INDIANAPOLIS – It is 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday and I've just hailed a cab outside of the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium. It's time to get to the airport, with a drive-thru pit stop for lunch, and return to Philadelphia. My NFL Scouting Combine is over for 2018.
I arrived here at 10:10 a.m. In and out in one day. That's how I like my NFL Scouting Combine. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman met the media an hour ago and, well, that's pretty much the extent of my time in Indianapolis. The NFL prospects don't get on the field until Friday, not that reporters are given much access, other than television, to watch the workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
So why stay? One day was all I needed.
And it was a great few hours, let me tell you. I landed and jumped in a cab that took me to the Westin Hotel, where so many of the league's coaches and personnel executives stay. I waved hello to a dozen people and then chatted with former Eagles center Hank Fraley, now an offensive line coach with Detroit. We talked coaching. We talked family.
We talked winning the Super Bowl.
"I watched every bit of it, I watched the parade and it was awesome," Fraley said. "But, you know, I just wish it was us in 2004. We turned the ball over too much. But I'm happy for all of you and especially the fans. I know how much they wanted it."
Hank Fraley, Eagle forever.
Then it was on to the Convention Center after a sun-splashed five-minute walk on the streets of Indianapolis. The NFL Scouting Combine turns Indy into "the" place to be for a week in late February-early March. Every person walking, it seems, has team-logoed gear on. Jackets, T-shirts, shorts. These are the GMs and the coaches dressed as everyman and it's cool to see.
Inside the Convention Center, the media congregate. In the first room I visited, podiums were set up for coaches and general managers to address questions from reporters. Each session lasted approximately 15 minutes. And what was so cool was seeing so many former Eagles there. Matt Nagy, a former assistant coach with the Eagles, is now the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Sean McDermott, head coach in Buffalo, was the defensive coordinator with the Eagles. I saw media relations gurus in the league in other cities who once worked for the Eagles. A television producer with the Jets who is my boy from his days in Philadelphia. Reporters who worked in Philly and who watched the Super Bowl and the parade and the celebration.
They were all happy for the Eagles, mostly, though, for the fans. Because they all know how much the fans have invested in every way in the Eagles for so many generations.
Pederson did a hit with Sirius XM NFL radio. Roseman did his radio sidebar. Then they both, back to back, went to the main podium to address questions about, basically, what might happen. And so I drifted in and out of the conversations because, you know, neither really, truly knows what is going to happen when free agency begins on March 14 and when the draft starts on April 26. The speculation side of the business is for the media and the fans. The team makes plans and creates scenarios and prepares for anything and everything to happen.
After Pederson and Roseman met the media – which included Roseman and later Pederson off to the side with the dozen or so Philadelphia-area reporters who made the trip – we walked through the Convention Center to the Radio Row located there. First, we passed the Bench Press area, the Virtual Reality area, and other locations that make the NFL Scouting Combine an incredible experience for both the teams and the fans. Both Pederson and Roseman joined me at the Eagles' table on Radio Row for one-on-one interviews.
"I'm here with Super Bowl-champion head coach Doug Pederson …"
"That'll never get old, Dave," Pederson said. "That will follow me the rest of my life, I guess."
Yes, it will.
Truthfully, the Eagles are playing catch up, and that's a great thing. You win the Super Bowl and you're offseason gets jammed up a little bit, I've learned. Roseman and his personnel department are not quite – very close but not quite there – where they've been for past Combines. Pederson is still looking for a wide receivers coach after making Mike Groh the offensive coordinator, Press Taylor the quarterbacks coach, and promoting Spencer Phillips from Pederson's assistant to a quality control coach (that's how you move up the ladder in the NFL, kids), and boosting Duce Staley's title to include Assistant Head Coach and to give him more responsibility with gameplanning.
The Eagles are in a good place. They just don't know what's going to happen, because it's impossible to predict the future, right?
"I'm sitting here thinking, 'We've got to get better. If we sit here with a big smile on our faces, we're going to get our butts kicked,'" Roseman said. "That's how it works. Winning the Super Bowl was everything I thought it would be. The parade, yes. Now we're back to work. We have to figure out ways to improve our football team. We have a lot of free agents. We don't have our typical number of draft picks (the Eagles currently have six).
"So, it's going to be a challenge. Right now we're a little behind, but we're catching up, quick, and that's a testament to our scouting staff, led by Joe Douglas."
Thanks, Howie. Thanks, Doug. Time to pack up my backpack and get out of dodge. A few more quick hellos and goodbyes and I'm on the way out of the Convention Center. There's a cab. I've gone full circle here on a work day that kinda, sorta began in the Philadelphia International Airport, Gate B2, with NFL Films producer Greg Cosell opining to other draftniks about the brilliance of some three-down linebacker I don't know. The 2018 season is here. Get a grip. The Combine is where it all happens, and I'm leaving.
Indianapolis, a great place to have the NFL Scouting Combine. A great place to visit. All in all, I'd rather be in the City of Champions, so here I go.