Quiet day, so let’s tell some interesting FA stories. Some Eagles, some non-Eagles.
Wayne Simmons is my favorite FA story of all time. He was the SAM LB for the Packers in 1996. They had the #1 defense in football and won the Super Bowl. Simmons was 27 years old and a darn good LB. He hit the FA market in 1997 looking for huge bucks.
His price tag scared off the Ravens and Cardinals. He met with the Rams, but that didn’t work out. His visit with the Tennessee Titans is legendary.
The Titans had the makings of a good defense, but wanted to upgrade LB. They were willing to spend good money on Simmons. They flew him in and sent a limo to the airport to pick him up. Simmons got to the facility and met with Jeff Fisher and members of the defensive staff. The Titans were in full sales mode. They started talking to Simmons about the ways they would use him as a pass rusher and do creative things to make him their star LB. Fisher is talking about the things he did with Otis Wilson and Seth Joyner, a pair of star SAM LBs he coached previously.
Simmons stops them and says “Show me the money.” The coaches are dumbfounded. They can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Simmons follows that up with ”Hey, I’m not interested in any of this stuff. I just want to hear what the money is.”
The coaches said thanks for visiting. The limo will take you back to the airport. Good luck. And that was that.
Simmons signed with the Chiefs. He played there half the season before getting cut and going back to GB. He then spent half the 1998 season with KC, before moving on to Buffalo. That was the end of his NFL career. Simmons went from prize free agent to outcast immediately.
Making his FA attitude all the more troubling, he got a DUI on March 1st of that year. This guy had more red flags than a parade in Beijing. Unbelievable.
* * * * *
Back in March of 2004 the Eagles were looking for a nickelback. Sheldon and Lito were going to be the starting CBs. Rod Hood was on the team, but the Eagles wanted an upgrade. They brought Fred Thomas in from the Saints very early and put on the full sales pitch. The Eagles were talking to a 31-year old CB who was used to being a starter on a crappy team. They hoped he would buy into being a slot corner for a championship contender. The Eagles were going to pay him good money.
Fred listened to everything and then said he needed to go back to the hotel to rest, relax, and think over things. The Eagles said “fine” and took him over. Fred decided he wanted no part of leaving the Saints. He didn’t care about the money. He didn’t care about playing for a winner. He wanted to stay put. Fred called the Saints and had them book him on a flight. The Eagles kept calling to check up on him. Finally Fred snuck out of the hotel and flew home to re-sign with the Saints.
Would Fred have done a better job of covering Deion Branch in the Super Bowl than Matt Ware did? You bet. We’d have won that game and the next 4 years to establish the greatest dynasty of them all. Blame Fred Thomas for that not happening.
* * * * *
WR Derrick Mason left the Titans after 2004. He went to an east coast team (either NE or NYJ) and met with them. They had dinner and things went really well and he was ready to sign. Mason was a happy camper. He went back to the hotel room to talk to his wife and make sure everything was good with her.
Mason’s wife said “no”. She wanted to live in Baltimore. Mason knew the Ravens had interest (may have already met with them). Since keeping his wife happy was job #1, Mason told the team he was moving on. He then signed with the Ravens and played there from 2005-2010. He caught 471 passes for 29 TDs.
* * * * *
Did you remember that the Eagles brought Priest Holmes in for a visit when he left the Ravens? Reid would not commit to making him the starter over Duce Staley so Holmes went to KC and turned into a great workhorse for a few years. He could have done good things here, but was perfect for KC.
* * * * *
The Eagles signed Darren Howard back in 2006. He was brought in to battle with Trent Cole for the starting RDE job. Jevon Kearse had LDE locked up. I remember Jim Johnson saying that Howard had extra value as an inside rusher. I went back and watched tape of the Saints and sure enough Howard was really good at DT in the Nickel. That’s the first time I remember a DE sliding inside like that in the Nickel.
Reggie White lined up at NT in the 46 sometimes, but that was a specific alignment to have him 1-on-1 with a C. I think Jim Haslett is the guy who used Howard at DT. Darren Howard had 22.5 sacks as an Eagle. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out as many as half came from DT.
In 2007 Steve Spagnuolo left the Eagles to run the Giants defense. One of his moves that worked the best was putting Justin Tuck at DT. Did Steve get that from seeing Howard do that as a Saint and Eagle? Now we see it all the time.
* * * * *
Now for a personal oddball tale. A couple of weeks back I had a vivid dream. No, this isn’t the one about me and Megan Fox being trapped on Pudding Island.
In this dream I walked into a giant open newsroom. It was empty, except for 2 guys…Les Bowen and Paul Domowitch. Les called me over and let me know that Sports Illustrated had chosen him to run their NFL Preview issue. He asked if I was interested in doing a piece. Of course I said yes. I was excited to hear my assignment.
That’s when Les told me I’d be comparing the Eagles to Star Wars. I was immediately upset with him. The assignment was challenging, especially because of the timing. I couldn’t write about Andy Reid as Jabba or Joe Banner as Darth Vader as the centerpiece of my article.
Instead, I would have to make Nick Foles into Luke Skywalker. Chip Kelly could maybe be Han Solo. Jason Kelce is a natural for Chewbacca, as long as he shaves a little. Michael Vick could be Lando Calrissian. Who is Yoda, Mike Patterson or DeMeco Ryans? Both are kinda undersized veteran warriors with great wisdom.
As you can see, there weren’t a lot of great fits. I was happy Les included me in the project, but boy did he give me a tough assignment. I hope next year I’m comparing the Eagles to the Dukes of Hazzard. Uncle Jessie can be Jeff Lurie with Jerry Jones as Boss Hogg. As for Daisy…I’ll have to think about that.