The NovaCare Complex was wrapped in a sheath of serenity May 1, the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft. There was no national media buzz swarming the green-and-tan brick Kingdom of Kelly, eager to grab sound bites and snapshots of the newest addition to Oregon East.
There was Nelson Agholor, a polite, precocious 21-year-old wide receiver. He held up a jersey with his last name and a number one stitched on the back. He stood in front of a wall of Philadelphia Eagles emblems, head coach Chip Kelly to his right and the complex’s most beloved janitor, Troy, to Kelly’s right.
Agholor posed for pictures. He provided touching details of his journey from Nigeria, to New York to Tampa Bay, Florida. His family settled in Tampa Bay, with a relative of his mother’s. They lived close to the University of Southern Florida.
This is where Agholor learned the joys of football with his neighborhood friends, and this is where he was a high school football star. He went to college at the University of Southern California, where he excelled again.
By the middle of the season, it’s expected that he will be the team’s No. 2 wide receiver.
There were two more draft picks made on the second day of the draft, two more press conferences with Kelly, two more conference calls with intimidated but eager young football players. Eric Rowe and Jordan Hicks both extolled the virtues of the Eagles’ organization, recalling their respective affinities for the things they experienced during their visits to NovaCare.
A red carpet welcomed the pair to NovaCare the next day for their respective press conferences and introductions to the media. They both interviewed affably.
Rowe will likely start at the beginning of the season, either as cornerback or as safety. Hicks will slide into the team’s rotation and is set to contribute immediately on special teams.
And the Eagles selected three more players May 2, the third and final day of the draft: two cornerbacks and one defensive end. The cornerbacks, JaCorey Shepherd of the University of Kansas and Randall Evans of Kansas State University, will compete for spots on the team. Maybe even starting jobs.
The defensive end, a 6-foot-9-inch, 302-pound behemoth from Boston College named Brian Mihalik, will have the chance to do what Beau Allen did last season — impress in training camp and find surprise playing time in a defensive front seven not the least bit averse to shuffling its looks.
All of these things are good, and they are safe and they were sound decisions.
But what the Eagles didn’t walk away from the draft with is something truly exceptional.
The price may have been too high. If the reports from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport are to be trusted — which, after debunking from Kelly himself, they might not be — Kelly and the Eagles nearly doomed themselves and the franchise’s future for one chance at greatness. Giving away invaluable pieces of a franchise is never a sound football decision, no matter what the return may be. Even if that return could potentially turn an impressive offense into an absolutely unstoppable one.
Yet, while the logical and comfortable decisions that were made during the three days of the draft may sit well with the fan base and set a precedent for the Eagles to make the playoffs, both this season and annually for the rest of the decade, it doesn’t feel like the front office turned a 10-6 team into one that could eventually prove to be the best in the league.
To eventually be the best in the league, you have to take chances.
Kelly and the Eagles had an opportunity to take a big, great chance the night before the sheath of serenity settled over the NovaCare Complex May 2.
It could have driven the team into the ground. It could have doomed the team for the next decade. It could have been the biggest drafting blunder in franchise history. Or it could have turned Kelly’s Eagles into the most fearsome team in the NFL.
But when the oven threatened to burn hot, Kelly turned the dial down.
Now we see if championships can be won on medium heat.