By Ben Sullivan
So, Mike Missanelli and Sal Paolantonio have started a drive on 95. the Fanatic for the Eagles to “Do the Deal,” which means gather a whole host of their draft picks and players and trade them to whichever NFL team is ahead of them so that the Birds can select Marcus Mariota in the May draft.
Mikey Miss has even reverted to doing an article for Philly mag that says the same thing.
And as John Canzano of the Oregonian wrote the other day:
Chip Kelly must play this cool. As if he doesn’t care. As if it won’t matter. As if nobody is looking. Marcus Mariota announced last Wednesday that he’ll enter the NFL draft. He’s leaving college behind. And Kelly should spend the next couple of months pretending not to notice.
But we all know what he’d love to do.
Kelly won a power struggle and now has full control of the personnel decisions in Philly. He has all the Eagles draft picks, and assets such as running back LeSean McCoy, at his disposal. But what he doesn’t have is a quarterback ideally suited for his offense in the way Mariota would be.
Trouble is, there are 19 teams between the Eagles and Mariota. Also, there’s evidence that mortgaging your entire future for one player doesn’t pencil out. Anyone who has spent time around Kelly knows that this is the player he has to have.
You’re going to hear talk about the Eagles using their first-round pick (No. 20 overall) to fill a defensive need. You’ll hear discussion about how UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, a one-time Kelly recruit, would probably fit. But Kelly must know that he has to do everything in his power to get Mariota in a Birds uniform.
“If Chip Kelly can pull that off, it’s a boon,” Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said Wednesday. “Marcus is an excellent athlete with a good arm and good feet but the biggest concern is that he’s not a guy who is going to throw in rhythm and throw into small windows.
“I think he can get that part, but if he can get into a system that suits him, it’s ideal. The familiarity he has with Chip’s offense would make this a win for both of those guys.”
Kelly needs Mariota. Without him, the growth curve slows considerably. The fan base is already beginning to wonder if his offense is an entertaining parlor trick that is incapable of resulting in a deep playoff run. Kelly has a couple of seasons to demonstrate otherwise to ownership.
Kelly loves McCoy, but he won big at Oregon with a line of running backs (LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Byron Marshall, etc.) that he could easily duplicate in the NFL. What he absolutely had to have, though, was a quarterback who suited his style.
Not Nick Foles. Not Matt Barkley or Mark Sanchez. Not even Michael Vick.
Kelly desperately needs Mariota and should do everything in his power to make it happen.
Mariota needs Kelly, too. Without him, the ex-Ducks quarterback runs the risk of being drafted by a struggling franchise that hands him the keys and asks him to save it. Joey Harrington, basically. David Carr, essentially. Together, these guys win big. Apart, it’s a question. And I don’t think either can afford to bank on the notion that some team might draft Mariota and give up on him in two seasons.
There’s a fair chance Tampa Bay will try to sell season tickets by passing on Mariota at No. 1 and selecting Jameis Winston. What we’ll find out is whether Tennessee, picking at No. 2, really does like Zach Mettenberger as much as it says. If so, given their glaring overall needs, they’re a potential trade partner for the Eagles.
Jacksonville picks third and has its quarterback. The Raiders pick fourth. They have Derek Carr under center. And so you see there will be plenty of opportunity for the Eagles should they decide to go all-in chasing Mariota.
Predraft workouts will only increase Mariota’s value. He’ll test well. He’ll run well. Scouts will be surprised at his accuracy and arm strength. There’s nothing here that will help Kelly except for the narrative that Moon and others have on mobile passers.
What makes Mariota so good, though, isn’t his arm or even legs. He often uses his feet to create extra time or create the right breakdown on defense. But what really makes Mariota so deft is his brain. The game never moves faster than he wants it to move. When he makes a mistake, it’s not one of panic, but one of excitement, as if he sees the play developing and can’t help but get to it faster than it wants to happen.
Give up picks. Give up players. Even give up McCoy and Foles if you have to do it. Kelly can win with a backfield that includes Chris Polk and whoever else he can find. But what Kelly can’t do is let the quarterback who is ideal for what he wants to accomplish fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t know what to do with him.
Mariota needs it.
Kelly needs it.
The rest of us wouldn’t take our eyes off it.