The Eagles signed former Redskins quarterback Nate Sudfeld to their practice squad as the team’s third quarterback, a move that raised a few eyebrows since the Eagles play the Redskins on Sunday. The Redskins have undergone significant upheaval this season, replacing two starting wide receivers and nominal starting running back from last year, and have new offensive and defensive coordinators. Signing a player with intimate knowledge of the playbook and audibles (and possibly some on defense) has value and is a tactic teams use from time to time. Sudfeld’s tenure may or may not be short lived after his use as a secret agent of sorts has passed. Should Sudfeld play at some point this season, he might join a not-so-illustrious list of those the Eagles have signed or traded for from rival teams that were so bad they were essentially double agents.
The Cowboys were the cream of the crop in the early and mid 90s, and everyone wanted a piece of them. They didn’t get what they paid for. Alvin Harper was the poster boy of awful free agent contracts when the Bucs paid the Cowboys moderately used #2 WR to be their #1. The Eagles didn’t make the financial blunder that Tampa did, but Chris Boniol was no better. During his three seasons in Dallas, Boniol was the most accurate kicker in the league (minimum 16 FG attempts a season), converting 87.1% of his kicks and scoring a league high 361 points. In his two seasons with the Eagles, he was next to last in field goal percentage. Against the Cowboys, he made just 7 of his 11 attempts in three games for a 63.6% accuracy against his former team.
Cullen Jenkins and Steve Smith
Putting Jenkins, who actually wasn’t that bad, and Smith, who predictably struggled with injuries, on this list might be unfair but no list of shame involving the Eagles is complete without Dream Team representation. The Eagles last game of the 2010 season was a loss to the Packers, which Jenkins was a useful cog for. In the 2011 offseason of horror, Jenkins was an overlooked signing compared to other moves the Eagles made, and like nearly all of the rest of the Dream Team, it was almost immediately regretted. Jenkins and the team agreed to a contract restructure for 2012 and was cut in 2013.
The Other Steve Smith had a big season for the Giants in 2009, then missed time in 2010 with another chapter in an injury plagued career. He was a late addition to the Eagles, signing in August and appeared in just nine games, catching a pass in only five of them. His only touchdown of the season did come against the Giants in a 17-10 win though.
Both players were footnotes on a disaster of a season but still examples that signing non-key players from teams you’re trying to get ahead of isn’t the soundest of strategies (see also Randle, Rueben).
Imagine if the Eagles had replaced Andy Reid with Jim Zorn. Or even Chip Kelly with Jim Zorn. That’s basically what they did in 1964 when they hired Kuharich. In five seasons in Washington, Kuharich compiled a 26-32-2 record, a winning percentage in the area of Tony Sparano, Joe Philbin, Jim Haslett, and most closely with Chip Kelly. Kuharich had one winning season in Washington, and had previously been fired by the Chicago Cardinals after one 4-8 season. Between stops in Washington and Philly, Kuharick coached Notre Dame for four seasons, he is the only coach in the school’s history to have a losing record. After spending the 1963 season working for the league, Kuharich was bizarrely given a 15 year contract by the Eagles in 1964, and immediately dismantled the team (more on that to come). He was even worse in Philly than in Washington: again he had just one winning season in five years, but his rest were so bad that he finished with a record of 28-41-1 with the Eagles. He went 3-6-1 against the Redskins.
This one is so fresh it still stings. Murray led the league in rushing for the Cowboys in 2014, then merely lead the Eagles in rushing in 2015. The highlight of his career with the Eagles was complaining to Jeffrey Lurie after the biggest win of the season, and for helping the Eagles to move up to get Carson Wentz.
In 1957 the Eagles drafted Sonny Jurgensen, and in 1958 they traded for Norm Van Brocklin. In 1960 Van Brocklin was named league MVP en route to winning the NFL Championship for the Eagles, and gave Jurgensen a Hall of Fame tutor. Van Brocklin retired after the season and Jurgensen was given the reins. He didn’t disappoint. In his first year as a starter Jurgensen led the league in passing yards and touchdowns, keeping the Eagles as one of the top teams in the NFL despite the key retirements of Van Brocklin and Chuck Bednarik. For his efforts he was named All Pro, and followed it up in 1962 by again leading the league in passing and finishing third in touchdowns. The Eagles had seamlessly transitioned from one great QB to another.
Then Joe Kuharich arrived. Kuharich traded Jurgensen, who missed a third of the 1963 season due to injury to the Redskins in exchange for Norm Snead and Claude Crabb. Crabb lasted two seasons, while Snead went 28-50-3 in seven seasons as a starter. Meanwhile Jurgensen was one of the best QBs and characters of the late 1960s and went to the Hall of Fame.
One of the Kicking Zendejas Brothers, Louis was a double agent out of a Leslie Nielsen movie. He started his career with the Cowboys, where he made 4 of 7 attempts in 1987 and 1988 combined. The Eagles picked him up in ‘88, and he connected on 19 of 24, the 7th best rate that season. The next season, he missed 40% of his field goals for the Eagles, they cut him midseason. The Cowboys picked him up, and he continued to suck, which is what made it strange that Jimmy Johnson claimed Zendejas was a target in the Bounty Bowl game. Or was it? Zendejas’ weak kicking was plausible deniability. Either way, Buddy Ryan was right, Zendejas couldn’t kick.