PHILADELPHIA -- It’s a fascinating suggestion from ESPN.com’s Greg Garber: the Philadelphia Eagles trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Oakland Raiders for what may be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
The biggest problem with the idea is the timing. The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday. That means the Eagles would have to pull the trigger on such a deal with nine games left in the 2014 season. With Chris Polk, Darren Sproles and Matthew Tucker in-house at the running back position, that would look an awful lot like tanking. And 5-1 teams in the process of defending a division title aren’t typically inclined to tank.
Of course, the Eagles and Raiders would be free to make a similar trade after the season. That may be a little more palatable to Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who really does focus all of his energies on the game that’s next on the schedule. Most of what Kelly has preached to his players over the past two seasons would sound pretty hollow if the coach jettisoned McCoy in the middle of the season.
Plus a deadline deal would give the Raiders nine games with McCoy carrying the ball, nine chances to improve their record and hurt their draft position.
But the idea is provocative for a couple of reasons -- and not just that illustration with McCoy in silver and black. Garber lays out the key elements: While Kelly has done quite well with Nick Foles as his quarterback, it’s ever more clear that the Eagles’ offense is radically limited by the absence of a true read-option threat at that position. When Foles was throwing 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions, that was a compromise Kelly could accept. With Foles throwing seven interceptions in his first six games of 2014, his lack of mobility may be a little tougher to accept.
If Kelly really believes it will take a quarterback like Oregon's Marcus Mariota to maximize his offense, then there will be few chances to get such a player. Mariota, whom Kelly recruited and coached, will be among the first players taken in the 2015 draft. For the Eagles to get him, they will have to be bold. Trading McCoy would certainly qualify.
As for replacing McCoy, it helps to bear in mind that he was a second-round draft pick. Running backs are easier to find than franchise quarterbacks. It's also possible, with a solid offensive line and a good scheme, to get more out of any back. As Garber writes, “Like Bill Belichick, Kelly passionately believes in the system, which is to say, himself.”
There is good reason for that. McCoy has been exceptional in Kelly’s offense. But other backs -- Bryce Brown, Polk, Sproles -- have stepped in and put up big rushing numbers. If Kelly was willing to jettison DeSean Jackson for nothing, he’d probably be willing to part with McCoy for a chance to acquire a quarterback custom-built to run his offense.
Will it happen? It’s unlikely, as Garber says right upfront. But it certainly makes a lot of sense, for both the Eagles and the Raiders.