During the recent retirement press conference for Donovan McNabb, Jeff Lurie stated that the Eagles would have drafted RB Edgerrin James at No. 2 if McNabb had gone No. 1 overall in the 1999 draft.
Here is what Lurie said about that, courtesy of Reuben Frank at csnphilly.com:
“It was dubbed as sort of the year of the franchise quarterback,” Lurie said. “New coach was here, Andy, and we were interviewing very intensely every one of these quarterbacks and the top players at the top of the round with the second pick. This was a very, very important pick.
“We, ironically, going back, didn’t have a lot of confidence in most of the quarterbacks in that draft. And the only quarterback that we all — with Andy leading the way — felt very confident in was Donovan. And it wasn’t just his athletic ability, it was his years at Syracuse, his being able to learn a complicated offense, the way he was as a person, stable family background compared to some other quarterbacks in that draft and elsewhere, so it all came together that he was really the quarterback that was really far above all the others for us.”
“I remember, we had one running back we thought was outstanding, Edgerrin James,” Lurie said. “But it was a no-brainer to go with the potential franchise quarterback than the running back, although Edgerrin became a super player as well.”
“Does he have the aptitude, the desire, the ability, and with Andy Reid, stability was a big factor in terms of their family backgrounds and their ability to devote themselves to football, and through that process it was really Donovan or yikes, what are we going to do,” Lurie said.
“The answer was Edgerrin. We thought this was a potential Hall of Fame running back.”
And to that, I say: Bullshit!
Lurie said it himself in that it was dubbed “the year of the franchise quarterback.” But, you would have passed on one, huh Jeff?
We have the benefit of retrospect here. Andy Reid obviously prioritized positions when building his teams. The highest on his list was QB, DL and CB…in that order. Lowest on his list was linebacker, tight end and wide receiver (at least until he learned otherwise).
Running back rated somewhere in the middle of his priority chart. Based on his actions over his tenure in Philly, there is no way he would have spent the No. 2 overall pick on a running back.
Plus, he inherited 23 year-old Duce Staley, who just came off a season in which he piled up just about 1,500 total yards (1,065 rushing, 432 receiving on 57 catches).
So let’s get this straight..
The Eagles were a team in shambles and coming off a 3-13 season. They brought in a new offensive-minded head coach whose specialty was quarterbacks. They had virtually nothing at the QB position with the likes of Rodney Peete, Bobby Hoying and Koy Detmer on the roster.
They already had a good, young up-and-coming RB in Staley. And finally, they had the rare opportunity to draft a potential franchise quarterback in a draft that was considered ripe with top-shelf QB talent.
After all that, you mean to tell me that if only McNabb wasn’t there, you would have drafted the consensus second-best running back in the draft at No. 2?
You’d have to be a complete idiot to draft James (or Ricky Williams) in that situation (sorry, but the “Dirty 30” who booed McNabb because they wanted Williams were, umm…let’s just say a little misguided).
Reid was a man with a plan when he came to Philly. The binder he brought with him on his interview with Lurie that held his highly detailed plans to build an organization is stuff of legend.
I can’t imagine that plan said to build your franchise around a running back, even if you have to pass on a potential franchise QB. No way.
I can buy the notion that Reid liked McNabb the best out of that QB class, mainly because of his arm strength and athleticism, but I simply cannot buy the notion that if he were gone they would have taken James.
They still would have selected a quarterback. More than likely, it would have been Tim Couch. However, Akili Smith may have been the option if Reid had really preferred a mobile QB.
Couch was viewed as the best quarterback in what was seen as a QB-rich draft. Smith’s stock had soared during pre-draft evaluations and firmly planted him as a top-3 talent.
It’s too convenient for Lurie to say with 20/20 hindsight that they wouldn’t have selected any of the other QBs because as it turned out, they all stunk.
Hell, with that same luxury of hindsight, he said James over Williams, who conveniently had the better career of the two running backs. So, either way, Lurie was saying that they would have gotten their pick “right” even if McNabb wasn’t on the board.
Nice try Jeff, but I’m not buying it.