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Reliving the failed Dream Team experiment with a former Eagles scout

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Fireside Chats #10!

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing as thrilling as revisiting the anguish of living through the Philadelphia Eagles’ failed Dream Team experiment, right? Well, that’s what exactly what I had Dan Hatman do for us on Bleeding Green Nation podcasts. Hatman, who now spends his time as the Director of The Scouting Academy, joined the Eagles during that offseason and was able to bring a unique perspective on how it all went down.

We talked at length about what the philosophy was behind the push to make a run and why it failed. Here’s some of what he had to say on the matter:

“You had Michael Vick, you saw the upside, you saw the opportunity for big points per game. You see a model like when Peyton Manning was in Indianapolis. You saw the type of defense you could have when you have a 35 point-a-game quarterback. And you’re always playing from a lead... and you can build a defense to defend the pass.”

My understanding of the build, and again I wasn’t in the room when it was done, and at that time in that building it was not the most transparent place... My understanding was that you had an offense that had the weaponry... there’s objective evidence here that you have an offense that should be able to do 30-35 points. In that case you can build for pass rush. You can build for pass defense.

So that’s where the Nnami Asomugha’s come in. That’s where the trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie comes in. You add Cullen Jenkins. You add Jason Babin. We are going to rush the passer and we’re going to defend the pass and we’re going to have a lead.

You can see how it was set up that if x, y, and z hit, like, this should be good. It didn’t hit.

To me it didn’t hit on the cultural levels, because the best way I can explain it is free agency is acquiring a mercenary. You’re saying that we don’t have anybody on our roster at this position worth paying. So we have to go outside of our roster to acquire somebody else who is better than anybody we’ve got in the building and pay them…

They didn’t grow up here, they didn’t develop here, they’ve got no institutional buy-in. We’re gonna go out, pay them top of the market money to come here and then hope that they buy in to a culture and that we can move forward as a team.

You had the move at that time to take Juan Castillo and move him to the defensive coordinator. Now Juan was heavily involved with Jim Johnson in all those years Jim built those phenomenal defenses and looking at protections and looking at pressure through the lens of destroying protection… So again I can see where the logic was in all of it, the execution didn’t hit…

We took a moment to talk about the logic involved with that move, including Jim Schwartz’s COOL Clinic, where he went to an offensive line clinic to talk about the collaboration between offense and defense. I’ve used that clinic in the past to reconstruct Schwartz’s process and try to predict how he’d attack certain offenses. Anyway, the Castillo switch was another bold move that didn’t work, but we know this. Moving on...

Just had so much opportunity for conflict, and these guys didn’t buy into each other and it didn’t immediately hit like they wanted it to hit. Then that conflict just kept rubbing.

I spent a lot of time in that building with Louis Riddick, who had come out of the Washington organization before that where Dan Snyder pays free agency every year like ‘let’s go’. Riddick’s like the loudest voice against free agency. Ironically, as a pro director you tag free agency to the pro director... Riddick’s anti-free agency for the most part. He’s big on draft and develop…

We just talked a lot about that opportunity for conflict was just so strong because you bought so many players from outside the locker room. Paid ‘em a ton of money and it doesn’t give the guys in the locker room the best feeling about where they’re at. You have all these other pieces but they didn’t get paid, the outsider got paid… They’re still human beings playing a game. It was not good in terms of the feeling.

And there was nothing to grab on to, like, when the negative **** hit you didn’t have that build.. You build those things, you build that trust over time and we just didn’t have that opportunity. And without that trust, as soon as the performance didn’t hit right, things just erode and that friction gets louder and louder and louder… There’s nothin’ to grab on to.

There’s no foothold to say ‘okay, we’ve got this’. It’s just tough to go from there, you feel bad for all involved. It wasn’t 18 months later, like, they have this idea, again, I could see how it worked, it didn’t work and then there’s like nobody left. Everybody’s gone…

My outside opinion of it is that there were a lot of lessons learned through all of those things.”

Hatman went on to praise the balance the Eagles’ organization have achieved since then in terms of organizing their front office since the debacle. He also outlined the differences in the acquisitions made back then as opposed to how things are done now.

One example of that was a hypothetical that if the Eagles’ had low-balled Fletcher Cox and tagged him or strung him along, how would he feel about the acquisitions of Timmy Jernigan or Malik Jackson? Would Cox take it as a move to try and replace him or as a move to enhance talent around him to help his game? Cox got paid so we’ll never know and I’m thankful for that.

There’s tons of other nuggets in the show, including a discussion on Jason Babin’s weird career arc being inexorably linked to Jim Washburn. We also spent a good deal of time laying out what a typical year looks like for a scout, so if you’re interested in that life, this show is for you.

If you want to learn more about the Scouting Academy so you can subject yourself to harrowing experiences like the Dream Team fiasco, check out their website. I can’t speak highly enough of my time with them and recommend going through their courses if you’re interested in pursuing a career in football or football media. Plus every now and then an alum will pick up your bar tab! No promises though.

You can hear all of that on Fireside Chats #10 by utilizing the media player below or by clicking here. New to podcasts? Check out our guide on how to listen to BGN! FLY EAGLES FLY!