Watching The Detectives




GORDONVILLE — In May of 1983, in celebration of my pending walking papers from Northeast High School, The Police – the new wave/pop band, not the fuzz that we used to hide from in alleys – released what was the top-selling song of the year and fifth-biggest of the “me” decade, “Every Breath You Take.”

The song’s writer, Sting (real name Gordon Sumner), said: “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had it written in a half an hour.” While he added that the tune was simplistic, the ominous lyrics were “interesting.”

He added: “It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

He was also looking 32 years into the future.

A clairvoyant Sting knew I’d be, well … stung by not getting a key role in the Eagles’ front office, the one since filled by Ed Marynowitz, to be in Chip Kelly’s right ear on personnel assessments (the fun part) and Howie Roseman’s left on making it all work within the unforgiving constraints of the salary cap (the hard realities).

You don’t want me in the inner circle? Fine. Whatever. I can take my heap of crow and eat it without crying over lost causes.

But that doesn’t mean that I, as one with an Eagles Super Bowl victory before I perish holding the top spot on my sports bucket list, won’t be watching you.

I will.

Every breath you take.

And every move you make.

Every bond you break, every step you take.

I’ll be watching you.

With the stopwatches dusted off for the NFL Scouting Combine and free agency pending, no one has any seeds of an inkling or clue what is up your sleeves.

I can only hope that your vision comes equipped with a plan, and that the plan has enough built-in vision to be flexible.

I know mine does.

Don’t believe me?

What good are cards if not laid out on the table? That’s what my grandfather, a former player for the famed Frankford Yellowjackets, used to say (not really, on both accounts, but it sounds good).

So here it is. It’s fourth-and-short, and I’m going for it.

I’m operating on the belief that this team is close, coming off a pair of 10-6 seasons, and taking two steps back for a step ahead is simply idiotic.

The line in the sand is no immediate fixes. I want to keep this team young and ascending with all moves, but no young and ascending assets will be jettisoned (you know, like that team with the eternal timetable that works across the street).

The risk – for a team that is close – outweighs the reward.

I guess you know where this is all going

Yes, for some inexplicable reason, I will have to start with a vision for the quarterback position. No, in the execution of my plan – within my broader vision – there will be no deal for Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

Nick Foles is our guy, at least for now, folks.

I know it’s tempting to take Mariota as a plug-and-play option in Kelly’s up-tempo offense that sometimes makes Foles look like a foil for nay-saying fans, being that Kelly’s template at Oregon is what made Mariota a household name.

The irony is that there may not be any other place in the league for Mariota to thrive. Maybe a read-option team.  Maybe.

A dink-and-dunk West Coast team, like Kansas City, might – with “might” being the operative word – work out.

But price tag to move up from No. 20 to grab Mariota – if not first or second, then probably at No. 6, when the Jets pick – would be too steep.

One of those teams will surely ask for Foles, who has already proven to be a quality pro quarterback who can make all the NFL throws, and an ascending defensive player (Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks) and maybe a third player (Brandon Boykin, Jaylen Watkins, Josh Huff). The outgoing UPS package would include multiple draft picks, beginning with firsts this year and next and Day 2 picks (seconds and/or thirds) for the next two or three years.

For one guy, who may or may not work out? Pardon the pun, but I’ll pass.

What would I do behind Foles? Try to bring back Mark Sanchez as the backup. That’s Plan A. Plan B, I go after Jake Locker. Yes, his was a sad lament in Nashville as a first-round bust, but he was in a toxic work environment with the Titans. The zip on the arm is there (better than Mariota, to be honest) and he was some running ability.

The one move I would make is with third-stringer Matt Barkley. I’m thinking about something like packaging Barkley with the 20th overall pick, and the fourth-rounder obtained from Buffalo for Bryce Brown, and sending them to Houston for the 16th overall pick and a fifth.

At No. 16, we have a better chance of grabbing the best player available without sweating it out. And if contract negotiations with receiver Jeremy Maclin go sour (if I’m in charge, they wouldn’t), we could take someone like West Virginia receiver Kevin White.

Moving Barkley would open up a spot for developmental quarterback to be nabbed on Day 3 (fourth through seventh round) to compete with holdover G.J. Kinne, who might make a better third-stringer, in this system, than Barkley anyway.

File away the name of Bryan Bennent. He was recruited by Kelly at Oregon, waged a fierce battle with Mariota for the starting job and then transferred to Southeastern Louisiana and put up big numbers — albeit at a lower level of competition — and recently impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl and combine.

Again, his deep arm is probably better than that of Mariota. Doesn’t mean he has the same accuracy or release, let alone the mobility, but all the tools are there. Think of Tony Romo without the smirk and, hopefully, the penchant for losing in the clutch.

Aside from a developmental quarterback and receiver – someone like Washington State’s Vince Mayle in the middle rounds would be highway robbery – I’m not touching the offense.

Yes, third-string tight end James Casey was just released, but the trio of Zach Ertz – backed up by Brent Celek and Trey Burton – is sound.

No, not even the line. The numbers may say to cut guard Todd Herremans loose, but that would be a mistake. Not one, in this fantasy, that I would make.

Remember, top reserve Allen Barbre, who missed 15 ½ games last year, will be back. Ditto for Andrew Gardner, who finished the season at the right guard in place of the injured Herremans. Other lineman, from Matt Tobin to practice-squaders Kevin Graf and Josh Andrews are also in the mix.

The focus is on the defense, period. Substantially improving the defense – as opposed to some cost-effective tinkering — is what will turn 10-6 (and maybe making the playoffs) into 12-4 (and hosting, and winning, a playoff game) by next year and 14-2 (and going to, and winning, the Super Bowl) the year after that.

The Eagles’ had, to be kind, a porous secondary. And all the big-gaining, back-breaking plays were made more disturbing by the fact that the Eagles have an OK pass rush.

The only players that could return are Boykin at slot corner and safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had a knack for the being in the right place at the right time – even though he had a penchant for dropping interceptions after three in the first three games – but couldn’t be everywhere at once.

That means another safety to replace the oft-exposed Nate Allen, who was caught with his pants down one too many times – despite a misleading team-high four picks. And it means two corners. Bradley Fletcher, who evoked memories of Izell “Toast” Jenkins (my friends and I used to call him “I Smell” back in the days when The Police dominated the radio), is a free agent who won’t be retained, if only for his own health and psychological well-being.

The other outside corner spot is a little trickier, with Cary Williams still under contract. He was not the disaster that Fletcher and Allen were, and we are talking about a guy who was a No. 2 corner on a Super Bowl winner in Baltimore just a few years back, but his escalating price may not be worth the lack of production (one interception) and constant motor mouth and locker-room lawyering.

My plan/vision – or is it vision/plan? – is to address the dire state of the secondary before the draft so that we have the freedom to draft the best player available without feeling we have to fill a need (i.e. Marcus Smith).

One way to shop is to go right to the high-end products, like Darrelle Revis (assuming he is not retained in New England) or Seattle’s Byron Maxwell, but either might cost so much that the option at the other corner would be to either ask Williams to restructure his contract – and then watch him laugh in our faces – or try to get by with Watkins, Nolan Carroll or even Boykin on the  outside.

Or, draft a rookie high and live through the growing pains of having him tested while the highest-paid guy on the team barely sees any action.

A more prudent move would be a two-for-one deal. We could sign a pair of ascending corners that would cost the same as a pair as either Revis or Maxwell would after what would likely be a long bidding war that would cost opportunities to add other pieces.

Without getting too bogged down with names, guys like Kareem Jackson and Davon House of Green Bay would fit the bill. Jackson (5-10, 188) is 26. House (6-0, 195) is 25.

At safety, there is the draft, and I would rule it out in a “best player available” situation. A veteran like Troy Polamalu might be cut loose by the Steelers, or Tampa’s Bay’s Deshon Goldson could be had in a trade for probably not much in return.

In free agency, there could be an under-the-radar type, like Kansas City’s Ron Parker, who could fit the scheme of defensive coordinator Billy Davis, who really needs versatile defensive backs – guys who have played corner, safety and in the slot – to cover pesky extra receivers and tight ends and running backs over the middle of the field to make his system truly work.

But there are also a lot of in-house options – with Carroll, a physical guy who last year’s nickel linebacker and a leading special-teams tackler last year, heading a list that includes Watkins and fifth-round picks from the last two years, Earl Wolff and Ed Reynolds, to battle it out for one spot. For some reason, I’m not as worried about it.

I’m actually more concerned about inside linebacker, and the opportunity to line up Eric Kenricks of UCLA next to Mychal Kendricks, is tempting. That doesn’t preclude DeMeco Ryans returning as a mentor, but a does realism is needed. The front seven, at least at linebacker, is not as solvent as it seems.

This is what keeps me up at night.

And it should do the same for Kelly and Marynowitz, the “boy wonder” (my ageism lawsuit is in the works), with Roseman sitting in the next room with calculator and crying towel.

The frustrating part is that they can, and will, do what they want, and people like you and me can do nothing about it.

Except maintain surveillance.

I will.

Every breath you take.

And every move you make.

Every bond you break, every step you take.

I’ll be watching you.

This column initially appeared at

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