Angelo Cataldi: It’s okay that Chip Kelly botched the Eagles’ first pick

Former Louisville pass rusher Marcus Smith was announced as the newest Eagles in a press conference Friday.  Credit: Getty Images
Former Louisville pass rusher Marcus Smith was announced as the newest Eagles in a press conference Friday.
Credit: Getty Images

Even when he fails, Chip Kelly is perfect for Philadelphia. The Eagles coach screwed up the first pick in the NFL draft last week, but he won the city right back with his honesty and his resilience. Now we just have to find a way to keep him talking.

The first night of Kelly’s second draft was a stunning disappointment for a team that values preparation and quick thinking. Now only did the Eagles end up with a player — Marcus Smith of Louisville —  who was not worth a first-round pick, but his selection represented a total breakdown in strategy and execution.

As both Kelly and GM Howie Roseman later explained, the team had earmarked six players who would be worth the 22nd choice, but the final two on the list — Brandin Cooks and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix — went just before the Eagles were scheduled to pick. At that point, it made more sense to move back four slots and trade the selection to Cleveland than to choose Johnny Manziel and create a whole new quarterback controversy.

Then old friend Andy Reid foiled Plan B by snapping up defensive end Dee Ford with the 23rd pick, leaving the Birds with no other appealing option. They tried until the last second to trade down again, but settled for the inexperienced linebacker from a weak conference instead. Even Smith himself — who was eating chicken wings in a Louisville bar — was shocked to hear his name.

It would have been so easy for Kelly to do what Reid and countless other coaches have resorted to in times of stress — lie to the fans — but he didn’t. Instead, Kelly had enough respect for the fans to explain the unfortunate six-player scenario and to acknowledge that sometimes things don’t go the way a team plans in the draft.

By draft’s end two days later, the original anger over the drafting of Smith had been replaced by optimism again, and with good reason. Kelly and Roseman maneuvered their way back up in the second round for some key help at wide receiver and added five other promising players in the later rounds.

Equally refreshing were Kelly’s remarks as the latter part of the draft unfolded. The man who has brought science into the NFL, the man who meticulously plans everything he does, admitted the draft is often just a roll of the dice.

“The people who brag, ‘We got a sixth-round pick and he became an All-Pro player’ – then the first question is, why didn’t you draft him earlier, if you were so smart?” he asked. “A lot of times, you don’t know.”

Chip Kelly, who avoided the public spotlight for months before the draft, speaks the language of our city. He tells the truth. And if there’s one thing we cannot get enough of in the blustery world of sports, it is the truth.

Keep talking, Chip. Please.

Idle thoughts

The moment Chip Kelly passed up Johnny Manziel in the draft, Nick Foles finally got the vote of confidence he has earned. Kelly loves Manziel and still traded away the chance to draft him. Foles is the franchise quarterback of the Eagles. It is now official.

The biggest phony in broadcasting is NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who ranked Marcus Smith 53rd overall, and then praised the Eagles for taking the Louisville linebacker with the 26th pick. If Mayock doesn’t believe his own pre-draft evaluations, why should we?

Bryce Brown expressed genuine surprise when the Eagles traded him to Buffalo last weekend. Wow. If Brown couldn’t see the writing on the wall after the Birds acquired a far superior running back (Darren Sproules) two months ago, he needs glasses.

Ken Giles, the 100-mph-throwing closer, was finally promoted from Reading to Lehigh last weekend. All it took was 29 strikeouts in 15 innings in Double A. Now how long is it going to take Phils GM Ruben Amaro to realize Giles is a better alternative on the big-league roster than Jeff Manship or B.J. Rosenberg?

A Philadelphia columnist actually argued a few days ago that the Sixers should trade Michael-Carter Williams. This leads to two questions: Is there drug testing in journalism? Should there be?


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