Tag Archives: NFL Draft

Chip Kelly, Marcus Mariota, and How the Power of the ‘What If’ Question Could Turn NFL Economics Upside Down

“Let’s dispel that right now. I think that stuff’s crazy. You guys have been going with that stuff all along. I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft. We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that, because we have too many other holes we have to take care of.”

It has been 50 days since Chip Kelly stood behind a podium and delivered the aforementioned quote. On the surface at the time, it was viewed as Kelly bowing out of Marcus Mariota sweepstakes and attempting to pour water on what he viewed as a media-induced fire.

The biggest change between then and now — the morning of the NFL Draft — is also the most obvious change — time.

On a Wednesday afternoon in March, Kelly wasn’t faced with a now-or-never franchise altering decision with the quarterback of his dreams dangling right before his eyes behind a forbidden fence. It’s easy to say something seven weeks before one actually has to decide on something.

None of this is to say Kelly is a liar. Rather, it’s to float the question ‘What’s his definition of mortgaging ‘the future’? And how might his definition deviate from the norm given the anything but normal circumstances?

NFL economics are fascinating in that they are often bound by certain unwritten but understood parameters. If a team hypothetically called the Indianapolis Colts right now and offered their next 25 first round picks for Andrew Luck, the Colts would do it in a heartbeat, but the Colts would never be presented with that scenario because no team would call with that type of proposal.

Head hurt? Yeah, mine too.

Kelly will not call the Tennessee Titans and offer 25 future first round picks for Mariota tomorrow night. I can guarantee that, but to guarantee anything else would be naive and ignorant to the way the Eagles czar operates and the power of human psychology that could be at work before him.

Mariota is Kelly’s Andrew Luck, his can’t-miss prospect. While he has never seriously compared the two young quarterbacks he has mentioned Mariota in the same breath as Peyton Manning, an even higher compliment.

For the past few weeks, I have looked for reasons to rule such an unrealistic reunion out. I got nowhere and instead ending up writing this, unable to dismiss the possibility. Folks who know much more about the inner-workings of the team have sought for the same roadblocks and kept on traveling.

Bargaining power is a valuable and envious asset, and in this particular situation, the Tennessee Titans have all of it right now. Or do they?

Based on Ken Wisenhunt’s coaching career, there is deductive reasoning to believe that the Titans have little interest in the Oregon quarterback. One of the most intense dynamics would be if the Titans in a game of chicken with the Eagles drive up the price so high that Kelly calls their bluff and folds. Would Tennessee actually invest a second overall pick in a quarterback it may not be fully sold on or would they select someone else and leave Mariota on the board where Kelly could jump back in and give up less?

More accurate of a bargaining power statement is to say that the Titans if they play it right have much of it, and Kelly has none.

Decision power, while much riskier of a principle, is even more powerful than bargaining power though. And decision power in this instance could theoretically belong to Kelly. And if decision power in this instance does theoretically belong to Kelly, it may not be a difficult decision at all.

Two words. One question: ‘What if’

It’s a phrase that can dominate our lives. We can ask it optimistically, pensively, and sometimes even regrettably, with the goal of avoiding the third scenario. Oftentimes it’s posed because the goal that follows the ‘what if’ is not attainable. That’s painful. Other times, it’s asked because the ‘what if’ was there for the taking, and one didn’t seize the opportunity. That’s much more painful.

What if Mariota is there to be had and all it takes is one more young player, perhaps one as talented as Fletcher Cox, one more future pick? Would Kelly be able to sleep at night knowing his star pupil, the player he molded into one of the top quarterbacks in college football was available and he didn’t go the distance to get him?

The ‘what if’ question can be all-encompassing. One is resigned to the notion that it will make future tasks more difficult. Avoiding major injuries, identifying underrated talent, and player development skyrocket from highly important to super essential with hardly any margin for error.

With the extra pressure though comes an unconventional way to land a franchise quarterback and turn league norms upside-down while progressing from good to great and legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

But what if it’s not worth it?

What if it is and Kelly never dares to find out?

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Chip Kelly, Ed Marynowitz, Howie Roseman, and the Symbolism of the Name Marcus in a Quest to Make the Draft Fun Again

I still vividly remember when it happened — when following 16 months of progress, the Eagles made a grave mistake with their greatest opportunity to inject talent onto a roster that had improved significantly over the aforementioned timeframe but still needed much work.

The 2014 NFL Draft was loaded with studs, and even after being slotted with the 22nd pick following an NFC East division title in 2013, the Eagles theoretically sat in a prime position.

One of the most fun things about watching a draft for fans is having that crush on one particular prospect and hoping he’s on the board when your team is on the clock — creating that hope that you somehow get your guy.

The guy who I decided I wanted the Eagles to take in the first round was Marqise Lee. A receiver who had put up monster numbers at USC. He had a few big games against Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams, and it seemed like a perfect match for a team that had a need at the position. As it turns out, the Eagles had other plans at the position, waiting until the second round and selecting Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews. That worked out perfectly fine. What happened a round earlier didn’t.

For a few brief moments though, I thought I was going to get my wish as Roger Goodell made his way to the podium to announce the 26th pick of the draft. With many of their original targets gone, the Eagles had traded back from their original 22nd slot to the 26th pick, allowing the Cleveland Browns to select Johnny Manziel. Manziel likely was the worst pick of the entire first round, a move that will eventually get everyone in the Browns organization who played a part in it fired.

What the Eagles did was not far behind though. Lee was still on the board, and I was convinced he would be the pick. Goodell started reading: “With the 26th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select, Mar…”

YES! HOLY SHIT! HELL YEAH! ”

“…cus Smith. Linebacker, Louisville.”

What? No.

That was not supposed to happen. I knew a little bit about Marcus Smith. I knew he had a decent number of sacks at Louisville. I also was aware that most media outlets and teams had a second or third round grade on him. The Eagles, who for a few seasons, had preached a ‘best player available’ approach when it came to drafting, had panicked and reached on a player who had no business being a first round pick.

Smith never recorded a single defensive statistic during his rookie season with the team. He was inactive for several games, and the puzzling decision would ultimately set off a power struggle in the Eagles front office months later. It potentially got Tom Gamble fired from his player personnel role and cost Howie Roseman his general manager title.

How did a team that for the most part had made very solid personnel moves for a year and a half drop the ball so badly here? To our best knowledge, this is what happened.

The Eagles went into the draft with six players they were targeting in the first round:

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks

Linebacker C.J. Mosely

Linebacker Anthony Barr

Cornerback Kyle Fuller

Safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

Unfortunately, they gauged the board incorrectly, and when the Saints traded up to take Cooks at 20, and the Packers nabbed Clinton-Dix at 21, none of their targets were left.

“What the hell?” “This is bad.” “Typical Eagles trying to outsmart everyone else. Reminds me of Andy years.”

These were a few texts I got immediately after Smith’s name was called.

“Need to do some more research,” I texted back, hoping that there was some way to explain this.

There wasn’t. This was really bad, especially considering how other NFC East teams improved. The Giants used their first round pick to select the aforementioned Beckham, arguably a once-in-a-generation receiver, who eclipsed 90 receptions, 1300 yards, and double digit touchdowns in his rookie year. The Cowboys, unfortunately, intelligently passed on Manziel, and used their selection on Zack Martin, who also made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while helping the Cowboys to solidify their offensive line as they took the division from the Eagles and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Redskins didn’t have a first round pick but used their mid-second round selection on linebacker Trent Murphy, who actually saw the field and contributed in 2014.

‘Who made the Marcus Smith pick?’

It was a question that Eagles fans would ask for the past year, reaching a fever pitch in early January as Kelly fought for full player personnel control. As I have hypothesized back then, I have a tough time believing that pick was Kelly’s. The coach did not speak highly of him during the season, and I find it unlikely he would have kept Smith inactive in a meaningless Week 17 game, if he knew that he would have to defend the pick to Jeffrey Lurie a week later during a power play. That just doesn’t add up.

Kelly, in March, seemed to confirm these thoughts, placing the blame on the now demoted Roseman for the Smith pick and failing to improve the team during the first round of last year’s draft.

Some Smith truthers in an attempt to sound smarter than everyone else and go against mainstream thinking solely for the sake of doing so, have maintained that he was not a reach. I am on record saying that I do not believe he will be on team when the Eagles cut their roster down to 53 players before the season starts. A rookie learning curve is one thing, but when a guy can’t even compete on special teams, that raises a serious red flag.

With Roseman having no say in personnel matters, Ed Marynowitz is now Kelly’s right-hand man in preparing for the draft, and he, at least from my perspective, inspired some confidence the other day when saying the team believes there are 8-10 difference makers in this year’s draft.

That suggests, at least in theory, that Kelly expanded the Eagles board, and knows a repeat of last May cannot happen again if the franchise is to go from good to great.

There is, of course, one who stands above all in that group of 8-10 players. It is no secret that Kelly covets his former Oregon signal-caller. The only question left to answer is whether through this convoluted offseason of quarterback roulette, he can entice some team, be it Tennessee with the second overall pick, or another club to get up high enough in a trade to be reunited with Marcus Mariota.

The feasibility of moving up high enough for the signal-caller is one thing. Whether or not Kelly should do it is another one entirely.

It is a classic debate in the principle of opportunity cost. One could fill an entire economics textbook with some of the scenarios, rumors, and proposed trades, and the semester would still end before the professor had time to teach all of it.

On one hand, with all of the picks and players he would be giving up, Kelly may never have the ammunition to build a good enough team around Mariota to win a Super Bowl. Pushing back on that concern is the classic ‘Yeah but you can’t win without a franchise quarterback,’ and Kelly already decided that the closest thing he had to one in Nick Foles wasn’t good enough to be the chosen one going forward. Why is anyone to believe that Sam Bradford is any different?

There is no shortage of risk in such a move when it comes to resource allocation, but it is difficult to believe the player itself wouldn’t pan out. If Mariota were to fail under the tutelage of his former coach in the NFL, then Kelly certainly isn’t the coach that I and many others believe him to be.

More than likely, both would be successful in a long-distance relationship occasionally texting each other “I miss you. Let’s hang out.” “I miss you too.” “I’m sorry I left like that, but I had to.” “I know. We had some awesome times together that fall back in college.” Nothing wrong with admiring from afar, but maybe just maybe, this real-life story has a fairytale ending in marriage Thursday night.

Last year when Goodell shockingly uttered the name “Marcus Smith,” the joy of the draft was gone. Regardless of what transpired from there, the thought persisted that the Eagles brain trust squandered a major opportunity to get an impact player that could have contributed right away.

A few months later, the fears were confirmed, and they began to pay the price when Smith was inactive for games. A few months after that, they were division champions no more. Gone was Roseman’s job a few weeks later.

The joy was gone, but the hope is that Kelly and Marynowitz, by being more prepared for different scenarios, can restore it in a matter of days.

Perhaps by shocking the NFL world in a much different way this time and having Goodell say the name ‘Marcus’ for a second consecutive year.

The First Round of the NFL Draft is Tonight, and that Brings Back Memories

Aside from brief infatuations with “American Idol,” “Survivor,” or “The Amazing Race” over a decade ago, reality television has never really been my thing.

Unless that is, you put the NFL Draft under that umbrella. In that case, I enjoy reality TV a whole lot.

It is an argument that can certainly be validated. For a league that branded itself partially on bone-crushing hits and physicality for decades, this event is about as dressed-up and soap opera esque as things get, completely driven by media consumption.

Still, for as much as its haters claim it’s dragged out and overhyped, there’s something uniquely special about a name scribbled on a card possibly determining the direction of a franchise and then hanging on every syllable of for years Paul Tagliabue and now Roger Goodell as the pick is read.

I love the NFL Draft. I’ve loved it since I was a young child. I could ramble about random draft memories all day, but no one cares. Here’s just two quick anecdotes to demonstrate what I’m talking about before I get in to why I am really writing this post.

It was April 29, 2006. This was back in the old-school format of the draft when the first round started at noon on a Saturday and took almost seven hours to complete (I kinda miss that style to be honest). Typically when I was in 9th grade, Saturday afternoons were spent playing wiffle ball, basketball, or capture the flag. We had a group of 10 or so people all pretty close in age who lived only a few minutes apart and would round everyone up and get a game going.

A few of my friends knocked on my door a little before noon on this particular morning, and the conversation went something like this.

“You wanna play something?”

“Can’t today, sorry guys. NFL Draft is on.” 

“Well, when will it be over? Can you play in a couple hours?”

“Nope, sorry. It goes all day.” 

“Wait, why are you wrapped in a blanket when it’s 65 degrees?” 

“Because you rang the bell and answering the door without pants on would have been weird.” 

“Why aren’t you wearing pants?”

“Because I’m gonna spend the next 12 hours in front of the TV watching the draft.” 

“Alright, cya in school on Monday. And you should probably put pants on.” 

“You got it, cya soon.” 

Now, fast forward to 2008. The weekend of the draft also coincided with my junior class trip. I had committed to going on the trip but hadn’t missed watching the draft live in years. This was before smartphones had gone really mainstream, so I set up a system with my friend Tarbell from home. He too loved the draft and said he would text every few picks to keep me updated.

“You ready to go?” I texted him about five minutes before the Dolphins were on the clock with the first pick.

“Been wearing Eagles shit all day and just flew through my neighborhood to get home. Let’s do it.”

Word had spread that I was doing this, and a few different times, kids who I went to school with but hardly ever spoke to asked me about the latest update. An assistant principal even wanted to know a few picks at one point. Later that night, as my friends and I were about to get on a roller coaster in Busch Gardens, the Eagles took DeSean Jackson in the second round. If that’s not some type of metaphor, I’m not sure what is.

I didn’t watch one pick on TV that weekend but still felt as if I was all caught up. Thanks, buddy. This also led to my family switching over to unlimited texting because I came close to exceeding the monthly limit in one day.

I had told myself many years prior that one day I would get to New York and see a draft in person, but that was obviously easier said than done.

It is now April 23, 2011. Another draft is less than a week away, and on a Philadelphia sports blog that regularly read, I stumbled upon a contest to win tickets.

Draft Contest

I submitted the form without thinking much of it and continued on with my weekend. The next part of this story might be about as #college as things get.

It was the final week of classes at Penn State, and I had to deliver a speech in my CAS 100 class that Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. Some people will do everything possible to avoid an 8 a.m. class, but I never minded getting up early too much and figured it’d be good practice for my summer job.

My next class wasn’t until 4 p.m., so typically I would stay up until 3 a.m. or so Monday night, wake up for class, and then I would have a few hours to nap if needed. This was before Onward State happened, and sleep was still an option most of the time.

Not on this Monday night though. On this Monday night, similar to my two other speeches earlier in the semester, it was 10:30 p.m. and I had yet to even really start. Part of it was natural procrastination, but I also enjoyed the adrenaline rush from writing and rehearsing a speech under a tight deadline.

Pulling an all-nighter for an assignment like this wasn’t the best plan, but I had essentially done it two times before and knew I could do it one final time. I wasn’t the best public speaker in the class — far from it — but I knew how to go about it and was pulling off A minuses while some kids were struggling just to stay above the C range.

My professor was a graduate student. She was cool and could relate to the busy lives that a lot of us lived, but she was also pretty demanding. On speech days, presenters were required to wear a suit. If you rolled out of bed and gave your speech in a hoodie and sweatpants, you were getting docked at least a letter grade and maybe more.

After being up all night, I showered, put on my suit, walked to class, and gave my speech. I killed it, but once I sat down, the second wind of energy began to wear off. I was ready to crash.

Back in my room once class ended, I did exactly that. I hung the suit jacket up, tossed the pants somewhere, and collapsed onto my bed with no intentions of waking up for at least four hours.

Two hours into what I hoped would be a prolonged nap, I stirred and decided to check my phone before trying to go back to sleep. There were a few run-of-the-mill text messages but nothing that seemed to warrant an immediate response.

The most recent one was from my friend Kevin who lived about 15 minutes from me back home. He attended a different high school, but we had become good friends in college through some mutual people. His text read:

“HOLY SHIT! YOU WON THE CROSSING BROAD CONTEST!”

That’s cool, I thought to myself while placing the phone down and subsequently my head a few seconds later. Probably won some T-shirt or something, too out of it to realize what he was actually talking about.

I thankfully woke up 20 minutes later and again saw the message. Wait a minute. Contest, I entered a contest the other day. I grabbed my laptop as fast as I could. Sure enough, there it was: 

Draft Winner

An email offering me free VIP NFL Draft tickets had been in my inbox for a few hours already, and I was passed out cold the entire time.

The tickets were mine, and a GMC representative would be waiting outside Radio City Music Hall Thursday night, but if I wasn’t able to attend, I had to let them know so they could offer them to someone else.

I touched base with Crossing Broad editor Kyle Scott, asking if he could give me until 4 p.m. to sort things out. He said that was fine, and now came the hard part of figuring out how to get from State College to New York. My car was four hours away at home, but I knew Kevin had a car and was as obsessed with the draft as me.

“DUDE, YOU GOT A CAR HERE. I HAVE TWO TICKETS. DO YOU WANT TO GO?”

“I HAVE AN [EXPLETIVE] EXAM FRIDAY MORNING AT 8 A.M.”

Dammit. My next plan was to ask my freshman year roommate Alex who I was also going to live with the coming fall. He initially said yes and then backed out a few minutes later after thinking about it more and looking at the rest of his week.

It’s not easy to get people to leave campus towards the end of the semester. Between studying for finals less than a week away and enjoying the last few days in State College, there’s a lot going on. In this instance though, none of that mattered to me. I’d prepare for finals when I was back on Saturday and Sunday. Movin’ On just wasn’t my thing. No disrespect to the people who work hard to make it happen, but I never went to one of them in my four years. (If that makes me a bad Penn Stater, someone let me know)

At that point, I began to worry a little and called my dad, half to tell him that I won the tickets, half to see if maybe he would want to go. My dad wasn’t a huge draft guy though aside from maybe tuning in when the Eagles were on the clock. He used to think I was nuts for watching as long as I did, jokingly calling it the “NFL Geek Show.”

He said that he really wasn’t interested but to call him back if I got real desperate. Before I had my license — and even after — my dad had taken me to so many baseball games. I couldn’t drag him to this if he didn’t want to go.

By that time, I had posted on social media about winning the tickets and received a congratulatory text from Ryan Beckler. Over the next two years, Ryan would become my best friend working together for Onward State, but at that time, we were more acquaintances who occasionally did homework together or texted about sports.

I honestly can’t remember if I called him or responded to the text but either way pretty much conveyed, Do you want to go? i have free tickets but need a way to get there. 

He told me he’d have an answer in half an hour. If he said no, I had no idea what my next move would be. Luckily, I didn’t need one. Ryan was in, and on Thursday around 1 p.m,, we were off.

Details about the ride are hazy for me. All I distinctively recall is rush hour traffic getting the better of us as we got close. Originally hoping to arrive around 5:15 p.m, it was well past 6:30 by the time we found a parking garage. Once we realized we would be way later than anticipated, we got in touch with the GMC person who would be waiting for us outside. Carrying nothing but the printed email saying we had won the tickets, we walked towards the entrance of Radio City Music Hall when a security person stopped us.

“Where you guys supposed to be?” he said. I showed him the email, and just as he glanced over it, some woman appeared and recognized us from the descriptions we previously gave.

“They’re good. They’re with me,” she said, whisking us away into some fancy elevator and handing us our credentials. We got out, walked through some sort of cocktail party, past a room where chefs were laying out food, and bam, there it was. After all that, we made it.

For the Eagles, the draft was a complete dumpster fire. Only Jason Kelce, Alex Henery, Casey Matthews, and Julian Vandervelde remain three years later, and you can make an argument that three of those players shouldn’t be on the current team. It was worse than 2010, which was pretty underwhelming itself, and one of the final nails in the coffin of the Andy Reid regime that ended 20 months later, but for someone who had never been, it was a blast.

What an unforgettable five hours. Upon returning to State College, I wrote about the experience which will be posted below.

I’m not a huge fan of the way I wrote this but other than one or two grammar tweaks, it appears just as it did a few years ago, and the message encouraging people to go to the draft hasn’t changed.

One caveat: Someone should slap me across the face for saying I didn’t like Cam Newton. What an exciting player to watch.

Merry Christmas, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.

Here’s the post as promised:

Ninety seven dollars, 24 hours, and 10 plates of free food later, I’m back from the first round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. I could use this space to give you my amateur analysis of the first 32 picks:

I don’t like Cam Newton.

Patrick Peterson will be a stud.

Christian Ponder was a major reach for the Vikings.

The Lions defensive line is flat out scary with Suh and Nick Fairley.

I wanted Prince Amukamara in midnight green, and the Giants stole him from me.

But I don’t think that’s what anyone really wants to read about, nor is that what last week was really about.

I have loved the NFL Draft since I was old enough to understand football. My first real draft memory is being a wide eyed 8- year old kid sitting in front of the television with my dad watching Eagles fans boo Donovan McNabb. When I was lucky enough to win these tickets through GMC, I knew that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Class on Friday? Three finals next week? $4.00 for a gallon of gas? Screw it. Nothing was stopping me from getting to New York City, and that is what I’ll most remember: Being there and seeing fans of 32 NFL teams (I think the Bills still have fans right?) come together.

I’ll remember watching in awe as my friend Ryan Beckler navigated NYC roads the way Roy Halladay goes through an opposing lineup making sure no amount of Lincoln Tunnel traffic or NYC taxi drivers were stopping us from picking up our VIP passes. “I don’t think we’re in State College anymore.”

I’ll remember meeting Von Miller’s father outside and the “Fuck You Maclin’s” I got from Giants fans walking up to the entrance. For the record, I was wearing a DeSean Jackson jersey, but I’ll give Giants fans the benefit of the doubt that they can indeed read, and were simply trying to forget this:

Or this

I’ll also remember the people who I spent the night around — A mix of hard core football fans and high-up GMC corporate people. From the gentleman to my left who knew exactly what teams were thinking and could break down Muhammad Wilkerson’s Temple career better than most Jets fans to the couple to my right who didn’t know the difference between Kevin Kolb and Kentucky prospect Randall Cobb but were two of the friendliest people anyone will ever meet.

In a GMC gift bag, a radio was provided to listen to the ESPN and NFL Network guys, but this was not a night to hear analysis. This was a night to soak everything in.

As any of my friends will tell you, I have a really good memory, so I may remember 10 years from now that the 49ers took Aldon Smith from Missouri with the 7th pick, but I’ll more remember sitting 20 feet away from the ESPN set and getting Jon Gruden to acknowledge us after chanting his name  (Mel wouldn’t budge).

I’ve watched football games at The Vet, The Linc, and Beaver Stadium which are three of the best atmospheres in the country to watch a game (If anyone wants to take me to an Eagles game next year I’m 5-1, and the only loss was the meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys last year — Just throwing it out there). I saw Peter Forsberg score his first goal as a Flyer, Allen Iverson win a game against the Wizards on a fast break steal, and several significant Phillies games, but Thursday night will always be one of my favorite memories as a sports fan.

If you’re young enough where you can still drop everything for a day, make sure to attend a draft. Forget the free steak kebabs and rolls.  Just find a way to go. If you’re older, take your kids and let them share the memory with you.

I’m not preaching being financially irresponsible, but this an event all NFL fans should experience even if it puts a slight dent in your wallet.