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March 14, 2022

McMullen: Don’t Panic on Eagles vs. Player Empowerment

Underneath the Eagles’ superstar-quarterback search that has been draped in the secrecy of dutiful votes of confidence to the current leaseholder at the position has been the NBA-like reality of player empowerment.

The NFL has not gone full-blown NBA where Rich Paul is every bit as powerful as any billionaire owner like the Sixers’ Josh Harris, but the leaks in the football firewall are apparent, at least at the game’s most important position.

More so, the two quarterbacks potentially available that the Eagles felt would be such a significant upgrade over Jalen Hurts that failing to explore the opportunity would be a dereliction of duty – Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson – are already in the NBA-like seat of power due to full no-trade clauses.

Aaron Rodgers was always in a different category because the Eagles understood they weren’t players there and never bothered with him, other than keeping an eye on the end game to gauge where the market was going as a whole.

Agent Mark Rodgers already steered Wilson to his 2022 preferred landing spot in Denver. Agent David Mulugheta is working diligently behind the scenes to find Watson’s most acceptable Act 2 now that the embattled QB is clear of any criminal wrongdoing in a host of sexual misconduct allegations.The same sentiment has held true for both QBs over a full calendar year: neither has been willing to consider Philadelphia as a potential trade destination.

The provincial nature of any fan is to assume that the blame in that situation lies with the on-field product of the team because that’s all that can be seen.

In the case of the Eagles, a stunning amount of the faithful assumes their favorite team is “not ready” from a talent perspective for a superstar like Wilson or Watson to consider them.

That might have even been true a year ago when this all started and Nick Sirianni was an unknown afterthought as a coach with a bad introductory press conference and no playmakers on a team taking on the historic dead-money hit of Carson Wentz.

When you hit the fast-forward button you can now see a coach who got through the start-up costs better than any of his peers from the rookie class, the quick emergence of Devonta Smith as a potential star at receiver, and Dallas Goedert solidifying himself as a top-five TE.

More so, the Eagles made the playoffs and beat the team Wilson chose on the road, 30-13, last season. If you want to take the betting favorite on Watson, that’s five-win Carolina, or the growing sentiment in-league of Seattle or Cleveland, that’s two-more non-playoff teams.

What most can’t wrap their heads around is how the sausage is made.

Every NFL team is a superstar quarterback away from relevance as long as you have decision-makers making prudent decisions around them. The QB is just the foundation to build everything on and a sturdy one is a heck of a lot better than cutting corners in the long run.

As for destinations, those are usually decided upon with real-world issues, and depending on where an athlete is in his life, the tipping point could be anything from family to finance or weather and comfort.

Take Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who was a hot commodity in 2021, had multiple DC offers and would have been in Philadelphia had Jeffrey Lurie pulled the trigger on Josh McDaniels, never mind Sirianni.

Gannon had spent years in the midwest with Minnesota and Indianapolis and his wife wanted to be on the East Coast. Anyone reading who is married knows how simple that decision becomes.

In the case of Wilson, he didn’t want to be on the East Cost. For Watson, he originally wanted the sun and sand, along with the favorable tax laws, of South Beach and wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause for anyone else.

Now that Miami has ostensibly shut the door, another has to open and that was the thesis of former Eagles’ exec Joe Banner last week when he identified the Eagles as the favorite for Watson on

What Banner also surmised was that Watson’s options were becoming more and more limited and when a grand jury in Harris County, Texas refused to indict the QB, the first part of the talent vs. tolerance equation won out handily with over a dozen teams quickly contacting the Texans.

With options, what’s interesting is that Watson is now ready to listen to pitches, at least from some.

If anything the Eagles seemed to be backing off with little buzz as the denouement builds.

Who knows why?

Watson may want to steer clear of a passionate fan base like Philadelphia ignited in what is sure to be a controversial decision in a polarized society or perhaps the Eagles just tired of the song and dance and have bought into Hurts’ intangibles.

Where you can rest assured, however, is that Wilson or Watson weren’t breaking down the film and coming to the conclusion that the Eagles aren’t ready like any other team name you want to insert.

For the most part, Philadelphia remains well-regarded by agents around the NFL because the control sample in any successful league equation is not the fluidity of personnel. It’s how an organization is run behind the scenes where there is no salary cap.

Jeffrey Lurie’s outfit passes that stress test with flying colors.

John McMullen is a contributor to, and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Media. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter.