Revisiting the Trade that Never Was
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It seems silly now but once upon a time Philadelphia was under the spell of Chip Kelly and would have done just about anything to get the former Eagles coach the apple of his eye, now Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The time was the 2015 NFL Draft and Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner at Oregon where Chip coached before hood-winking Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman was battling Jameis Winston for the top spot in the process.
The "prototype" for Kelly's one-read, up-tempo offense, Chip would have sent the kitchen sink down to Central Florida or Nashville for the opportunity to select Mariota but the Eagles simply weren't bad enough to be in the conversation with the 20th overall pick in the first round.
That didn't stop Kelly and the Eagles from trying with some reports claiming Philadelphia offered the Titans a package that would have included Fletcher Cox, the star defensive tackle who has since turned into the franchise's best player.
Tampa Bay never has any interest of trading out at No. 1 and the Titans were ultimately sold on Mariota, who has been a run-of-the-mill starter, capable of wowing at times with his athleticism but lacking the consistency of the great quarterbacks around the league.
The Eagles ultimately stayed put and selected receiver Nelson Agholor, who broke out last season after two disappointing years to start his career.
“I remember it like it was yesterday," Cox said at his locker on Wednesday after the Eagles started preparation for the Titans and Mariota on Sunday. "I’m glad to be here right now. Glad to be a part of a special team. The guys in this locker room are really special. We go out and fight every weekend. That’s in the past. They love me here now.”
The dominos since the failed attempt at Mariota led to Lurie preaching "emotional intelligence" and jettisoning Kelly while bringing Roseman back into the fold on the personnel side.
That resulted in Doug Pederson taking over as coach and Carson Wentz developing into a star QB, supplemented perhaps by the best interior defender in the NFL this season as well as Agholor, a more than solid slot receiver. And oh yeah, a Super Bowl LII championship.
“So much stuff happened with Chip and letting go of some of the guys, so I don’t put it past (him) now, but I think (Mariota’s) a really good quarterback,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “I was like, ‘Hey, if we get him, we get him, but hopefully we don’t have to give up everything.”
The Eagles tried but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good and Kelly failing to convince the Titans to eschew Mariota and take a package headlined by a true star defensive player counts squarely among the former.
“That would be crazy thinking about it now," Graham said. "... Fletch? Then see Fletch playing like he is right now? It’d be like the whole Khalil Mack thing. Like dang, they let him go and look how he’s playing."
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 17, Titans 13
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen