PHILADELPHIA – When the 2023 draft process began only one team controlled its own destiny and that was the Chicago Bears, who earned the No. 1 overall pick in merit.
The Bears were the worst team in the NFL last season, partially by design, as novice GM Ryan Poles tore it down in as close to a Sam Hinkie-like fashion as you could in the NFL with the intent on starting the rebuild this April.
The first decision was whether to move forward with Justin Fields, the team’s first-round pick in 2021, at quarterback. Fields is gifted to say the least and often made something out of nothing with his athleticism but he remains a tough evaluation because Chicago provided little in the way of weapons or coaching.
Once Poles rolled the dice there and decided to stay the course rather than rebooting with Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, or Anthony Richardson, the only other options if Chicago kept the pick were Jalen Carter and Will Anderson, players who would have filled a significant need on perhaps the worst from in football.
After questions arose over Carter’s off-the-field concerns, Poles decided to bail early and fall all the way back to No. 9 overall, adding more draft capital. What the second-year GM probably didn’t expect was getting a second swing at Carter, something again passed on.
Unlike Eagles GM Howie Roseman, who has extensive experience and a long leash, Poles didn’t have the money in the back to tie his reputation to a question mark, even an immensely talented one, and Roseman gave the fledgling GM an extra fourth-round pick to move up one spot guard against anyone else trading up to get Carter.
The stature of the respective GMs explains how a player is a no-brainer in one city and a complete red flag in another.
“I will say that our culture is important,” Poles told the Bernstein and Holmes on 670 The Score in Chicago. “I’ll say that we know where our roster is right now and what it can handle, what it can’t handle. I think that’s part of being intelligent in this space is knowing your locker room and where it’s at.”
Some took that as a slight toward Philadelphia but it was actually a compliment.
If veteran players and strong leaders like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham were going to be working with Carter on a daily basis, Fields had already shown the natural leadership skills of Jalen Hurts and Poles was a two-time Executive of the Year with a Super Bowl ring coming off an NFC Championship, Carter would be calling the Windy City home right now.
“I’m happy we made the decision that we made,” Poles said. “Specifically, on Jalen, I think he went to a fantastic place that has … their cement dry in their foundation.”
All situations aren’t created equally and the Eagles’ prior success and strong organizational foundation puts them in a unique position to take chances others cannot.
It’s just another example of where Philadelphia thrives by winning outside the margins.