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Why the Eagles were never going to draft Micah Parsons, who’s now a Cowboys star | Marcus Hayes

The only way the Birds draft a first-round linebacker would be over their dead bodies.

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) fumbling the ball as he was sacked by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Micah Parsons during the first half Sunday in Landover, Md. Dallas recovered the ball and scored a touchdown on this play.
Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) fumbling the ball as he was sacked by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Micah Parsons during the first half Sunday in Landover, Md. Dallas recovered the ball and scored a touchdown on this play.Read moreAlex Brandon / AP

Look, I get it. I saw the athleticism and size and three-down potential in Philly’s backyard, and I salivated over Micah Parsons, too.

And yes, it’s tough to witness Parsons demolish offenses for Dallas while the Eagles eke by with second-tier linebackers. I’d rather see Parsons tearing through offensive lines and ripping the heads off Derek Carr and Taylor Heinicke than watch Fletcher Cox waltz with two fat guys for three hours.

Last Sunday created the perfect storm of Bird-centric discontent. Parsons, the latest in Penn State’s linebacker lineage, pushed the Cowboys to 9-4 with his 11th and 12th sacks, which left him 2½ sacks shy of Jevon Kearse’s rookie record set in 1999. It’s also 4½ more than the Eagles’ top sacker, Javon Hargrave, and it’s 11 more than the Eagles linebackers have, combined.

Parsons’ play has Eagles fans furious, but not that they picked DeVonta Smith at No. 10 over Parsons at No. 12. The teams actually swapped picks, and so the Eagles paid the Cowboys a third-rounder to take Parsons — but that’s not why Eagles fans are angry. They love Smith. They’re upset about the 2020 draft, not 2021.

Because, in 2020, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie, awed by the speed they’d witnessed in Kansas City’s Super Bowl LIV win, picked inept Jalen Reagor over more polished, less explosive receiver Justin Jefferson.

Jefferson will finish among the top five in receiving yards for the second straight season.

Reagor stinks.

» READ MORE: What we learned from Eagles-Giants: When it comes to Jalen Reagor, nothing new

Reagor’s struggles as a rookie helped convince the Eagles to draft another receiver in the first round ... right? If the Eagles had drafted Jefferson in 2020, then they would have picked Parsons in 2021 ... right?


Jefferson’s presence would have vastly altered the events of 2020. The Eagles still would have exited 2020 with only one viable starter at receiver. And, as long as Lurie and Roseman run the Birds, a first-round linebacker landing in Philly is as likely as the Eagles changing their logo to a big, white star.

Butterfly effect

First, Carson Wentz’s 2020 would have been better. Wentz’s historically awful play was, of course, the No. 1 reason why the Eagles went 4-11-1. However, Wentz’s historically awful play happened, in part, because Wentz had a historically awful supporting cast, thanks largely to injuries to tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, receiver Alshon Jeffery, running back Miles Sanders, and right tackle Lane Johnson.

Nevertheless, a transcendent receiver like Jefferson would have given Wentz one reliable weapon, and, for all his shortcomings, Wentz is talented enough to make that work.

Which means the Eagles would have won more games and would have made the playoffs.

Which means their draft spot would, at best, have been 21st — much lower than No. 6. Which means the Eagles wouldn’t have been in as good a position to trade back to No. 12 with the Dolphins, from which they jumped to No. 10 (to snatch Smith from the Giants at 11, hee-hee).

And if you think Lurie and Roseman would have traded up for a linebacker for the first time since Lurie bought the team in 1994, then you’ve been sleeping for the past 27 years.

There’s more, of course.

If the Birds had been good enough to make the playoffs, then Wentz wouldn’t have been benched for Jalen Hurts, thrown a hissy fit, and forced his way to Indianapolis.

Doug Pederson wouldn’t have gotten fired and gone fishin’. Nick Sirianni wouldn’t have been hired, played rock-paper-scissors, and planted flowers in his players’ psyche.

Besides, the Eagles, with that all-star defensive line, didn’t need Micah Parsons.


Loaded (or so they thought)

Parsons’ greatest asset has been his ability to get to the quarterback, but nobody projected he’d be this effective this soon. He’d started just one season at Penn State, in which he collected five sacks. He opted out of 2020 due to COVID-19. Maturity and character issues haunted him, prompting some pundits to predict him falling into the late teens on draft night.

The pundits were wrong. His 4.38-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds made him the Cowboys’ target.

» READ MORE: 2021 NFL draft: Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is not expected to be penalized for his youthful indiscretions

Maybe the Cowboys saw what most missed. Regardless, the Eagles weren’t likely to gamble on Parsons’ pass-rush skills alone. They figured they were set.

They planned on getting waves of pressure from their defensive line: $10 million end Derek Barnett, $39 million tackle Javon Hargrave, $40 million end Brandon Graham, $40 million backup end Josh Sweat, and, of course, Cox, the $102 million defensive tackle who has one quarterback sack. Hargrave leads the team with 7½, but the other four linemen have combined for eight.

And even if the Birds projected Parsons to be the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, remember: Jefferson would have been Eagles’ only frontline wideout. Because, as we’ve learned, they don’t see Greg Ward as a long-term solution, no matter how badly Reagor plays.

So, what would have happened if the Eagles had drafted Jefferson in 2020?

They most likely would’ve tried to trade up for Smith. Or, they’d have traded back for a receiver like Rashod Bateman, who went 27th, or little Elijah Moore, the second pick of the second round.

And no, they wouldn’t have drafted Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round, either. That’s the sort of thing Pittsburgh does.

At any rate, the Eagles faithful would still be yearning for Parsons. Then again, longing for elite linebackers is part of the pain of the Philly fan. They haven’t had a Pro Bowl ‘backer since 2005, when Jeremiah Trotter went to his fourth. The last perennial Pro Bowler was Bill Bergey, who went to four in five years in the 1970s.

Of course, the Eagles haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1979. So, if they’d used a first-round pick on a linebacker like Parsons back in April, they’d have done it while mourning the passing of Lurie and Roseman.

Because the only way the Birds would pick a ‘backer in the first round of the draft would be over their dead bodies.