Imagine being so brilliant at a skill that an employer is willing to pay you more than $1 million a year to execute it.
Then, imagine performing so lackadaisically that the same employer hands you $500,000 just to disappear.
Such is the life of Rueben Randle, the pulseless wide receiver cut by the Eagles on Sunday. The former second-round pick of the New York Giants had performed so listlessly that he was purged two weeks before the opener — even though the Eagles have among the thinnest wide receiver corps in the NFL.
Good riddance. Randle was this year’s version of Steve Smith or Miles Austin, a former division opponent who once torched the Eagles and now was joining to help the cause. In each case, that player proved to be a slug as soon as he showed up at the NovaCare Complex.
But Randle, 25, was worse. Smith and Austin could use age or injury to excuse their ineptitude in green. Randle’s only excuse is that he didn’t care. He jogged through pass routes, refused to block, dropped easy catches and earned a numbskull penalty in the Tampa Bay game.
You could sense Coach Doug Pederson’s exasperation. Last Saturday against the Colts, Ramblin’ Rueben ran just two plays with the first-unit offense — with the word “ran” being generous. One day later, he was gone.
Give the Eagles credit. Signing Randle was a low-cost gamble, and they quickly cut their losses. Certainly the arrival of Dorial Green-Beckham — another former second-rounder who arrives with flaws — had much to do with the decision. Maybe the evictions of Randle and fellow free-agent bust Chris Givens open a roster spot for undrafted rookie Paul Turner. And don’t be surprised if GM Howie Roseman goes back to the waiver wire bump-and-dent aisle before rosters are finalized.
The confounding aspect is that Randle has talent. Two seasons ago he had 71 catches and 938 yards for New York. The stats declined last year, and the TV cameras often caught QB Eli Manning making that sour-milk pouty face and gesturing to Randle as he failed to complete a route or ran the wrong way. When the Giants let Randle walk this offseason, his lack of chemistry with the QB was cited as a big reason.
But given a chance at redemption here, Randall slept through first period and never got the message. In an interview with ESPN last week, he said, “I feel like I get read wrong because I do a lot of things naturally and it doesn’t seem like I’m giving much effort.”
“If I go out there and make a one-handed catch and make it look effortless, I get praised for it, but if I do all these other things effortlessly, it’s like I’m not giving much effort.”
Eagles fans never did see those one-handed catches. Or any effort. To quote one of my favorite movie lines, from “The Bronx Tale,” “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Good riddance, Rueben.