When the Eagles moved up to select Matt Barkley in the fourth round, it sent a jolt through the NovaCare media room — as I am sure it did through living rooms across the Delaware Valley. There were “Wow!”s and “Huh?”s and grunts, followed by the the sound of reporters frantically attacking their keyboards.
A beat later one of the Eagles’ PR men came in and announced, “Chip is on his way down, guys.”
A scramble to the auditorium. Chip Kelly swiftly made his way to the podium as the media was getting settled. One reporter said to Kelly as he walked by: “Man, I can’t figure you guys out.”
Kelly stopped. And turned. And said, “It’s really not that hard. Look at who the best players are. That’s who we’re going to take.”
The drafting of the USC quarterback is the most significant moment of the Chip Kelly era to date. Not because Barkley will go on to become a franchise quarterback — he could be amazing, he could be a disappointment — but rather because of what it reveals about the new head coach.
Kelly has stated on numerous occasions that he is not married to a specific scheme and will cater to his players’ strengths. But a golden rule when reporting on a team is to watch what they do, not what they say. Up until this point, everything Kelly had done was pro-mobile quarterback. He made the decision to keep Michael Vick. Signed G.J. Kinne and Dennis Dixon. Released Trent Edwards. Nick Foles was on an island. And when word got out that the Kelly had already implemented the read-option, you wondered how Foles could compete and survive.
The problem with going after one specific type of quarterback is you significantly shrink the pool — and it’s a small pool to begin with. If you are passing on superior signal-callers just because they don’t fit your vision, then your vision has some major flaws. Kelly is a very smart coach by all accounts, and the real smart ones don’t box themselves in, but there were some doubts.
Then came the Barkley pick.
“With Coach there’s a lot of perceptions about what he’s looking for and what he wants, and it’s always been personnel driven and it’s always been about getting good players,” said Howie Roseman moments after the draft wrapped. “One of the things that we’ve learned during the interview process was, it’s not just, ‘I have to run this specific offense, I have to have these specific players.’ It’s ‘Tell me who are good players, and then let me find their strengths.’ That’s exciting from a personnel perspective.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Grades start rolling in for the Eagles’ draft.
Take a peek at the Jon Gruden QB Camp episode featuring Barkley.
The Eagles add nine undrafted free agents to the fold, including one bad ass punter.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Domo gives the Eagles a B-plus for their draft.
The Eagles stayed true to their board in this draft, ignoring need and selecting the best available player. Lane Johnson is an athletic OT who appears to be a good fit for Chip Kelly’s offense and second-round TE Zach Ertz is going to be a fun weapon to watch Chip Kelly use to create mismatches. The one and only trade GM Howie Roseman made – giving a seventh-round pick to Jacksonville to move up three spots in the fourth round and select QB Matt Barkley – could turn out to be a franchise-changer if Barkley ends up becoming the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the next 10 years. If he doesn’t, well, it was only a fourth-round pick.
Jeff McLane believes Kelly’s approach to his first draft mirrors Jimmy Johnson‘s in some respects.
They took players they were familiar with, with the majority of them coming from power conferences. In some instances, they coached against them – four of Kelly’s eight draft picks played in the Pac-12. They recruited a few of them out of high school.
Kelly, it seems, went the “If you can’t beat them, draft them” route by selecting three players from the only three teams he lost to during his last two seasons at Oregon. He drafted Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in the second round, LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan in the third, and Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth.
Kelly called it “a unique coincidence,” but those players obviously made an impression.
We’ll get deeper into Kelly’s first draft picks.