After the Eagles twice passed on Geno Smith, it's reasonable to wonder whether their interest in the West Virginia quarterback was ever that significant. This topic was debated leading up to the draft, but intrigue was added when owner Jeffrey Lurie accomponied Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman on an in-person scouting visit to West Virginia.
"First off, it wasn't a smokescreen," Kelly said Tuesday morning on 94 WIP's Morning Show. "We were as thorough with Geno as anyone else with our evaluation. How it happened was we were supposed to have a meeting scheduled that day with Jeffrey in the building on a couple things. And we weren't supposed to meet until the afternoon because we're going to see Geno, and it was an hour away by plane. And he said, 'Hey, I'll go with you guys.'"
In March, Lurie explained his involvement was because of how high the Eagles were drafting, and said it's a "common thing." He said it's not something he expects to do in the future, but categorized his increased involvement because it was "an important pick."
Kelly said Tuesday the Lurie's spot on the trip was "coincidence," and noted that vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterback coach Bill Lazor were also on the trip.
Kelly tried being practical about the situation. He made the Smith visit sound like simply information gathering, so the draft is not just a "crapshoot" and the answer is never "I didn't get to watch him enough."
"It's just about doing your due diligence and working," Kelly said. "And if it comes down to work ethic, I know we're going to leave no stone unturned and make evaluations of who they are."
But there's also gamesmanship involved, even if Kelly does not want to admit it. The draft is high-stakes poker, and it's sometimes in a team's interest to mislead the other 31 teams. Kelly didn't see the West Virginia trip in that light.
"Is it a smokescreen to other people? I think that intrigue and that part of it, I kind of get a kick out of," Kelly said. We don't have enough time to go out there and say, 'Hey, let's bluff the other 31 teams in the league by going to do this.' If we are, we're wasting out time."