Eagles Wake-Up Call: Coaching Or Personnel?
Today’s question comes from reader Jim, via the Birds 24/7 Facebook page:
Hey guys, regular reader, not much of a commenter, but here’s a question I have:
A lot of fans are coveting Byron Maxwell, should he make it to free agency. They point out that as a sixth-round pick, he’s an example of how well Seattle drafts and how we need to draft better.
My question is: Is our failure in the secondary a result of poor drafting (Jaiquawn Jarrett) or rather our inability to groom the talent we acquire (Nate Allen)? Allen was about as accomplished a college safety as you could find, and yet he comes to us and is only mediocre. I’m not convinced that had we drafted Earl Thomas early like fans wanted, or even Maxwell, that they would be who they’ve become in Seattle. My feeling is that if we had drafted them, they would just be mediocre players. Where is that line between drafting well and developing the talent you acquire?
This is a question that gets asked whenever a team falls short of expectations.
My basic stance with the 2014 Eagles’ secondary was that it was more about talent than coaching. No secondary that features Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher as the starting corners, along with Allen as a starting safety, is going to shut down teams’ passing games. Remember, last offseason Allen was a free agent. He couldn’t find more than a one-year deal anywhere and re-signed with the Eagles. It’s not like teams were lining up to get a hold of Allen’s untapped potential.
Fletcher is a free agent this offseason, and there is unlikely to be much of a market for his services.
Having said all that, the coaches can’t be let off the hook. We wrote time and again down the stretch about how Billy Davis left Fletcher on an island against receivers like Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson. Brandon Boykin never got a shot on the outside, and the last two safeties the Eagles have drafted (Earl Wolff and Ed Reynolds) have not been developed at all.
The truth is it’s always a combination of coaching and personnel. If Thomas were on the Eagles next season, he would instantly provide a massive upgrade over Allen. I disagree that he would be a mediocre player on the Eagles. But your overall point has some merit. Thomas is helped by Richard Sherman. Sherman is helped by Kam Chancellor. Chancellor is helped by Maxwell. And so on.
This is what makes evaluating free agents so difficult. If Maxwell hits the market in March, some team is going to open up its wallet to bring him on board. But that team has to be reminded that Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor ain’t walking through that door with Maxwell.
Every coach says he will adapt scheme to personnel, but only the great ones are capable of really doing so. The Eagles’ defense actually improved in a number of areas in 2014, and coaches have done a good job of developing players like Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Mychal Kendricks. But until they upgrade the talent in the secondary, it’s tough to fairly evaluate the job Davis has done.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Cross Seahawks director of college scouting Scott Fitterer off the Eagles’ list of candidates to fill their personnel exec opening.
What they’re saying: Ten years later, plenty of chatter about the Eagles’ Super Bowl drive that took forever.
Could Nick Foles be a trade chip? T-Mac explores.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz says not to overlook Foles:
I’m not telling you Foles is the answer at QB and the Eagles are all set. I do think we might be a bit quick in dismissing him. I don’t know that the Eagles are going to find a better QB for 2015. And I think Foles can play a lot better than he did in 2014.
The one issue that can’t be ignored is durability. Foles has gotten hurt in each of his 3 NFL seasons. If he is the Eagles starter this year, they need a quality backup in place.
Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice thinks Miami (OH) CB Quinten Rollins could make sense for the Eagles:
Rollins is a playmaker. During the week of practices, he showed a knack for locating the ball in the air and making plays on it, something Philly fans rarely saw from Eagles starting corners in 2014. In the Senior Bowl game itself, he made a very nice over the shoulder interception. Rollins was a star basketball player at Miami (OH) for four years, and didn’t play footbal until his senior year, when he had seven interceptions. He has an enormous ceiling. To be determined if 5’11 is too short for the Eagles’ liking. Projected round: 1st or 2nd.
We’ll take a look back at the Eagles’ rookie class.