By Kyle Neubeck

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Should Sam Hinkie have traded Michael Carter-Williams in exchange for another first-round pick? Should Chip Kelly pull the trigger and execute a mega-deal for Marcus Mariota?

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Those are the two hottest debates in Philadelphia sports today.

The answer to both questions is yes, and the reasoning is more interchangeable than you might think.

Ask most Philadelphia residents about our sports scene and they’ll tell you they don’t accept anything less than the best. They offer booing Phillies’ players (even if he is the team’s all-time hits leader) that loaf it to first base as an example of our ethos, a badge of honor the area wears proudly — be ready to work or prepare to get an earful.

Maybe that’s true. Or maybe Philadelphia has been so starved for championships, that it accepts the illusion of competing as a substitute for winning.

Eagles fans desperately cling to the hope that the team can improve enough around Nick Foles to allow the portrait of mediocrity to lead them to the Super Bowl.

“Just fix the secondary!”

It’s the rallying cry from people who believe that giving up a king’s bounty to get Mariota is too much. More than that, though, is the insistence that “trading away their future” has the chance to backfire on Kelly.

There’s no more risk in mortgaging the next few years than there is in settling for the same reality Eagles fans have lived with for 55 years. Jeffery Lurie and the Gold Standard were lampooned when it could serve as an excuse to run Andy Reid — the best, most successful coach in the history of the franchise — out of town. Now, Stockholm Syndrome has the lynch mob carrying water for a quarterback they believe is “good enough.”

So it goes in Sixerland. In his first year starting, Carter-Williams was the primary benefactor of an up-tempo attack— putting up big numbers that seemed to outstrip his skill set. Being awarded Rookie of the Year said as much about his draft class as it did about him.

Yet, when he was shipped off to Milwaukee, you would have thought Sam Hinkie traded a perennial All-Star. The Sixers GM was called a fraud and clueless, accused of kicking the can further into the future. This is what you get, apparently, for trading the league’s worst shooter in the midst of the NBA’s three-point boon.

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The sticking point in both cases is the common fan’s willingness to accept mediocrity rather than striving for more. Fans are content to stick with Foles and Carter-Williams because they fear what they don’t know. They are afraid to jump feet-first with Hinkie’s plan or a new quarterback in Mariota, instead of taking the optimist’s view that it’ll all work out with the proper dosage of determination and guile.

“There’s no guarantee it works out” is not an excuse to stand pat with middling talent. Nothing is a guarantee. Not when guys tear muscles or break bones and have their trajectories altered routinely. Not when salary constraints necessitate athletes leaving for more money to capitalize on a small earning window. Sports are fickle, whether you’re trading players for future picks or giving up future flexibility for a shot at a star.

Kelly and Hinkie were brought to Philadelphia for the same reason – they were trusted to build a contender, and more daring, a winner. That might mean taking risks to acquire the quarterback for Kelly’s system, or jettisoning a guard who can’t shoot.

Knowing this, why stand pat? More pertinently to Philadelphia, why be adamant about standing pat when it has won you nothing for decades on end? Risk and uncertainty aren’t the only roads leading to disaster.

Instead of being afraid that trading for Mariota will set the franchise back a couple years, be fearful that locking into Foles caps the ceiling of the team and limits Kelly’s tenure. Instead of worrying the Sixers lost a decent player in MCW, realize that the Sixers have had plenty of solid-to-great role players — Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young—none of whom got them any closer to a title.

This isn’t a suggestion that the Sixers, Eagles and the rest should throw caution to the wind and make moves for the sake of making them.

But when the right opportunities present themselves, fear is not an option. If they swing and miss, the only difference from the last few decades of failure is that someone had the guts to shake up the mediocrity.

 

 

Kyle Neubeck works with 94WIP’s newsroom and is a contributing writer for LibertyBallers.com and CBSPhilly.com. 

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The Pulse Of Philly podcast is hosted weekly by Andrew Porter, analyzing the pulse of the Philadelphia fan base.