Clayton: Eagles Fifth Worst Offseason In NFL
By Lance Epstein
Instead of staying the course and heading into the 2010 season with practically the same roster intact after being humiliated by the Dallas Cowboys [twice] to end the season, head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman were determined to make drastic changes to the squad.
The Eagles liberated themselves of aging and overpriced veterans such as Chris Clemons, Darren Howard and Kevin Curtis. Furthermore, the Eagles decided to move the franchise in an entirely different direction. After a decade of success under quarterback Donovan McNabb and his ultimate weapon in Brian Westbrook, the franchise dumped the two mainstays in their offense.
Not only did the Eagles lose those two key components, they also traded starting right corner and defensive leader Sheldon Brown to the Cleveland Browns.
While most fans were happy that the organization finally came to the conclusion that it was time to start over with a youth movement and begin the Kevin Kolb era, ESPN's John Clayton has a different take on the situation.
In a recent article on ESPN.com, Clayton listed the top five worst offseasons in the NFL. The Buffalo Bills received the top honor for worst offseason of any franchise. The Minnesota Vikings [second], Arizona Cardinals [third] and New Orleans Saints [fourth] followed the Bills on the list.
The last team on that made the dreaded list was the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 5. It is only fitting that the Eagles were fifth considering the major reason for Clayton included the Birds on the list was due to trading the best quarterback in franchise history, who happened to wear a number five jersey.
Despite the Eagles making on the list, Clayton acknowledges that some experts and analysts would consider the bold moves as the best moves of the entire offseason. Especially due to the fact the Eagles acquired a pass-rushing specialist in Brandon Graham and a starting caliber free safety in Nate Allen via the draft.
"On paper, the Eagles' offseason could be considered one of the best, but the shadow of the Donovan McNabb trade puts good thoughts on hold," Clayton wrote. "The Eagles' aggressiveness worked well in getting good younger players in trades, such as linebackers Ernie Sims and Alex Hall and defensive end Darryl Tapp. An overstuffed draft that ended up with a league-high 13 choices can't be criticized, particularly when the Eagles got a pass-rushing defensive end (Brandon Graham) and a quality young free safety (Nate Allen)."
However, the main reason that Clayton sees the Eagles offseason as one of the worst is because of the timing of the McNabb trade. He insists that the schedule [which includes 11 match-ups against top-tier quarterbacks] makes it very difficult for Kevin Kolb in his first full-year as a starting quarterback to have more success than an experienced McNabb would have provided the Eagles.
Additionally, he compares Kolb's situation to that of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had a similar predicament in his first year as the starter as he attempted to replace a future Hall of Famer in Brett Favre.
"Bell is a nice addition to backup halfback LeSean McCoy, but the timing of the McNabb trade could bring down the whole team. Kevin Kolb takes over in a season in which the Eagles face 11 top-level quarterbacks, a league high by far," he wrote. "Can Kolb outduel Aaron Rodgers, McNabb (twice), Tony Romo (twice), Eli Manning (twice), Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Favre? Chances are Kolb will go 4-7 or 3-8 against those arms and limit the Eagles to a six- or seven-win season. That's what happened to Rodgers when the Packers traded Favre to the Jets."
So is Clayton accurate when he claims the Eagles have had one of the worst offseasons in the NFL? Not really because the Eagles do not control the schedule making process. When any team looks to move in another direction and improve the roster, they do not worry about who is on their schedule, but about their individual team. In the NFL, teams cannot solely focus on build a club for just the upcoming season. They must build for the long haul as well.
Obviously, the moves the Eagles made this offseason could mean taking a step backwards, but overall it could be more beneficial for the franchise’s future success. Also, with injuries being what they are in football, the Eagles could luck out and miss some of those big-time quarterbacks.
Could Reid, Joe Banner and Roseman looked at the opponents on the slate before trading McNabb to Washington? Of course, but if the team decided to hold onto McNabb and let him play out the season along with his contract, they would receive nothing in return unless he won a Super Bowl.
When trading away a player with as much value as McNabb encompasses [plus having a young quarterback waiting in the wings], a team cannot wait to pull the trigger based off of schedule. A club must take all the chips they can collect before they end up with empty pockets.
Furthermore, there was a reason that the Eagles were inclined to trade McNabb and inside the division. The organization feels that Kolb, not McNabb, gives the Eagles the best opportunity to win next year.
One area that Clayton should have mentioned and he might have been accurate with his assessment is the lack of talent at cornerback. Unfortunately, he did not even touch on that subject. Anointing an offseason as one of the worst based on trading McNabb with a schedule on the horizon that appears to be brutal is laughable. Especially when the club has a capable QB replacing him and that threw for back-to-back 300-yard games in his first two career starts.
While the fans do not agree with all the moves that were made, they are generally onboard with most of them. The Eagles acquired a defensive end in Graham, who should the pressure off Trent Cole. Additionally, the Eagles acquired a free safety in Allen [with the pick they acquired from the McNabb trade] that can adequately replace the void left behind by Brian Dawkins.
Moreover, the team gets back the heart and soul its defense in middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. Also, Bradley has a new partner in crime in weak-side linebacker Sims, who fits the Eagles defensive scheme very well.
Should the Eagles have gone out and found a better replacement for Brown than Hobbs? Probably, but Hobbs could still prove doubters wrong. Did the organization make a mistake by not having a better plan in place incase center Jamaal Jackson is not ready by week 1? Maybe. However, those two issues were not even touched upon by Clayton.
If a schedule is the key to a having a bad offseason, then the Houston Texans should be tops on this list since they possess the hardest strength of schedule.