Taking Your Losses

You’re thinking this is a post about the loss this past Saturday. But you would be incorrect. This is about a move the Eagles made two years ago that laid the foundation for where they are right now. It won’t get discussed very much (well, not until the Eagles have 2 weeks of media attention before the Super Bowl), but we’re talking about the Carson Wentz trade.

Everyone is rightly focused on this year’s moves, like obtaining Gardner-Johnson for a song, getting AJ Brown (24 years old at the time, and re-signed) for 1.18 in the draft, and picking up Bradberry at a discount when the Giants had to make him a cap casualty. Yes, these moves were all fantastic. But it would not be possible without swallowing a bitter pill first, a year earlier.

Let’s set the table. The story begins in 2016, when the Eagles traded up to 1.02 and selected Carson Wentz. Wentz did well in the NFL, and lead the Eagles in 2017 towards the playoffs (2nd team All-Pro season) before tearing his ACL late in the season. Nick Foles, his brittle backup, took over and got them to the Super Bowl title.

Things between the Eagles and Wentz were going well enough for the Eagles to exercise his 5th year option and then sign him to a contract extension as their franchise QB in 2019. The deal was 4 yrs $128M and most of it was guaranteed. This is where things quickly went off the rails.

You’d expect the commitment to Wentz to be very very strong now. Spending $108M guaranteed… guarantees commitment. But the dynamic between him, HC Pederson, and the Eagles soured. I won’t go into all of the reasons why; this article explains the divorce.

Taking your losses is risk management. It is an act of courage. It is an admission of error. Human beings make mistakes all the time. Yet many are afraid to admit error because they feel they will lose the respect of others. Those who do come clean are stronger because they face the truth. They made a mistake. They are perfectly imperfect. Admission of a mistake frees them up to move forward instead of investing in additional losses. Thankfully in football, there is a record of wins and losses. That holds those who can’t confront their mistakes accountable.

I was not in Philadelphia to hear the local media and the fan reaction, but I am sure Roseman and Company took major heat. Either the masses were killing them for making the deal, they were killing them for taking a beating on the Eagles’ future without Wentz, or they were killing them for both. Kudos to all of them, and the owner too, for pressing forward.

Here is the thing about taking losses- if done properly, it stems the bleeding on a situation that may very well go from bad to worse. “When you are in a hole, stop digging.” Well, taking your losses means that you stop digging. We see these actions by GMs and they know from the inside that they have a problem. As a former trader, we had a saying when you had a trading error- “If you want to have a big problem, start with a small one.” So the rule in trading was to cover an error asap, else it was sure to grow. Don’t ask me why. It just does. “Confront the brutal facts.” They are all part of the same reality—- the sooner you accept defeat and move on, the sooner you’ll be able to get onto a better path.

In the 2021 offseason, the Eagles moved on from Wentz. In 2022, they were in a position to acquire some missing pieces around the rookie Hurts contract. Here it is, the end of the 2022 season, and the Eagles are knocking on the door of a Super Bowl. It could not happen without jettisoning the Wentz contract to the Colts. They architected the salary cap of the rookie QB contract to plug in the pieces elsewhere that they simply couldn’t do if Wentz were still there.

One step back to go two steps forward. The lesson is in exactly what Joe Schoen has done here with the NY Giants in his first season. He had no choice but to take his losses on the salary cap and jettison some muscle (Bradberry) after all of the fat was cut. Schoen also took his losses on Kadarius Toney. There is no greater example of moving on from your losses than trading away your Round 1 pick from only a year ago. Now, Schoen has much more cap space going forward.

It’s hard to see the path after getting bounced in the playoffs. We want to believe that if we levered 2022, kept Bradberry, and grabbed a WR at the trade deadline, that the Giants could have gone even deeper in the playoffs. Schoen instead respected the plethora of holes he had and felt otherwise. Let’s celebrate the coaching hire he made, how they overachieved, and how the table is set for even more competitiveness as the cap gets cleaned out further.

Take the pain now. Live to fight another day. Roseman did it, and it became a spring board a year later. Schoen and Daboll will be able to build the team for 2023, 2024 and beyond as a result of losses taken in 2022. Great things lay ahead. One step back to go two steps forward.

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