Eagles Buck “Quick Fix” Trend

Does the name Beau Bell mean anything to you?

In 2008, Bell, a linebacker out of Nevada-Las Vegas (Randall Cunningham also played his college ball there) was selected by the Cleveland Browns, in the fourth round, with the 104th overall pick in that year's NFL draft. It was the first pick that the Browns got to make in that draft, since they had traded away their first three picks.

The Browns, who had finished 10-6 in 2007, but were double-whammy victims of the NFL's arcane tie-breaking procedures (losing the AFC North title to Pittsburgh on the grounds of having lost to the Steelers twice — fair enough; but considerably less fair was their losing the second, and in those days the last, AFC wild-card berth due to a poorer record against common opponents than the Titans, given that Tennessee finished third in the AFC South while Cleveland finished second in the AFC North), not surprisingly plummeted to 4-12 in 2008 — not surprising in view of the fact that everybody else got to add valuable young talent through the 2008 draft while they got caught standing still.

That dubious mark will be tied by the Rams, the kings of the quick fix, as they will be making their first selection at No. 104 overall in the 2022 draft, pursuant to the Matthew Stafford/Jared Goff trade (ironically, Goff was their most recent first-round pick — in 2016).

And when the Dolphins made their decidedly ill-advised trade with the Chiefs for Tyreek Hill this past Wednesday, it meant that their first pick in the 2022 draft will now be at No. 102 overall (a compensatory pick that originally belonged to the 49ers, such trades having become permissible starting in 2017).

(As for the Chiefs, their seemingly senseless selection of Hill clone Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 draft does not seem so senseless now.)

Yet the Dolphins have not been the only team in the new league year to succumb to the temptation to mortgage their future for what may or may not turn out to be a quick fix.

On March 16 — "New Year's Day" in the NFL — the Broncos (officially) traded their first and second-round picks in both 2022 and 2023, plus three veteran players, to Seattle for Russell Wilson, who will turn 34 during the 2022 regular season.

Two days later, the Raiders acquired wide receiver Davante Adams from the Packers for both their first and second-round picks in the 2022 draft, leaving Las Vegas with just four picks therein (the first one being No. 86 overall).

But with all due apologies to Vanessa Williams, we saved the worst for last: on the same day as the Davante Adams trade went down, the Browns (them again!) gave up their first-round picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024, along with a third-round pick in 2023 and fourth-round picks in both 2022 and 2024, to the Texans in exchange for the beleaguered (let's be nice about it!) Deshaun Watson. Not only that, but concomitant with the trade, Watson signed a new, all-time NFL record $230 million guaranteed five-year contract with Cleveland (no word on whether the contract includes a clause that forbids Watson from procuring the services of any masseuses).

This is the second time in the history of the NFL draft — and that goes back to 1936 — that a team traded away three first-round draft choices for one player, regardless of position (the other such instance was the trade of Herschel Walker from Dallas to Minnesota on October 12, 1989; the Cowboys also received three second-round picks from the Vikings, who in turn received two third-round picks from Dallas).

But what do the Eagles have to do with any of this, you ask?

On June 8, 1973, the Eagles acquired long-time Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel (who is half Filipino — admit it, you didn't know that), despite the fact that his passer rating had declined for three years in a row, and the '72 Rams had a losing season for the first time since 1965, for first-round picks in both 1974 and 1975 (also a third-round pick in the latter year), then two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Harold Jackson, and running back Tony Baker. When this blatant quick-fix trade gave the appearance of having worked — the Eagles went from scoring 145 points in 1972, at that time the fewest ever in a 14-game season, to 310 in 1973 — the temptation for them to do it again was too hard to resist.

Since the Gabriel trade seemed to work so well for their offense — the '73 Eagles allowed 393 points (only the 1-13, then Houston Oilers gave up more points that year), limiting their improvement from 2-11-1 in 1972 to 5-8-1 in 1973 — Mike McCormack went to the poisoned well again, trading the team's first-round pick in 1977, plus first and second-round picks in 1978, to the Bengals for the 1969 Defensive Rookie of the Year, linebacker Bill Bergey (this is a highly instructive example of how mortgaging the future for quick fixes has a way of becoming habit-forming — the present Rams serving as, if anything, an even more egregious example).

However, the Gabriel-led offensive boom very soon went bust, as the very next year the Eagles, following a 4-1 start, lost six in a row — whereupon Gabriel was benched in favor of Mike Boryla, who himself was obtained from the Bengals for Philadelphia's first and sixth-round picks in 1976 (which is why the Eagles couldn't give Cincinnati their 1976 first-round pick in the Bergey deal) and led the Eagles to victories in their last three games for a 7-7 finish that was the team's best season since 1966 (the Eagles scored 242 points in 1974, of which 84 were scored in the three games that Boryla started).

Given the over-the-top success that Dick Vermeil (who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer) had with his top draft picks once he got the chance to make any — Jerry Robinson in 1979, Roynell Young in 1980, and Mike Quick in 1982 — it is anything but a dangerous assumption to assert that Vermeil would not only have won at least one Lombardi Trophy in Philadelphia, but that his stint with the Eagles would have lasted a lot longer than the seven years that it actually did last.

Current Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was 14-years-old when Great White's Once Bitten Twice Shy came out. It must have been one of his favorite songs growing up.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site