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NFL Draft '99
      

Brotherly discord

Eagles can't win with controversy over No. 2 pick

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Posted: Friday April 16, 1999 11:51 AM

  Philadelphia has contacted the agents of Donovan McNabb (right) and Akili Smith. Otto Greule Jr., Vincent Laforet/Allsport

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- It seems everyone in Philadelphia has an opinion about what the Eagles should do with the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft. This happens in a lot of cities.

Only in Philadelphia do the mayor and city council get involved.

The Eagles are leaning toward picking a quarterback Saturday in perhaps the most important draft in franchise history. Public opinion is loud, widespread and, apparently, wrong.

Mayor Ed Rendell went on the radio this week asking fans to call the Eagles offices to urge the team to pick Texas running back Ricky Williams. He even gave out the phone number.

At the Phillies' opener on Monday, fans in the upper deck toted signs spelling Williams' name.

On Thursday, the City Council actually voted on a resolution calling for the Eagles to draft Williams. It was rejected.

So here is the dilemma facing new coach Andy Reid and director of football operations Tom Modrak: Whether they end up with Akili Smith, Tim Couch or Donovan McNabb, the Eagles will get one of the most touted skill players they've ever taken in the first round -- and incur the wrath of their fans.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Andy.

"They will understand within time that the decision we make is the right one," said Reid, who replaced Ray Rhodes following the Eagles' 3-13 season. "But until that player performs on Sunday, they probably will question that. We will make the right decision."

Though the Eagles were still proclaiming Thursday that no one -- including Williams -- is out of the running, Philadelphia seems ready to place the future of the franchise in the hands of a quarterback. The latest indications are they favor McNabb, a strong-armed leader with scrambling ability who ran an option offense at Syracuse.

The Eagles have contacted agents for McNabb and Smith in recent days, but it is common practice for teams to touch base with agents of players they might draft.

Reid and Modrak, who are both making the final call on draft day for the first time, loved McNabb's performance in the Senior Bowl.

"He also might have the strongest arm" in the draft, Reid said. "His athletic ability intrigues me."

A trade is still a possibility, although everything depends on what the Cleveland Browns do with the first pick. Reid and Modrak are giving every signal they will entertain trade offers until the very last moment before making their pick.

"We would be foolish not to entertain offers," Reid said. "We are sitting in a very nice position which does not happen very often, and I hope it doesn't happen very often. So we're sitting in a position here where we need to entertain offers."

The Eagles haven't drafted this high since 1969, when they picked running back Leroy Keyes of Purdue. They have 11 picks in this draft, and they need to get most of them right to help erase decades of mistakes.

Though scattered with gems like Randall Cunningham (second round, 1985), Wilbert Montgomery (sixth round, 1977) and Clyde Simmons and Seth Joyner in the late rounds in 1986, this team's draft resume is pretty grim. The litany of errors includes a fixation on offensive linemen who never lived up to billing (Kevin Allen in 1985, Bernard Williams in '94 and Jon Harris in '97.)

It's easy to see why Reid, Modrak and the Eagles have so much riding on this draft.

"Obviously we're new together," Modrak said. "But we've approached it the same way that Andy did in Green Bay and we did in Pittsburgh. We put a lot of thought into it.

"This is one of the things that's exciting this time. Everyone is pulling the same way."

 
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A fine option: Syracuse's McNabb impresses the NFL
The run for No. 1: Williams makes bid to be top pick
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