Think back to December 1st, 2011, right after the Philadelphia Eagles took a beating at the hands of the hapless Seattle Seahawks, 31-14. Do you remember how you felt?
I do, and the two best words I can use to describe it without turning this into a profanity-laced tirade are angry and disgusted.
That was the Eagles’ fourth loss in a span of five games to drop their record to 4-8 on the year. For all intents and purposes, the season was over.
However, they were still “mathematically” alive in the playoff race. And thanks to a weak year by the rest of the NFC East, the Eagles were still in the race until Week 16 when the Jets failed to beat the Giants.
Even though my heart allowed me to get sucked back into thinking the Eagles would miraculously make the playoffs, my head knew it was never going to happen. There were too many problems and the team just wasn’t playing well enough.
After dropping to 4-8, my head and heart were in a battle for the final month of the season.
My heart doesn’t care about the future, it lives in the moment and wants what’s best for the right here and now. How could I root for my beloved Eagles to lose? Nope, I wanted them to win!
On the other hand, my head was saying it will serve the Eagles better in the future if they lose now because there is no way in hell this team is making the playoffs. I am not a believer that any kind of momentum gained by winning at the end of a season can carry over to the next season.
As Jeff Lurie put it at his end-of-season press conference, those last four wins were “fools gold” and ultimately mean absolutely nothing. Nothing, except a worse draft position, that is.
At 4-8, I started thinking specifically about draft position and how that, come April, nobody will care if the Eagles were to lose their last four games. As a matter of fact, some folks might even wish they did!
So, here we are, a few days away from the NFL draft where the Eagles hold the No. 15 pick. How important were those four wins at the end of 2011 now? Still glad we won? Do they really mean anything? Or did they only give us (and the team) “false hope?”
I’ll tell you what those four wins mean now: the difference between picking at No. 15 or picking at No. 10, that’s it.
Well, to be honest, we can’t say for sure exactly where the Eagles would be picking, but here is the logic:
If the Eagles would have lost all four remaining games and ended at 4-12, they would be picking somewhere between fourth and sixth overall. Tampa Bay and Cleveland each finished 4-12 too so depending on the NFL’s complex tie-breaking system, they would have been fourth, fifth or sixth.
How good would that look to you right now? The Eagles would likely have their choice of Morris Claiborne, Matt Kilil and Ryan Tannehill — or — they would have been in a much better position to trade up if they really wanted Robert Griffin III.
If the Eagles would have only won one of their last four games and ended at 5-11, they’d be picking somewhere between sixth and eighth. That’s prime Fletcher Cox territory there and they wouldn’t have to give up a second-round pick to trade up for him.
So, how did I come up with the 10th overall pick? I compromised and said if the Eagles would have just split their last four games and went 6-10 on the season, that’s approximately where they’d be picking. They would have been tied with Miami, Buffalo and Carolina.
The Eagles beat Miami but lost to Buffalo, and Carolina probably had the weaker schedule. Therefore, the Dolphins and Panthers would be picking at the same slots but the Eagles would hold the 10th overall pick instead of Buffalo.
So, had the Eagles compromised with my head and heart and just went 2-2 over the final month of 2011, they’d be sitting about five slots ahead of where they are now and have a whole slew of different options in the draft.
Picking at No. 10 would still be prime Fletcher Cox and Luke Kuechly territory without having to give up anything in a trade-up deal. Or we could be talking about several other scenarios of trading up or down for different players and packages.
The way things have turned out, pick No. 15 isn’t an ideal spot for the Eagles. Based on their needs, they would be better served picking four or five slots higher or about 10 slots lower. And if they want to move up, they can pretty much kiss one of their second-rounders goodbye.
The main point is, the NFL draft is the most exciting event at this time of the year, wouldn’t it be even more exciting if the Eagles were picking higher? Would you trade those last four meaningless wins for a higher pick right now?
I sure would.