Eagles hone their comedy skills with draft picks

A million laughs: The Eagles' latest bit features 26-year-old guard Danny Watkins, here with commissioner Roger Goodell.
A million laughs: The Eagles' latest bit features 26-year-old guard Danny Watkins, here with commissioner Roger Goodell. (JASON DeCROW / Associated Press)
Posted: May 08, 2011

They think they're smarter than everyone else. That might be the most common criticism of the Eagles. We've heard it recited for years, a familiar chorus memorized and gleefully performed by everyone from neighborhood knuckleheads to loudmouth media louts.

But what if we had it wrong all along? What if all the curious, frustrating, inexplicable decisions the Eagles have made (and will make) aren't confirmation of the organization's hubris at all? What if the Birds, in their own odd way, simply want to show us a good time?

I'm beginning to think that we misread the Eagles and that we might even owe them an apology for failing to appreciate their unusual brand of entertainment. Whether they planned it this way or not, Joe Banner, Andy Reid, and Howie Roseman have become our very own lounge act - a football variety troupe dedicated to grabbing and holding our attention. Lockout? What lockout? At the NovaCare Complex, the show goes on.

The Eagles brass has consistently captivated us with such wild and uproarious bits as "Donovan will be our quarterback / We just traded Donovan," "Kevin will be our quarterback / Kevin is on the bench," "Sean will remain our defensive coordinator / We just stuffed Sean and what's left of his pride into a UPS box and shipped him to Carolina," and "Juan Castillo is the defensive coordinator now / Stop looking at us like that, we're totally serious."

The organization needs to cobble all those performances together and put out a Blu-ray box set. I'd pin back my eyelids and watch it on a loop, Clockwork Orange-style.

But the act that almost always gets the biggest rise out of people is the draft. Abbott and Costello had "Who's on First?" The Eagles perform something the fans like to call "Wait, They Did What?" Brings down the house every time. A week later, I'm still replaying it in my head.

The people who monitor these things sounded lukewarm on the Eagles draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper gave the Birds a C-plus, while Todd McShay labeled the selections "the most questionable." I have no idea whether any of that is true. Draft grades are sort of silly. I've always thought the best way to determine whether someone can play in the pros is to actually watch him play in the pros. Maybe that's just me.

What Reid said about the draft was better than any of the guessing games played by the TV pundits. He called it an "eventful couple of days." I'm with him, though he undersold it - a lot. It was an eventful couple of days that promise to fascinate and occupy our time for months, if not years.

I have no idea whether the 26-year-old (soon-to-be-27) Canadian firefighter who started playing football only after rugby and hockey didn't work out can run- or pass-block. I don't know whether the supposedly hard-hitting safety from Temple was a reach in the second round, or if the cornerback who used to be a running back will contribute. Nobody knows. We won't know until they see game action. We won't know for a while - but it's going to be fun finding out.

While I was scratching my head and picking my jaw up off the living room floor, I was also excited about the Birds draft. The Eagles could have made the safe pick (say, Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin) or the obvious pick (say, Jimmy Smith from Colorado), but that wouldn't have generated even a fraction of the interest. Roger Goodell shouldn't worry about losing fan or media attention in Philadelphia during the lockout. Not after what the Eagles did in the draft. I'm thinking about heading up to the Linc right now and camping out, just to make sure I don't miss anything.

"This is what you want to build a football team with - smart, tough guys that enjoy playing the game," Reid said about the 2011 draft class. "I mean, you kind of like that from a coach's standpoint."

You kind of like it from a sports-as-entertainment standpoint, too. I'm not sure about the smart/tough/enjoy-playing business, but I know the Eagles outdid themselves by crafting compelling story lines for our amusement. They even created drama on special teams. That's almost impossible to pull off, but they managed it by taking a kicker in the fourth round and likely saying so long to fan favorite David Akers. Go ahead and pour out a little pickle juice for your fallen homie, Akers. It might make you feel better.

But, hey, cheer up. Nebraska's Alex Henery was the all-time leading something or other in NCAA history. The kid kicker even has experience in tense situations.

"Probably in my sophomore year," Henery said when asked about the most pressure he's faced on a football field. "We were down a few points to Colorado and I made a school-record 57-yarder with, like, two minutes left on the clock. So that's probably the most pressured kick I've been in."

See that? Colorado didn't stand a chance. Bring on the Giants.

This is the Eagles' best show yet. Anyone have a lighter I can borrow? I want to hold it up and thank them for the performance.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gonzophilly


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