The Eagles have also gone out on a limb by leaving Casey Weldon, their '92 fourth-round pick out of Florida State, all alone as the backup quarterback behind Randall Cunningham. Weldon has not thrown a single pass in the NFL. If Cunningham goes down, so may the Eagles.
While the dust is settling in Philadelphia, it's certain that more changes are in the offing. Looming on the horizon after the '93 season is the possible loss of two free-agent defensive stalwarts, linebacker Seth Joyner and defensive end Clyde Simmons, the league's 1992 NFL sack champ, with 19. Braman would take a beating from Eagle fans if he let them escape, and he said last week that he wasn't planning to "jettison" Simmons or Joyner for draft picks and hoped to sign both. But that's what he had said about White, and in that battle the stakes got much too rich for Braman's blood. Both players could fetch as much as $3 million a year in a market desperate for impact defensive players.
Yet, Braman would do well to pursue Simmons and Joyner. They're both 28. They've been relatively injury-free. Simmons has more sacks over the last four years than White has. Joyner is the soul of the defense. Plus, the Eagles' credibility is at a low ebb after L'Affaire White, a nasty bit of business which neither White nor Braman has yet to put behind him.
White was openly critical of Braman for not doing more to keep him in Philadelphia. While expressing his desire to establish a ghetto ministry wherever he signed, he declared, "God will tell me where to play." Braman replies that while he respects White as a religious and morally concerned person, his decision to accept a four-year, $17 million deal with Green Bay "wasn't going to be made by a ghetto, or made by God. It was going to be for the reason most human beings make most decisions today: money."
"How dare Mr. Braman say that," says White. "Money was important, because I know what money can do. But how dare he speak for what was in my heart. God did decide."
Needless to say, none of this is good for the image of Braman's Eagles. And though the team has the third-highest total of wins in football over the last five years (52, behind San Francisco's 62 and the Buffalo Bills' 58), Philadelphians are getting edgy. Last Saturday at Veterans Stadium fans at the Phillie-L.A. Dodger game were quick to criticize when the subject of the Eagles came up.
"Braman killed their karma, man," said a fan. "He destroyed their camaraderie."
"If they screw up this draft," another said, "and then they lose Simmons and Joyner, that's it. We've had season tickets in my family for years, but I'm not going anymore if they screw it up. That's it."
Braman is listening. "That's the penalty for leadership," he says. "[Owner] Jerry Jones went through hell in Dallas his first year, and now look at him. He's got the best team in football. I was convinced that we couldn't beat Dallas with the team we had. If you can't compete with Dallas, you'd better just pack it in and not show up for the fall." But Braman will be there come September, and he has decreed that top draft choices must be ready to play—right away. Last year, not one of the top five Eagle picks was even a semiregular.
Like his friend Al Davis, Braman is learning that you have to take chances on wounded veterans like Millard and cranky castoffs like McMillan. You have to weigh whether a past DUI conviction—and the threat of an NFL suspension in the event of another offense—should stand in the way of signing a Tim Harris. And you have to move on when you lose a star like White. Kotite sums it up best. "The players don't like what we've done? They're uncomfortable? Fine," says the coach. "I want no one here in a comfort zone."