Eagles' pursuit of talent has made rivals jealous, even angry

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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The start to the 2011 season has gotten off to a rough start for Jeremy Maclin and the 1-3 Eagles. (US Presswire)  
The start to the 2011 season has gotten off to a rough start for Jeremy Maclin and the 1-3 Eagles. (US Presswire)  

To some in the NFL -- and perhaps many -- the struggles experienced by the Philadelphia Eagles is akin to a great steak or cold beer on a hot summer day. To these people, nothing is more eternally satisfying, smile producing or chuckle inducing than watching the Eagles stumble to a 1-3 start.

In a league that is sometimes extremely petty, takes great offense to the smallest slight, and enjoys the failings of others, the Eagles are the perfect comfort food.

One rival general manager compared them to a prom king who kicked sand in the faces of fellow students, bragged about his skills with women and had perfect hair only to trip over the carpet and bloody his face while walking up to the podium to accept his crown.

Until late this weekend and into Monday when I asked some team personnel men their opinions on what's happening with the Eagles, I had no idea how much jealousy and, yes, anger the Eagles generated with their pursuits of free agents this summer. It was quite stunning to hear some of the reaction to the team's horrid start.

A significant swath of the NFL is enjoying the fall, as temporary as it may be, of this group of Eagles.

"It's one thing to build a team," said one scout, "but it's another to build a team and then rub the faces of everyone in football in what you're doing."

Now, I don't think the Eagles really did that. Indeed there's no proof the Eagles rubbed the faces of anyone in anything. Not one shred. In fact, with the exception of occasionally being thin-skinned with the media, I find the Eagles to be a pretty class organization. Andy Reid wouldn't shove anyone's face in anything unless he was sharing his strawberry shortcake ala mode.

Still that scout's opinion is far from an isolated one. I heard that repeatedly in a series of conversations with team officials around the sport. Some point to the interviews given by the Eagles after signing defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha. Particularly these comments by Reid who was speaking of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Joe Banner, team president.

"Howie and Joe worked their tail off and put together this phenomenal plan," Reid said at the time. "They came out of the gates like wild men and attacked the issue. Neither one of them has had much sleep. But they've rewarded our football team and the city of Philadelphia with some great players."

"It's always been a priority position for us," Roseman said then. "Corners, pass rushers, and we felt like last year, we were in a situation where maybe we got a little short-handed, and we thought it was a place that we wanted to go heavy and have a lot of talent at. You can never have enough cover corners. That helps your pass rush and when you have an opportunity to add the players we added, we just thought we had to add those guys."

Do you see anything particularly offensive in those quotes? I sure don't. Yet that's where we are with the Eagles. Reality isn't part of the conversation.

Part of the issue is the whole Dream Team moniker. I'm told coaching staffs, prior to their playing the Eagles, played up that phrase to their players as a way of firing them up and saying the Eagles were declaring themselves champions before the season even begun. Some teams have used how some members of the media picked the Eagles to win the Super Bowl as another motivating force for their players. I'd say it's worked.

But, again, a reality check. The only Eagle who truly referred to Philadelphia as a Dream Team was backup quarterback Vince Young when he signed with the Eagles and he's never been the shiniest tack in the drawer. I'm not even sure he truly counts as an Eagle since he made the comment upon first joining the team. It wasn't as if owner Jeff Lurie said it.

That nickname has stuck, and fair or not (definitely not), it's been used against the Eagles to portray them as arrogant and suffering from an acute case of Super Bowl premature joculation.

Some in the league also, clearly, all this time later, have issues with Michael Vick's return to the NFL. Again, hugely unfair, considering Vick paid his dues with a prison stint and massive loss of income for his admittedly despicable crime, but him being in football bothers some executives. One told me it turns his stomach every time he sees Vick wearing an NFL uniform.

Yet the biggest issue seems to be that perception that the Eagles handled themselves arrogantly this past summer during the pursuit of free agents like Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. There's a feeling Philadelphia "stole" Asomugha when that's actually impossible to do since it was the player who made the final choice.

Philadelphia was actually not a frontrunner to land Asomugha -- the Jets and Cowboys were -- and the Eagles swooped in to snag him during the final days of the Asomugha sweepstakes.

That happens all the time in the NFL but this instance truly irked a number of teams and not just the ones in contention for him.

The irritation the Eagles generated really comes down to this: teams hated how an Eagles franchise already stacked with talent got even more talented with players like Asomugha and now, as the Eagles reel, this is their time to gloat.

That time will probably be short lived, however. The Eagles are too talented a team and Reid too good a coach for their fractured and sloppy play to last. Philadelphia still had a great deal of time to correct their issues and be a major factor in the sport.

In the meantime, the snickering continues.

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