Big Red’s Big Day

For Eagles' fans — and Andy Reid — this week's NFL Draft is the most important one in 11 years

There may be few things in life Andy Reid enjoys more than having a surfeit of draft picks. A big win, to be sure. A nice meal, most likely. A world without media, absolutely. But the ability to trade around, move up and down and play big-time wheeler-dealer on draft day ranks right up there.

Since the Eagles possess 11 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, including five in the first 87, Reid must be positively giddy. He can sit in the Birds’ war room, with consigliore Howie Roseman at his side, and maneuver through the proceedings as if he were driving a Formula One race car. He could soar up into the top 10. Or, he might drop out of the first round all together. You never know. [SIGNUP]

While Reid has his fun, he had better remember that this is the most important NFL Draft since 1999, his first with the Eagles. After nearly a decade of prosperity and contention, the team is in a period of transition, and how well Reid replenishes the stocks with this draft could well determine whether the next several years will be successful. At no time since he took over has a Reid team had so many needs. The offensive line is a mess. The pass rush needs help. There are holes at linebacker. And don’t even get me started on the secondary.

Unlike ’99, when Reid disappointed a whole bus load of revelers, a carpetbagging radio host and a misinformed mayor by selecting the horribly overrated Donovan McNabb instead of Texas running back Bob Marley, the quarterback situation is rock-solid. While McNabb was blamed for everything from shaky defensive play to diminished city services (rumor has it that some Redskins fans are checking out his role in the volcanic eruption in Iceland), Kolb will be cheered enthusiastically and no doubt revered for the multiple Super Bowl titles he will deliver.

Since Reid has the security of a contract that keeps him in Philadelphia — or at least pays him — through the 2013 season, he has decided the time to revitalize (not rebuild; never rebuild) the franchise is now. That’s why no big-time free agents were pursued. That’s why McNabb was dished to D.C. The Eagles are trying to change their personality, and having 11 picks practically affords them the opportunity to undergo a character transplant. It’s unlikely Reid will welcome that many newcomers, since his desire to trade around is practically uncontrollable. But he can fortify a lot of areas in this draft.

And he had better get it done. The two hideous losses to Dallas at the end of the season showed that the Eagles are well behind the best team in the NFC East right now. The Cowgirls’ blowout loss to the Vikings underscores the distance between the Birds and the conference’s elite. If this draft doesn’t yield a mother lode of talent, the gap could widen, and it could be quite a while before the Eagles return to the top of the NFC.

With so much at stake, the question becomes whether Reid can deliver. The popular opinion is that Big Red is a mediocre drafter and is incapable of turning a draft day advantage into a collection of productive players, and that’s not too far from the truth. He has had his moments, but he has rarely brought in a pile of players who make immediate contributions, if they contribute at all. When the odious Giants won the ’08 Super Bowl, seven rookie draft choices contributed to the effort. Reid has never approached that level of success.

But he gets points for selecting Trent Cole in the fifth round of the 2005 draft and Brent Celek at number five in ’07. He is to be congratulated for choosing Brian Westbrook in the third round in 2003. But he has had several dry sockets, entire drafts that have yielded just one or two players capable of helping out. He has also been criticized for having a bias against certain positions and therefore neglecting them in the early rounds of the draft.

It really doesn’t matter what position Reid favors in this draft, because the Eagles need so much. It is imperative that Reid adds several players who will contribute for at least a few seasons. If he doesn’t, the franchise could well slide back into the morass that it inhabited before Reid took over. It may be tempting for him to play around with the team’s 11 picks, but Reid had better curb his inner Trump and nail this Draft. If he doesn’t, it’s on him, because Number Five isn’t around to take the hits any more.

• That’s right Sixers; it was all Eddie Jordan’s fault: the bad contracts, the weak drafting, the lack of foresight. All Eddie. Nice to have a whipping boy, isn’t it?

• Did you ever think you would be pining for the return of Joe Blanton? Well, with J.A. Happ hurt and Kyle Kendrick and Pop-Pop Moyer struggling, the Big Man looks pretty attractive.

• Raise your hand if you expected Brian Boucher to be outplaying Martin Brodeur at this point in the Flyers-Devils series. If you do, get to Confession immediately.

MICHAEL BRADLEY fights for truth and justice in the world of sports from his secure World Headquarters in suburban Philadelphia. His work appears in Sporting News, Athlon publications, Hoop Magazine and Slam, and he is a regular contributor to Sirius Mad Dog Radio and 97.5 The Fanatic. He writes about sports for The Philly Post every Monday.