Marcus Mariota ending up with the Philadelphia Eagles just makes sense, doesn’t it? Chip Kelly recruited him, knew he’d be a great quarterback, and is now an NFL coach the year that Mariota will be a part of the NFL Draft. The Eagles have finished 10-6 in back-to-back seasons, but have failed to win a playoff game since Kelly took over the reins as head coach. Is it time for a desperation move?
Yes, selling the farm for Mariota is definitely a desperation move. Everyone who has ever been associated with the Eagles, whether it be a player, fan or member of the media, is fully aware of the fact that the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. They’ve been there twice in their history, but have obviously lost twice, most recently just over a decade ago against the Patriots. More than anyone else, the fan base is dying for a championship.
But Mariota may not be the solution. Looking at the Eagles’ 2014 season, the quarterback position was no doubt a source of problems, but it had a lot to do with the fact that their starter, Nick Foles, missed half the season with an injury. They were 6-2 with him as a starter despite his statistical struggles. What’s the need for change?
It was reported yesterday that the Eagles are planning to try to trade up in the draft to select Mariota. Before even looking at the value that Mariota would bring the franchise, let’s take a look at the report. Basing a story on a report by an anonymous source is always going to require readers to take the news with a grain of salt. What does this “source” have to gain from this report? For all everyone knows, he or she could be completely wrong. It says he was not authorized to speak on the subject, which is why he’s receiving anonymity, but maybe that means he doesn’t have enough knowledge to speak on it in general. I’m not suggesting the source is fake, I’m only suggesting it’s hard to value a report that involves this much uncertainty.
But just because it will be talked about until the draft actually happens, let’s say the report is true and the Eagles do decide to trade for Mariota. What does this mean for the franchise? Well, the amount they’d have to give up would be steep. Some reports say this year’s first round pick, a 2016 first round pick and LeSean McCoy. Others have said three first round picks and even more. Or could it be something else? The original report suggests they would have to make multiple moves to get up to the top pick, which makes it harder to predict. Either way, they’ll have to give up a lot.
The last time a team did this to get a player was the Redskins for Robert Griffin III, and everyone knows how that turned out. He was good enough to lead them to a division title in his rookie year, then he battled injuries and performed poorly as the Redskins finished in the cellar of the NFC East in 2014. They gave all these picks to the Rams, who aren’t doing that much better, but that has nothing to do with the Redskins’ decision. They traded away their future in order to get one player that could easily already be done in the NFL as a good quarterback.
Not only is trading multiple first round picks detrimental to future development, but it is also very risky. Who’s to say that the player they end up trading all these picks for, in this case, Mariota, will even be good? Sure, it makes sense that he would become the Eagles’ franchise quarterback since he went to Oregon and Kelly used to coach for Oregon and he would fit in their offense, blah blah blah. If it were that easy to create a dynasty, it would happen a lot more often. But it’s not. No player in the draft is guaranteed to perform well in the NFL. There are so many factors to consider that make it nearly impossible to know exactly how a player’s career will turn out. That’s a well-understood idea, but it still means teams need to exercise caution, especially when they feel pressure to sell out for one player.
In addition to trading all these picks, McCoy has been thrown around in the trade talks. This would be a bigger mistake than trading the picks. Running backs are definitely not valued as high as they used to be and can be found outside the first round, but it’s very hard to find one who consistently performs at a high level. McCoy was the best running back in 2013 and was a top five running back in 2014. He will have a large cap hit next year, which is one negative, but considering how well he’s played as an Eagle, he deserves a lot of money.
If the Eagles traded him and didn’t make running back a priority in the draft, they’d have to decide what to do with Darren Sproles and Chris Polk at running back. Considering it’s a very important part of their offense and that neither of those guys is an every down back, it’d be much harder to solidify a running game on a regular basis.
Also, as I mentioned before, there’s no guarantee Mariota will even be good. Many people are saying he’s not quite “pro ready,” even though it’s a hard thing to measure. And even if he does become a great quarterback, it could easily take a few years. Switching in Mariota for Nick Foles and going on without McCoy in the backfield might mean a step back in terms of success for the first couple of years. Kelly could end up not winning a playoff game in his first four seasons, and maybe not even making it in three of them. That’s all hypothetical, but that doesn’t sound like a desirable option in my opinion.
Putting all of this aside, the biggest problem with all of this could be that other teams won’t want to comply. Because it makes so much sense in theory for Mariota to be Kelly’s quarterback in the NFL, why would teams willingly let that happen? Even if they did let that happen, if they believe they’d be a good duo, they would definitely use that as leverage to receive more in a trade from the Eagles. This isn’t a season in Madden where general managers are blind to things like that…they’re not stupid.
Also, there is a high demand for quarterbacks in this year’s draft and not enough supply. The Eagles already have a quarterback that is starter quality, meaning it shouldn’t be a position they should focus on in this draft. Nonetheless, they could be after Mariota. But what about all these other teams? Of the current top 12 teams in the draft, six of them could easily draft a quarterback (Buccaneers, Titans, Redskins, Jets, Bears and Rams). Another four of them just drafted a quarterback in the first round last year. Would all of these teams be fine with the Eagles jumping over them to take (arguably) the best quarterback available in the draft? Many of them won’t have a say, but I’m sure they all have some sort of interest in drafting a quarterback high up in the draft.
Going to those four teams who just drafted a quarterback in the first round last year (Raiders, Jaguars, Vikings and Browns), they all still struggled this year. While they’ve all been consistently bad teams and are in much worse situations than the Eagles, it proves that rookie quarterbacks very infrequently come in and immediately make a huge impact. If the Eagles sell out for Mariota, there is an expectation that he will start immediately and win now. If that doesn’t happen, there will, and should be, immediate criticism for what they did to get him.
Mariota could end up being a really special player, or he could be a bust. There are exactly zero people in the world who know exactly what his NFL career will be like. There is nothing wrong with him going number one overall and being put into the starting lineup by some team, but please, don’t let it be the Eagles. It’s just not worth it.