many respects better quarterback in Foles for an overpaid and often-injured quarterback in Bradford. Somebody please go get me a cheesesteak at Pat's now to get my mind off this!
While the thought of Bradford and Mark Sanchez controlling the quarterback position in Philadelphia makes fans want to throw up that very same cheesesteak, the move could be a precursor to the Eagles swapping Bradford and draft picks to get a better pick in the upcoming draft to go after Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon (more light bulbs going off!!!).
On the Rams' end of the deal, St. Louis now has a young and healthy quarterback at a great price to compliment their strong defense.
The big question swirling around Philadelphia and the NFL is "What is Chip doing?" The easy answer to that is I have no clue and I do not think anyone will know until after the draft when Mariota knows what team he will be playing for. While many believe Kelly wants Mariota in Philly to run his offense, others think Kelly finds Bradford to be the quarterback with the right instincts to lead the Eagles. That's just a scary thought in my book giving the keys of the franchise to a guy who is always hurt.
Another concern fans around the league are beginning to have is if Kelly just wants to establish an "Oregon East" out here in Philadelphia by bringing in all the players he coached at some point or another in Eugene. While many of these players have had good professional careers, simply banking on guys you coached in college to run the offensive system at the pro level is an unwise decision. Another potential naive decision on Kelly's part could be just assuming that any player can fit into the system and make it work.
Going forward, the Eagles have many gaping holes to fill on offense now that were strengths barely a week ago. A running back duo of Sproles and Polk just won't get it done for this team, but a terrific option that could present itself to the Eagles is free agent running back DeMarco Murray. Murray and the Eagles have expressed mutual interest in each other, but it could require Philly to overpay for the Pro Bowler to keep the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders from stealing him.
In terms of wide receivers, guys like Andre Johnson, Percy Harvin, and Reggie Wayne come to mind immediately for replacing Maclin. But Johnson is likely to end up in Indy, Harvin is too injury-prone, and Wayne's best days are behind him. And of course, there is always the draft in April to find some good talent on offense.
However, the most important question and concern facing the Eagles for the rest of the offseason revolves around the quarterback position. If Kelly decides Bradford and Sanchez are the answer, it's a safe bet the entire city will riot and want Kelly dead or alive. At that point, I will have lost my faith in Kelly and considered Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. less of an idiot. Trading Nick Foles just to get Sam Bradford rather than using Bradford as a piece in another deal will not fly well with Eagles fans. More importantly, it will not justify letting McCoy and Maclin leave.
On the other hand, Kelly will be a glorified hero in the city if he can work his magic and acquire Mariota in the draft while obtaining other quality pieces to fill in the gaps on the roster. It will not be easy to do because of how much Philly must give up for Mariota, but it may be the only option the Eagles have now at quarterback.
There's plenty of more drama to come from the City of Brotherly Love between now and the first game of the regular season. Heck, there may have been some more big moves made since this article went up. Hopefully none involve trading the Liberty Bell, Rocky Statue, or the Phanatic.
Pat Ralph is a junior at Villanova University. He has a passion for Philadelphia sports, especially the Phillies and Eagles, as well as Villanova Basketball and the New York Knicks. Follow him on Twitter @Pat_Ralph