ALL THIS TIME we thought Sam Hinkie was holed up somewhere outside of San Jose in a colony with other shunned geniuses, occasionally surfacing at snooty coffee shops like a hipster version of a mythical monster.
The Loch Ness Hinkie.
Apparently, Hinkie never even left the 215. All along he was hiding in plain sight down in South Philly at One NovaCare Way. He'd holed up in a basement bunker from which, for the last few months, he's been guiding Howie Roseman.
He emerged Thursday, blinking and pale, and took over the war room.
This is only a (completely plausible) conspiracy theory, of course. But, still, think about it: Since Hinkie was deposed as Sixers GM in December 2015, the Eagles have been making some very Hinkie-esque moves. This is, by no means, a bad thing.
Hinkie hoarded talent and assets like a miser. He proved unfit to actually run a franchise but had a masterful capacity for stockpiling pieces.
Roseman strikes a better balance.
Like Hinkie, Howie is playing a long game. He is playing brilliantly. Much the way Hinkie knew that Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes could never compete with LeBron James and Steph Curry, Roseman realizes that his Eagles today cannot compare to the Cowboys; to their young, pedigreed offensive line and their dynamic backfield combination of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
That means the Eagles cannot win the division. That means their fate is not in their hands. After a year in exile, Roseman convinced Jeffrey Lurie that one year of Chip Kelly's misrule requires five years of Roseman rectification. Lurie dutifully spread the propaganda last month at the owners' meetings, where he admitted "We're not one player away. We have lots of holes."
Last year, Roseman sold the farm to draft Superman at quarterback. This adheres to Hinkie's "Stars are everything" philosophy.
This year, in the first round, the Eagles took an athletic, underweight defensive player who does one thing well. Admit it: Doesn't sack-happy end Derek Barnett remind you a little bit of shot-blocking Nerlens Noel?
It's intriguing that Barnett is the fourth defensive end on the current roster whom Roseman drafted either in the first or second round. Like Hinkie, Roseman isn't afraid to use high draft picks to draft the same position over and over.
In the second round this year, the Eagles took a talented, injured defensive player who is unlikely to contribute to the team this season. If cornerback Sidney Jones didn't remind you of Noel and Joel Embiid, then you haven't been paying attention.
The basic philosophy here is sound: Invest big and well now to be bigger and better later. This should be sweet music for Philadelphians.
This is how the Eagles got really good. They extended Brian Dawkins, drafted left tackle Tra Thomas, chose Donovan McNabb over Ricky Williams, and drafted Corey Simon, who had a bad shoulder. They took corners Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in the same draft.
This is also how the Phillies won the World Series. Ed Wade, then Pat Gillick, hoarded young talent and let it blossom.
This works. You have to nurture the players - Hinkie's failure - but it works.
With Howie, as with Hinkie, you hope it works. Sure, Roseman has made egregious mistakes that justified his dismissal both before Lurie hired Kelly and after Lurie fired Kelly, but Roseman is on the right track. So was Sam.
Why root for them? It's hard not to.
Both are awkwardly bright men and decent human beings. Both are eager and earnest and impossible to dislike. Both were unlikely to rise so far so fast, but did because they were obsessive about their jobs and completely committed to their craft. Hinkie deserves another chance. Howie is getting his and, for the past few weeks, he has been making the most of it.
Barnett, taken 14th overall, will be a long-term answer at defensive end. His addition also addresses two of Roseman's biggest mistakes: drafting end Marcus Smith in the first round in 2015; and extending end Vinny Curry last winter while keeping Connor Barwin on the roster.
Sidney Jones will be a cornerstone cornerback when his ruptured Achilles' tendon fully heals next year. And yes, it will heal.
Rasul Douglas, a 6-2, 202-pound ballhawk cornerback, fell to the Eagles in the third round because, with a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, he runs like a linebacker. He also tackles like a linebacker. If Douglas proves too slow to play corner, the Eagles can convert him to safety, where speed isn't everything. Kam Chancellor ran a 4.62 when the Seahawks took him in the fifth round, seven years and four Pro Bowls ago.
Fourth-round receiver Mack Hollins is big, and fifth-round receiver Shelton Gibson is fast, and fourth-round running back Donnel Pumphrey is small, and picks in this range always need time to fit. That's fine.
In fact, that's perfect.
It's a Process.