It was, even in 1974, costly. For one spectacular linebacker, Bill Bergey, the Eagles gave the Cincinnati Bengals two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder. Imagine. Two first-round picks.
So just before the draft, general manager Jim Murray sent Bergey into the Eagles' war room.
"I walk in and go, 'Hi, everybody, here's your No. 1 and No. 2 picks,' " Bergey said recently. "And not one person thought it was funny."
But no one laughed at Bergey's performances for the Eagles. Motivated in part by feeling slighted by the Bengals, Bergey made nearly 1,200 tackles and was voted to four Pro Bowls in seven seasons as an Eagle. On days in some of the leaner seasons, it looked as if No. 66 was the only Eagles defender in the game.
Because of his bulldozing style on the field and his accessibility off it, the brash and boisterous Bergey became a Philly fan favorite. He was accosted almost everywhere he went - at dinner, outside the team bus, on the street. And Bergey never turned away a fan, except maybe when food was on the table.
The seemingly indestructible Bergey started 141 of 143 games, including 75 straight for the Eagles, before AstroTurf and a New Orleans Saints guard named Conrad Dobler ended his season in September 1979. No one could believe Bergey, who eviscerated his left knee, could be so badly hurt, including the New York Giants, who listed Bergey on their injury report for the next week's game as "probable" with "slight" surgery of the left knee.
Bergey returned for one more glorious season, in 1980, at the age of 35. He started every game that season, including the Super Bowl, before retiring.
"I jokingly say I've signed at least three autographs for every person in the city of Philadelphia," Bergey said. "All the way up that so-called ladder of success, I was kind, courteous, and treated people like I wanted to be treated, and coming down off that ladder, people are still courteous to me. . . . I can go down the streets of Philadelphia today and people say, 'Hi, Bill. How you doing? Thank you for the good old days.' And it really gives you a good warm feeling that you've done something right."
Eagles Honor Roll:
Position: Middle linebacker
College: Arkansas State
With Eagles: 1974-80
Highlights: In 1980, after rehabilitating from a serious knee injury, the 35-year-old started every game through Super Bowl XV.
Records: He recorded nearly 1,200 tackles in seven seasons and went to four Pro Bowls.