Understatement: What an odd offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since head coach Chip Kelly was given control of personnel at the end of last season, he has drastically altered the roster. He traded away Lesean McCoy, the franchise’ all-time leading rusher and declined to go the extra mile to retain free agent Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles’ 2014 leading receiver. Also gone are Todd Herremans, a staple on the offensive line and Trent Cole, a staple on the defensive line. First-string quarterback Nick Foles was traded, along with a draft pick for oft-injured, former No. 1 pick Sam Bradford.
In their place, are a host of free agents that fit Kelly’s preferences more closely both in terms of style of play and attitude. Each transaction, be it a release or a trade or a signing, when judged on their own, are either logical or defensible or maybe even savvy. Examined in total and Kelly begins to look like a mad scientist rather than a guru or genius.
All the while, Pro-Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis and his agent Drew “Next Question” Rosenhaus have felt for at least two years that Mathis was drastically underpaid. They made so much noise that they were given permission by the Eagles to seek out a trade. In other words, look, if you can find something better, more power to you. Kelly has consistently denied that Rosenhaus or a team have come to him with any trade offer whatsoever. The Eagles had all the leverage and they were playing it exactly that way, as they should.
But then, after Mathis failed to participate in voluntary practices last week, Kelly decided to release Mathis. No draft picks in return, no player to be named later in return. Just out and out released him. Again, the Eagles had all the leverage.
So now, the offensive line, which was already the oldest in the league in terms of the age of the starters and was already quite thin after it was ignored in the draft and free agency is now even thinner and less talented. And it wasn’t a matter of re-allocating resources the way much of the offeseason could be described since this was a release, not a trade.
If you are someone who values value, then this offseason just got even more peculiar. If you are someone who likes to leverage leverage, this season got even more peculiar.
For those of you scoring at home, that is now two very good professional football players who were released by Chip Kelly with nothing in return. Coaches are certainly entitled to want players that have the types of the attitudes that they think are important and as we all know, there’s no “i” in team. But consistently giving away very good players is counterproductive no matter how much you value teamwork.
Shane Victorino received a standing ovation from the crowd at Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day.
Several days ago, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had a rather candid conversation with the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner. Amaro’s tone lacked the usual dosage of smugness and evidenced some inward analysis had gone on.
“You identify, and fans identify, with players like Rollins, Utley and Howard, who are arguably the best players at their positions in the history of our franchise,” Amaro said. “It’s hard to cut them loose. And yet, sometimes, you have to have that mentality like, you know what, maybe we were a little too loyal, maybe we were thinking that we could squeeze some more blood out of the stone.
“But that’s also a good learning experience for me. Maybe we’ve got to do things a little differently, and think about doing that shift a little earlier.”
While it is nice to see Amaro take the time to do a post mortem on the 2012-2014 Phillies, it’s troubling that he’s still missing the mark — and so is anyone else who exhales a sigh of relief and exclaims “he finally gets it!”
Let us pretend that at some point in 2011 or 2012 the organization had decided to begin to turn over the roster gradually. Perhaps they move on from Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley or Shane Victorino sooner. Or perhaps in 2009-2011 they don’t make the trades to stack the deck with aces in the pitching staff. What state would the Phillies be in now if they had decided to go down one or both of those paths?