Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘NFL Draft’ Category

Ware Just Another Example Of Lions’ Draft Day Misfiring

In NFL Draft on April 25, 2008 at 3:47 pm

The TV cameras were set up in the young quarterback’s living room, the best to catch the certain feeling of elation and exultation when his name would inevitably be called over the loudspeakers in New York City. And the one-eyed monsters didn’t miss a trick; the NFL commissioner made the announcement, and the gunslinging QB from the gunslinging state of Texas — the University of Houston, to be specific — raised his arms in triumph.

“Yes! Run-and-shoot baby!”, he cried.

Andre Ware was grinning from ear-to-ear.

Somewhere under the Silverdome’s circus tent, Lions coach Wayne Fontes’s moon face was lighting up, too.

Ware, the hotshot quarterback from Houston, who had obliterated school records while running the college version of the run-and-shoot, was headed to Detroit, where Fontes was trying to shoe horn the pro version into the woeful Lions offensive schemes.

It was April, 1990, and the Lions had a superstar running back, Barry Sanders, and a boat load of receivers. Some were able to properly catch a football; others were there because the Lions favored quantity over quality. All they needed was a QB familiar with the frantic run-and-shoot — the offense where the ball is snapped, and a quartet of receivers scatter all over the field, with the theory being that the more of them that are out there, the QB is sure to find one man open. The Houston Oilers were running a rather successful version in the gunslinging state. Though their quarterback and receivers were lower on quantity and higher on quality.

Long story short: Andre Ware, on the surface, seemed to possess the physical qualities of a prototypical stud NFL QB: he was tall, athletic, and young. But it turned out that he lacked one key ingredient: the ability to throw the football anywhere near a potential receiver.

Ah, but it is still my contention, some 18 years later, that had Ware not missed all of training camp due to a contract dispute in his rookie year, things may have turned out differently for him and the Lions. Guess we’ll never know for sure.

Andre Ware today, still showing his face despite his draft bust

They’re holding another of those draft circuses this weekend, and the Lions are still ones to err on the side of quantity than quality. They love to stockpile draft picks, never minding that they rarely know how to use them wisely. This year they have the 15th player off the board, a departure from the norm, where the Lions are usually possessors of something in the top five. And because of their lower-than-usual pick, the mocksters with their pretend drafts have the Lions selecting any one of five or six different players. History says it may not even matter.

But it’s still exciting, the draft. It’s kind of like spring training in baseball; every team feels a jolt of optimism over the players they’ve selected. All things seem possible in April — the reality of December be damned.

Today, Andre Ware is an analyst for college football games on network TV. He’s had to wear the label of “draft bust” ever since 1992 or so, and the reality is that he’ll never shake it. But he’s not hiding; being on network TV is no way to do that, even if you are commentating on the less stellar matchups every Saturday.

I wonder what goes through Ware’s mind every year around this time.

Trade Johnson? Don’t Get Me Started (Too Late)

In Lions, NFL Draft on April 30, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Set your Wayback Machine (if you’re old enough to remember) to 1989, please. Specifically, April ’89.

Try to recall your feelings when the Lions lucked out and had Barry Sanders fall into their laps with the #3 overall pick, after the Packers went brain dead and selected OT Tony Mandarich from MSU. Remember how special of a talent Barry was coming out of college — having applied for draft eligibility early. Remember how the Lions hadn’t had a superstar running back since Billy Sims — and his career was cut short due to injury.

Did you have any thoughts of trading him? Even though the Lions could have probably commanded quite a bounty, at least in terms of quantity?

I’d wager that the notion of trading Barry Sanders didn’t even enter into your 1989 mind.

And nor should the idea of trading wide receiver Calvin Johnson have gotten any credible amount of consideration.

I’m going to say this just once, so I’m going to make it as clear as crystal: When a player of Johnson’s magnitude becomes available, YOU DO NOT TRADE HIM!!

Let’s try this again.

When a player of Johnson’s magnitude becomes available, YOU DO NOT TRADE HIM!!

Do you need any clarification?

There was an annoyingly large number of folks who assailed the Lions and president Matt Millen for drafting the best wide receiver prospect in a decade, then having the gall to actually keep him.

Oy vay.

You don’t trade future sure-bet Pro Bowlers for four maybes. Period.

The Lions, according to the annoying ones, should have packaged Johnson for more picks and some players and really went to town addressing their multitude of needs. Perhaps a cute little theory, and maybe one that could work, if only you are able to do one thing: make several dead-on decisions, instead of just one.

Johnson is a special player. He is, according to the offensive guru Mike Martz, the best wide receiver Martz has seen coming out of college. EVER. The consensus on Johnson was unanimous: he’s a blend of so many great receivers, rolled into one, that it will make your head swim.

So you want to go and trade a guy like that??

For who, exactly? The Lions, in one selection, got it right with Calvin Johnson. He was widely regarded as the best player in the draft. But if you trade him, now instead of being perfect once, you’d better be perfect three or four times (depending upon who you listened to, the Lions could have commanded three or four draft picks/players for Johnson in a trade), because if just one of the acquisitions busts, then you’ve made a bad trade automatically.

Frankly, any trade involving Johnson, short of dealing him for Marvin Harrison and LaDainian Tomlinson, is a bad one, in my book.

Yes, the Lions have holes. Yes, their offensive line is horrid. Yes, they have drafted receivers a lot lately, with limited success.

So what? You draft Johnson, thank your lucky stars, for once, that you finished 3-13, and patch the holes elsewhere in the draft. Millen maneuvered himself enough so he had three second round picks and three fifth rounders, all without having to trade Johnson.

The Lions have a gem in Calvin Johnson. Doubtless had they traded it, they would have ended up with at least one piece of fool’s gold in return.

Keeping him is fool-proof.

Yo, Adrian! Be Careful — You Just Might Become A Lion!

In Lions, NFL Draft on April 25, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Adrian Peterson was hoping for something that he should probably watch out for — because he just might get it (though not likely).

“They’ve done pretty good picking the Oklahoma guys,” Peterson said at Lions HQ in Allen Park yesterday, according to the Freep’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika. Peterson, from Oklahoma, was referring to the Lions’ history of selecting running backs from that state’s schools: Steve Owens and Billy Sims (1970 and 1980, respectively) from Oklahoma, and Barry Sanders (1989) from Oklahoma State.

Well, maybe Cotsonika is too young to know, because the inclusion of Owens in that list is my doing.

Clearly in the case of Sanders, the Lions hit the jackpot, but only because the Green Bay Packers went sideways and selected MSU tackle Tony Mandarich instead of Barry. But with Owens and Sims, the results were mixed — because of that bugaboo with some running backs: the knee injury.

Owens rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1971 (the first Lions back to do so), but that was about it. He hurt his knee in 1973 and could never recover, despite a few comebacks. His last game, somewhat fittingly, was the Lions’ last game at Tiger Stadium, on Thanksgiving Day 1974.

Sims, a Heisman Trophy winner like Owens, had a few good seasons before blowing out a knee in a game at Minnesota in 1984. He, too, tried like mad to make it back before announcing his retirement at training camp in 1986.

If the Lions take Peterson, he’d be the fourth high profile back from the state of Oklahoma to be selected by the team in the last 37 years. And two of them had their careers cut terribly short by injury.

So maybe Peterson was right: the Lions have done “pretty good” at “picking” the Oklahoma guys. They just haven’t had as much luck keeping them healthy, Sanders excepted. And even Barry left us too soon, frankly, despite having played 10 years in Detroit.

Ex-Lion safety Mike Weger can rest easy: his #28 won’t be worn by Peterson in Detroit

It’s highly unlikely, in my mind, that the Lions will select Peterson with the #2 overall pick, despite the comparisons to Eric Dickerson. There’s just too much of a logjam in the backfield. Only if someone like Sanders or Reggie Bush were available would I make that leap of faith. Peterson is very good, clearly. But I don’t know that he’s good enough to draft at a position where there seems to be some depth — provided everyone is healthy, of course.

All I know is, the draft is but three days away and I am SOOO glad. The NFL should really do something about reducing the amount of time between the Super Bowl and its draft. Two-and-a-half months just seems awfully long. Actually, maybe it didn’t seem as long until the NFL Network arrived. I guess the wait didn’t bother me until I was reminded of it every single flipping day, thanks to those TV folks.

Still, how about a late March draft, guys? Do teams really need over 80 days to make up their minds? The non-playoff teams get nearly 120 days.

The NBA draft is held a few weeks, at most, after the Finals. The NHL draft, about a month after the Stanley Cup is presented. But the NFL drags its feet, until you’re unable to use the word “mock” without following it with “draft.” Until Mel Kiper stares at you from your bowl of Froot Loops.

We’ve had the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Masters, spring training, Opening Day, and nearly 20 regular season MLB games, since the final gun went off in the 2006 NFL season — and just NOW we’re getting around to the draft. Oy vay.

But back to Peterson. I think it’s a “no go”. I’m still putting my Monopoly money on the Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn.

Go ahead and mock me if you wish.

I guess I can use mock without following it with draft, after all.

The NFL Draft: Those Were The Daze

In Lions, NFL Draft on April 22, 2007 at 1:47 pm

The old-time football receiver was staring off camera to his interviewer, the usual black background behind him, the film whirring thru the sprockets.

“One year they said they were going to draft a quarterback,” the receiver said, now some 20 years or so after playing his last NFL game. “And me being a receiver, I thought, ‘Great – it’ll be nice to have someone who can finally get the ball to me.’”

But the look on the old-time receiver’s face told you there was going to be some sort of twisted punch line.

“So the kid comes to camp and he starts throwing the ball, and he can barely throw it 20 yards!”

The NFL Films camera catches Gern Nagler (NFL receiver, 1953-61) as he shifts in his seat, still a little incredulous lo these many years later.

“Well, it turns out that they never actually scouted him. Someone in the front office saw his photo in one of those magazines, like Street and Smith’s, and he looked really impressive, standing there with his arm cocked,” Nagler said, shaking his head. “But they never saw him play! They drafted him because he looked good in a photograph.”

I don’t know if Nagler’s story is true, apocryphal, or somewhere in between. But he put it out there for Steve Sabol and his film crew, so I’m going to presume there’s at least a hint of accuracy in there somewhere.

Today, NFL teams use more than a Street and Smith’s photo to help them determine which young hotshot college kids, like quarterbacks, to snatch up in the annual draft, which mercifully is only a week away, after nearly three months of hype and analysis.

No, things are a lot more sophisticated nowadays. There’s significant watching of film, of course (NFL coaches love film almost as much as Leonard Maltin). There’s the combine – which uses highly sophisticated equipment to see how fast the kids can run 40 yards – which is strange because I don’t recall the last time I saw an NFL player being able to run 40 feet before he encounters resistance, let alone 40 yards. And the equipment measures how high they can jump from a standstill against a wall, which I’ve also never seen come into play in an NFL game.

All this, and computer printouts and “character” interviews and background checks and tours of facilities and more film and maybe some more running and jumping, and then some more film. Did I mention that NFL coaches love film? I bet some of them lick the emulsion for a quick high, when nobody is looking.

Yes, all this, and then the player gets drafted, and if he’s a quarterback, the team might confirm that their new passer looks great, runs fast, jumps high, and has great character.

And still can’t throw the ball 20 yards.

It’s happened to our Lions, of course – and more than once. Maybe more than several times, actually. The most infamous example was Andre Ware, the gunslinger from the University of Houston. He was the 1990 first round pick, and when he was selected, the ESPN cameras were in his home, and they captured him raising his arms among the cheers and hoots and yelling, “Yes! Run-and-shoot!”

The Lions, you see, were running a similar, bastardized version of Ware’s offense in college. The kind where you send a bunch of little wide receivers out into a pattern, like jitterbugs, and start chucking. It had the catchy name of “run ‘n shoot.” And its mastermind was a Lions assistant coach named Mouse Davis.

Beware when your offense is built around names like “shoot.” And “mouse.”

Naturally, the excited Ware isn’t excited enough not to hold out for more money. He misses most of training camp, and when he finally arrives, he starts throwing the ball. And then the Lions discover, to their horror, that the kid can’t throw it 20 yards!

But he looked good in college, and in front of the ESPN cameras on draft day.

Ware and his Heisman: That and a dime will get you …

Ahh, but it happens in reverse, too.

In 1983, the third year ESPN showed the draft, giving its viewers a ringside seat to, as anchor Chris Berman once said was akin to “reading the telephone book,” the know-it-all football guy from Sports Illustrated, Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman was railing against the Miami Dolphins’ #1 pick.

“I don’t know who’s going to work with him down there,” Zimmerman huffed, clearly off put by the Dolphins’ choice, a quarterback. “I don’t see where this is a good pick at all.”

I’d say the Dolphins did alright by grabbing the QB out of the University of Pittsburgh named Dan Marino. I think even Dr. Z would agree.

Today, the Lions get ready to use their sparkling new, #2 overall pick next Saturday, the spoils of finishing with the second-worst record in the NFL in 2006. The first-worst team, the Oakland Raiders, appear to be leaning toward a quarterback, a typical use for a #1 overall guy. The LSU QB JaMarcus Russell is the likely candidate, according to the scuttlebutt, which, as I said, is in its third month of scuttling and butting.

Maybe the Lions will use the pick. Maybe they’ll trade it. Maybe they’ll take a quarterback, like the matinee idol-named Brady Quinn from Notre Dame. Or maybe a running back, like Adrian Peterson from Oklahoma. Or a wide receiver – AGAIN – like Calvin Johnson from Georgia Tech. Or a behemoth offensive tackle like Joe Thomas from Wisconsin.

Presumably, all of the above can run 40 yards fast, can jump high against a wall from a standstill, and interview real well.

But can they play football?

The methods of selecting players may be more advanced than perusing the latest issue of Street and Smith’s, but the disappointment of a busted top draft pick is timeless.

I can’t wait to see Brady Quinn throw a 20-yard pass in an NFL game.

Russell, The Mighty Quinn Both Heart Detroit; Don’t Burst Their Bubble Yet

In Lions, NFL, NFL Draft on April 19, 2007 at 4:06 pm

They drafted him, and he all but laughed at them. He threatened to take his baseball glove and try his hand at the national pastime, rather than play football for what he thought was a less-than-formidable operation. The drafters had been losers for five, six years running. His insolence forced their hand, and so he was traded away to the RockyMountains.

John Elway carved himself quite a career with the Denver Broncos, but only after telling the then-Baltimore Colts that he would not be their next Johnny Unitas — no way, no how.

Eli Manning pulled the same shtick with the San Diego Chargers a few years ago. His infamous look of someone who had been given a bad sweater on Christmas morning, as he held up his Chargers jersey and wore their baseball cap, is still fresh in my mind. He elected to play under the high-kilowatt lights of New York rather than on the laid back beaches of Southern California, just north of Tijuana. Wonder what he thinks of that strategy nowadays.

Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell don’t appear to be playing the Elway/Eli card. Both of them visited the Lions yesterday — two quarterbacks who many feel will be the first two signal-callers selected off the board in the NFL Draft a week from Saturday — and both gushed over the possibilities of being a Detroit Lion, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika in today’s Free Press.

“I’d love to play ball here,” Russell, from LSU, said.

“I think it would be a good fit,” Quinn, from Notre Dame, said.

Something tells me Quinn looms a little larger to Lions than Russell

So we presume there won’t be any Eli Manning-like looks of a condemned man if one of their names is read by Commissioner Roger Goodell as being selected by the Honolulu Blue and Silver. Quinn especially sounded excited about the prospect of being in Detroit, playing under the genius offensive coordinator Mike Martz, with his 500 or so passing plays.

“He’s just a great coach,” Quinn said of Martz in Cotsonika’s story. “He really has a plan, an idea, of really what he wants to do, and you can just tell from speaking with him that it would be a great opportunity for me to be here and work with him.”

Did someone channel Dale Carnegie into Quinn’s soul?

But hey, it’s great that the kid would like to play in Detroit, and that he’d be as happy as a clam. And why give him any dose of reality now? Kind of like smiling at a newlywed couple and telling them that they’re in for nothing but milk and honey. They have plenty of time to be disappointed later.

But then again, the college kids usually say all the right things, no matter what NFL city they’re visiting. Russell, as a matter of fact, didn’t even attempt to hide that fact. When asked what he said to the Oakland people, after giving his plug for Detroit, Russell said, “Same thing.”

Don’t you feel special, Lions fans?

Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s Quinn the Lions will select, whether they draft at #2 or #4 overall. There’s been some scuttlebutt that the Tampa Bay Bucs, with the #4 pick, might be interested in trading with the Lions to move up two notches. Pass rusher Simeon Rice is supposedly part of such a transaction, so say some Florida sources.

I just think there’s been a little more attention paid to Quinn by Lions brass than any other candidate. Quinn had dinner with head coach Rod Marinelli on March 22, Cotsonika reports. During the meal (I wonder who paid) Marinelli apparently expressed to Quinn the importance of leadership in a QB.

So JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn think it would be just swell if they played quarterback in Detroit. No John Elway or Eli Manning, they. That’s OK — all we’re looking for is another Bobby Layne.

Is that too much to ask?