Nobody wanted to see Chip Kelly leave. But maybe giving him complete authority over personnel isn’t the best idea.
With the Eagles’ organizational structure in the past, sometimes it was difficult to tell who was making the draft selections. That wasn’t the case in the 2014 NFL Draft. With a pair of Oregon players and a another PAC-10 player selected, Kelly’s influence is clear.
Give Kelly credit for Jordan Matthews. There have been rumors that Kelly wanted to select Matthews in the first round before being assured – by Howie Roseman? – that the Vanderbilt receiver would last until the second round. Matthews was available in the second round, but the Eagles traded back up to the 42nd overall pick (10th pick of the second round) in order to make sure they got their man.
Other than the Matthews selection, the rest of the Eagles’ draft isn’t much to write home about. None of the other six draft picks was more than a marginal contributor.
The first selection, of course, was Louisville defensive end/linebacker Marcus Smith. This was a bad pick for several reasons.
First, the Eagles should have tried to trade up from No. 22, as the Saints did to get receiver Brandin Cooks at No. 20. In addition to pursuing a trade with the Cardinals for the 20th pick, the Eagles could have worked out a deal with the Dolphins, who could have traded down from No. 19 and still picked up offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James. The Ealges would have been in position to draft Cooks or safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who went to the Packers at No. 21.
Instead, the Eagles appeared to outsmart themselves, moving down from No. 22 to No. 26, where they selected Smith. Perhaps they were counting on defensive end Dee Ford being available at No. 26, but the Chiefs nabbed him at No. 23. Cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett could have been the Eagles targets. They were gone, however, going to the Bengals and Chargers at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively.
Left with the 26th pick and not having one of their targeted players available – unless you believe Smith was the player they wanted all along – the Eagles still had better choices that Smith. In fact, you could argue that the players taken during the remainder of the first round were better options than Smith. Imagine if the Eagles drafted cornerback Bradley Roby, as the Broncos did with the 31st pick. The Eagles also could have traded down to the second round to garner more draft picks.
If they truly wanted Smith, they could have traded down – even out of the first round – and probably still had him available. It’s unclear whose first-round maneuvering left the Eagles with Smith. It seems clear, though, that selecting Oregon receiver Josh Huff (86th overall) was the result of Kelly’s influence.
Five selections after Huff was selected by the Eagles, the Colts drafted receiver Donte Moncrief, who had 32 receptions for 444 yards during the regular season. Six selections after Huff, the Cardinals picked speedster John Brown, who burned the Eagles for a critical touchdown when the Cardinals beat them earlier this season.
The Eagles got little production out of defensive back Jaylen Watkins (4th round, 101st overall) and defensive tackle Beau Allen (7th round). Oregon defensive end Taylor Hart (5th round) and Stanford safety Ed Reynolds (6th round) spent most of the season deactivated and on the practice squad, respectively.
The Eagles mishandled their first-round pick in 2014, ending up with a player who barely got on the field. Only the receivers, Matthews and Huff, contributed, and Huff underwent major growing pains.
If the 2014 draft was an accurate indicator of Kelly’s drafting ability, the Eagles may wish they never game him this much power this early in his career.
BACK-TO-BACK MIRACLES: Stop the presses! The Sixers won a home game and the Flyers won a shootout on back-to-back nights at Wells Fargo Center!
The Sixers’ 95-92 victory Monday over the shorthanded Cavaliers was the Sixers’ first home victory of the season after losing their first 14 games at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers’ 2-1 shootout win over the Senators on Tuesday was their first shootout win this season (1-5) and broke a streak of 10 consecutive losses in shootouts.
Both the Flyers and Sixers snapped five-game losing streaks.
HALL OF A CLASS: Nobody should have much an argument with the four players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. The Class of 2016, announced Tuesday, features pitchers Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez, all of whom surpassed the required 75 percent of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America in their first year of eligibility. Astros middle infielder Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote last year, moved up to 82.7 percent this year.
How did Biggio’s total increase without playing in a game? I have no idea. Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling increased 10 percent to 39.2. Tim Raines’ percentage jumped from 46.1 to 55. Mike Piazza increased nearly 8 percent to 69.9, not too far off from induction.
With a 2016 first-ballot group that includes only one high-profile superstar, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Trevor Hoffman, second behind Mariano Rivera in all-time saves, it seems likely that Piazza will pick up the additional 5.1 percent it takes to get elected. Jeff Bagwell (55.7 percent this year) could also approach the 75 percent necessary for induction.
I know it doesn’t make any sense for players to gain and lose that much support in a year in which their qualifications did not change one iota. But that’s the way the system works.
MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE: Where do we begin with the awful officiating in the Cowboys’ 24-20 playoff victory over the Lions?
I’ve never seen a flag picked up and the penalty waived off after the penalty was announced by the referee. But that’s what happened on a key pass interference call against the Cowboys.
Equally difficult to believe was that Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant wasn’t penalized for running onto the field from the sidelines to argue with officials after the initial call. There were also holding calls missed – as there are every week – and other mistakes.
This isn’t a new idea, but isn’t it time for the NFL to hire full-time officiating crews? The NFL has more than enough money to make that happen.
BEST WISHES TO POLLACK: Best wishes to statistician extraordinaire Harvey Pollack, who is recovering from injuries suffered in a one-car accident last Thursday. Pollack, 92, was listed in critical but stable condition after breaking his hip, pelvis, jaw and ribs in the accident.
Pollack is the only employee from the NBA’s first season, 1946-47, still working in the NBA. On a personal note, Pollack was a classmate and longtime friend of my Aunt Bea, a huge basketball fan. My thoughts and prayers are with Pollack as he recovers from his injuries.
PUTTING THE ‘O’ IN PLAYOFFS: Oregon and Ohio State will square off for the national championship Monday in the title game of the first major college football playoffs. The Ducks destroyed Florida State, 59-20, and the Buckeyes upset top-seeded Alabama, 42-35. I think Chip Kelly’s former team will win the national championship.
FAREWELL TO SCOTT: My condolences go out to the friends and family of ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, who died of cancer at age 49. Scott’s unique style will be missed, but not as much as those who knew him will miss Stuart Scott the man.
PROUD MOMENT: I don’t want to end Fish ‘n Chips on a down note, so I’ll add that I’m kicking myself for missing Philly Sports Talk today (Tuesday) on Comcast SportsNet. Two of the guests were Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski and Calkins Media Phillies beat writer, Kevin Cooney.
A long, long, long time ago, Mike was an intern and Kevin was a part-time sports writer on my staff when I was associate sports editor of The Record, which was a Montgomery County edition of The Intelligencer and is part of Calkins Media. I am extremely proud of both of them for all they’ve accomplished.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 26 years, wishes he had the officiating crew from the Cowboys-Lions game to “pick up the flag” every time he does something wrong.