Tonight an old tradition is renewed. From as far back as the pick of disappointing offensive tackle Bernard Williams to the head scratching pick of Kevin Kolb I watched almost all of the NFL Drafts in between with my best friend Tanner. After a six year hiatus Tanner and I will once again embark on an Eagles Draft
The early years were spent in my parent’s basement or in the”Africa” room at Tanner’s parents house with Oreo’s, the now discontinued BBQ Fritos, and empty cases of Barq’s Root Beer scattered throughout the room giving it the look of a middle school frat party. We’d go underground a la Osama Bin Ladin for the entire weekend without much if any communication to the outside world. The only times the TV wasn’t set to ESPN is when we took a break in order to continue our Madden franchises, which took our NFL nerddum to a level only few can achieve. We (When I say we I mean me because Tanner wrote like a stroke victim) actually used to write down our players career stats to keep a record of what players had a better career. Thankfully Madden helped us and added that feature sometime during the 90’s.
It was during those years when we watched the Eagles select disappointing wide receivers like Todd Pinkston, Gari Scott, and the notorious Freddie Mitchell. There was the parade of mediocre linebackers like James Darling, Quinton Caver, Barry Gardner, and Ray Farmer. We watched workout warrior Mike Mamula come to Philadelphia in 1995. In 1996 the Eagles selected a partially blind guard Jermaine Mayberry, who actually turned out to be one of the better Eagles first round picks of the 90s. Then there was the nightmare of 1997 when the Eagles picked Virginia DE Jon Harris, who was considered a 4th round talent, BUT was rumored to be high on the 49ers draft board. Years later it came out that the Eagles selected Harris because they were in a state of panic. How that happens in a professional football war room is beyond me, but if you’ve seen the new movie Draft Day and found it hard to believe NFL teams were frozen with fear because a player they believed would be gone was still there I’m here to tell you that it can happen to your team. It wasn’t all bad though as we saw Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid select some Eagles greats like Jeremiah Trotter, Deuce Staley, Bobby Taylor, Donovan McNabb, Tra Thomas, and Brian Dawkins.
In college the tradition continued more or less even with Tanner in Madison and myself in Columbus. There was our sophomore year when Tanner drove down to Columbus and we watched at my place, which was the closest I’ve ever been and ever hope to be living in a Real World house. One of my six roommates was a rabid Browns fan and invited his entire town of Minster, Ohio to the house for a draft party. The party included dozens of shirtless men in jean shorts, another roommate of mine marching around the house in his ROTC issued underwear and boots singing “Yellow Submarine” and a girl declaring to the party that she wanted to deficate on the sofa. That girl is now married and has children. All of this was taking place while Tanner and I intently watched the Eagles select former lunatic and Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews, which looking back on it seems appropriate given our surroundings for the 2004 NFL Draft.
The next year was yet another unforgettable chapter in our draft history. It was 2005, the Eagles had just lost the Super Bowl and Tanner and I were studying abroad in Australia. Sydney is truly one of the best cities in the world to spend a semester abroad with the great weather, beaches, meat pies, and bars that will engage in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to settle your drink order. One of the only minuses though is the lack of access to American television. Tanner, being the much more stubborn and determined individual, convinced me to spend the Thursday afternoon before the draft going from bar to bar asking if they by chance have satellite television and get any American sports channels. Whether or not this was even feasible at the time I don’t know. But we trekked across Sydney, even at one point entering the seedy red light district that left me with literal scars the last time we were there thanks to my chest being used as a prop for one of the dancers. Needless to say we came up empty, and then resorted to checking the internet for a live feed. Had this been any year after 2007 I’m guessing we would have had more luck. But it was only 2005 and in one final act of desperation Tanner placed a call stateside to his younger brother Griffin, who played the hero and held a computer up to the TV while we listened to the draft at 4 AM Sydney time through Skype. Before 2012, the 2005 draft was the last time the Eagles selected an impact player (Trent Cole) on defense. I probably still haven’t apologized to my college roommate, abroad roommate, and all-time friend Tina for putting up with the pouting, pathetic, and whinny behavior leading up to the draft. Tina if you read this, I’m still sorry.
And then there was the last draft Tanner and I watched together in 2007. Britney Spears’ head was freshly shaven, the iPhone was nothing more than a rumor, and “Umbrella” was being played on a loop throughout every bar in America. This time around I made the journey north to Wisconsin to watch with Tanner and his roommates Nosal and Devlin. Their apartment was much more equipped for a solid 10 hour draft viewing. They had a chalkboard wall where we wrote down our first round predictions and a shuffle board table to distract us while Berman shouted things and Kiper droned on about the fall of Brady Quinn. It was a great afternoon with two exceptions. The first being the apartment agreement to drink a shot of gin after Ted Ginn Jr was selected. The Dolphins knowing this, decided to screw with us and picked Ginn 7th meaning we were to slug gin before 1 PM. To be honest I can’t remember if we all took the shot or decided it was entirely too early to drink gin. The second snafu of course came when Andy Reid and the Birds front office once again got Tanner and I to both say “what the fuck” by their decision to trade down and select quarterback Kevin Kolb with their first pick in the second round. Despite having McNabb on roster Reid decided to shake things up causing Philadelphia to go into a total meltdown along with Tanner and myself. Meanwhile our friend Devlin, a Giants fan, was mumbling trying to convince himself that he wasn’t upset with the Giants selection of Aaron Ross. I still struggle to call the Kolb pick a success or a failure. On the one hand by trading down they picked up a 3rd rounder (Stewart Bradley) and a 5th rounder (C.J. Gaddis) and then when they traded Kolb to Arizona they got back CB Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick (Nate Allen). So the Eagles technically were net positive after the Kolb pick, but they managed to bungle every extra pick they received so in the end it was the equivalent of trading cat poo for dog poo.
The years since were some of the darkest drafts for Eagles fans. Reid’s fetish for “fastballs” along the DL reached new heights with the selections of Trevor Laws, Bryan Smith who weighed 225 as a DE, Brandon Graham, and Daniel Teo-Neisham (pronounced Teo-Not-Gonna-Play-Here). Those four DL , who were all selected between rounds 1 and 3, have totaled 17.5 sacks with the Eagles over a combined nine seasons. Smith never tallied a single tackle as an Eagle. Beyond the defensive line drafting a large part of Reid’s downfall in Philly can be attributed to his selections in the 2010 and 2011 drafts. Of the 24 picks made over those two years only center Jason Kelce, wide receiver Riley Cooper, kicker Alex Henery, and the previously mentioned Brandon Graham are still on the team. And by the time Jacksonville comes to Philly to begin the 2014 season the only locks to still be on the team are Cooper and Kelce. Thankfully Reid’s last draft as Eagles coach and Kelly’s first have helped restock the Eagles roster. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Bryce Brown, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan, and Earl Wolff, will all either be starting or playing a significant role on a team that somehow went 10-6, hosted a playoff game last year, and is favored to win the NFC East this season.
The future for the Eagles looks to be pointing upward, but if my history with the Eagles draft picks has taught me anything it’s that at least 50% of the time I’ll be left feeling rage or disappointment after the commissioner announces the Eagles pick. Thankfully though I’ll at least have Tanner to bicker and commiserate with once again. And even if Roseman and Kelly trade 3 future firsts and Foles for Manziel, I’ll be parked on a couch watching the Eagles light the future on fire with someone who knows the pain I’ll be in.