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**This is unusual, but I came across this looking up something else, and I caught myself re-reading it–which I rarely/never do. I hate re-reading my stuff. However, I totally loved doing this article…and enjoyed how it turned out. So, for a ‘Rewind’ for some, and new to others–enjoy a look back at the 2014 NFL Draft Day-one. Remember, this was a world in which Victor Cruz was still a healthy, great player…and please note the players I was advocating the Giants should take instead of OBJ.**
In homage to a style of reviewing I’ve enjoyed on the Internet, I am going to shamelessly ‘rip it off’ covering day-one of the NFL Draft. I’d like to acknowledge the person or entity that developed this format, but I’ve seen about 100+ different genres and writers using it.
In case you had to miss the coverage last night, here is a highlight of some of the ‘best and worst’ things that happened from my perspective of watching 6+ straight hours of coverage (and pre-coverage).
*NOTE: I will be live streaming scouting blurbs and some comedy hi-jinx on every pick in the NFL Draft again tonight and tomorrow on College Football Metrics.com. Never see the NFL Draft the same way again!
BEST: Johnny Manziel being Johnny Manziel…
For months, we’ve had the controlled by his ‘handlers’ football prospect/political candidate Jonathan Manziel Esquire shoved down our throats. “Oh, my how he’s matured”…in an attempt to con teams into taking him in the top-5.
Manziel said and did all the right things for weeks/months. His ‘handler” George Whitfield did a sensational job every step of the way…like a more polished “Better call Saul” from Breaking Bad. Manziel was transformed into a humble, small-town boy, only looking for a gosh-darn chance to play some football to make the people of Texas proud. Gone was the arrogant party boy. He’s all ‘growed’ up now!
What happened as soon as his draft stock slide finally ended by a Cleveland bailout? He walks from the backstage area, grabs a Browns hat, steps up on stage, turns to the crowd and does his notorious ‘money’ finger-rubbing gesture/taunt/’catchphrase gesture’ to the adoring sea of fans cheering him. Nice job staying humble for 4+ months, and then stupidly celebrating your massive draft slide. This is akin to Cam Newton’s ‘Superman’ TD celebration/one-man show with three minutes left in a game that the Panthers are down by 27 points in.
The pre-employment process/con was over for all of five seconds before Manziel threw off his disguise and went back to ‘Johnny Football’. Nothing will play better in the blue-collar, rust-belt of Cleveland than a diminutive, ‘Hollywood’, diva QB. He’s just like one of us!
WORST: Sal Paolantonio with the world’s worst Oliver Twist impression
So, Sal Pal barges onto the airwaves to excitedly share the story of how Browns owner Jimmy Haslam came about drafting Johnny Manziel. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. Paolantonio goes on to tell us how he spent time with Haslam earlier, and how he revealed to Sal the reasoning behind deciding to select Johnny Manziel.
I’m not sure I can do the vignette any justice. Paolantonio, with the enthusiasm of a grade-school girl talking about getting invited to her first dance, relays to the audience that it all began when Haslam (vilified super-rich guy whose business is under off and on federal probes) was leaving dinner in Cleveland, and he happened upon a homeless person outside the restaurant.
First, I have to suspend some belief that Haslam was actually dining in an area where the homeless roam to and fro. Most places where Haslam would dine, I’m sure, are adorned with the ‘dwelling-challenged’ in our society. It just makes good sense to believe that whatever high-end area he was in would be littered with the homeless, and that Jimmy Haslam, man of the people that he is, did not walk nine miles out of his way to avoid getting within restraining order length of them.
I like to envision Haslam leaving the restaurant, and just outside the doors there was a trash barrel with a fire blazing inside as the homeless warmed their hands and sung uplifting doo-wop songs or old church hymns. I know it was May on the calendar, and it was probably 70+ degrees, but just go with me here.
I know the ‘chance’ encounter, that was ‘totally real’ because Haslam has never been under federal investigation for anything unethical, did not actually happen near a blazing 55-gallon drum surrounded by homeless songbirds because Sal Pal’s yarn notes that the homeless person was sitting down…or laying down…or was really short because Paolantonio is about to go ‘into character’ on air to ‘become’ the homeless person by reenacting this person looking up at Haslam…and it is a bizarre moment worth watching for yourself on the Internet.
Of course, the vision in my mind of uber-rich Jimmy Haslam ‘looking down’ upon a homeless person in the street, and the homeless person looking up at him…is priceless symbolism. It has the same feel that some people have every time a multi-millionaire politician expresses his love and admiration for the “hard-working folks out there.” I’d like to think that Haslam had on khaki’s and a smart dress shirt, but with the sleeves rolled up…to let the homeless person know he was just a salt of the earth ‘regular guy’.
Where was I in this story, again? Oh, I had to believe Haslam left a Cleveland restaurant, that there was a homeless person lying there in the street (as they often do), and that Haslam got close enough to this man (or woman) to have a personal conversation. I’m sure Haslam made a beeline right for this person, because he is super-comfortable being within striking distance of random homeless strangers in the middle of the night, and loves interacting with people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Oh, sorry…and you also have to believe this homeless person knew exactly who Jimmy Haslam was, because if the homeless are known for anything…it’s their love of watching SportsCenter on their flat-screen TV and/or iPad.
To finish off this TV moment, Sal Pal taps his inner George Clooney to ‘become’ the homeless person. He lowers his head to ‘look up at Haslam’ to deliver the Oscar-winning punch line to the story. Paolantonio looks up to the sky, and drops his eyes back down to quote the homeless person’s ominous message to Haslam: “Draft Manziel.” The words delivered in a Dirty Harry meets ultra-hungry Oliver Twist kinda way.
After that, Paolantonio explains that this ‘encounter’ (that ‘really’ happened) was what convinced Haslam that the Cleveland fans really wanted Johnny Manziel. Really? The multi-millionaire business person did not conduct a focus group of Cleveland fans…or bother to look at any number of free, silly polls on any website that would have confirmed or denied his fan base’s sentiment? Haslam just took a sample size of one, which I guess he believes is a model representation of Browns’ fans, and just ran with it.
The homeless person’s sage advice really touched Haslam’s heart, because that’s the kind of guy he is. He knew right then and there, that all the millions of dollars he has spent on coaches and a scouting department must be usurped by a chance encounter with a person that was between 37-84% likely battling a mind-altering addiction…and was possibly doing so at that very moment.
Someone get Costner on the phone, the Draft Day sequel just wrote itself…
BEST/WORST: St. Louis Rams = “Draft Day One Winners,” obviously…
Your ears will bleed with the love being thrown at the St. Louis Rams as the “Day One Winner.” I would agree, but how radical an event is this? Why are draft experts explaining it like none of us could possibly surmise this? The Rams had two of the first 13 picks in this draft…did we expect them to take guys no one had ever heard of?
The Rams got two guys in the draft everyone ‘likes’. Most all the other teams got one guy everyone ‘likes’. Two is better than one, so the Rams are ‘geniuses’ for making two ‘good’ picks to everyone else’s one. The draft day winner…it’s obvious math.
With that sarcasm aside, they actually did have a great draft. Of the top-20 most statistically valuable players our computer models projected for this draft, Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald were two of the top-4 ‘best’ prospects in our analysis. The NFC West may house the four best teams in the NFL by draft end the way things are going.
I’ve already seen it three-times on TV today: “I’m tellin’ ya’ folks…watch out for the St. Louis Rams this year,” and I suspect we’ll all hear that said 5,000+ more times over the summer.
WORST: Miami Dolphins falling asleep on the Offensive Tackle ‘window’
The Miami coaches are lucky that they did not get swept out after the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin debacle. We all knew the Dolphins needed more offensive linemen to patch up the wreckage left behind. In a draft with several high-end Offensive Tackles, and with teams moving up and down, and to and fro…Miami stays pat at #19, and watches all the instant impact lineman go off in front of them.
The Dolphins could have made a splash, and showed their commitment to changing things by moving up after Robinson-Matthews-Lewan-Martin, but instead they settled on next-tier OT prospect Ju’Wuan James…a spectacular ‘non-splash’.
Of all teams, the Dolphins should have been the ones moving up into the top-10. They didn’t, and it’s likely to cost jobs at the end of 2014.
BEST: Jon Gruden tries to fit Johnny Manziel to every team in the draft
Right from the get-go, I thought Jon Gruden was going to reach over and bitch-slap Mel Kiper on air over Johnny Manziel. Early on, Gruden aggressively wanted Manziel to be selected by every team picking. Kiper was offering the counter opinion that it was “a bad value this early.” As has been true of the last few drafts, Gruden treats Kiper like he is an absolute moron, and tries to put “Baby in a corner”…which Patrick Swayze knows that no one does. However, Gruden did put Kiper in a corner during the draft coverage of the 1st-round on ESPN. When things got slightly testy last night, as in previous years, Kiper politely backs down, and Gruden then ‘steals’ the entire direction of the show.
At a certain point, Gruden was making a near-tearful, personal appeal to Tampa Bay to take Manziel. He was dropping a lot of “we’s” discussing how Tampa Bay needed this to infuse life back into the organization. Essentially, Gruden must feel most every NFL team is a boring train wreck, because his simple solution to all their woes was the drafting of Johnny Manziel.
I wasn’t listening as closely later in the draft, but I think at the Patriots pick at #29, the following back and forth debate took place:
GRUDEN: “Look, I know a lot of people like this Tom Brady kid, but how long are you going to run with that tired old story? The guy hasn’t won a Super Bowl in like a lot of years. How about injecting some super-octane into that offense with ‘Johnny Football’? You could just put some packages in for him in year one, and then just have him take over in year two. You can sell a lot of unclaimed tickets in New England with this guy. You’ll get fans reengaged with this football team, I’m telling you!
KIPER: “Jon, that’s ludicrous. First, Manziel was taken six picks ago. Second, Tom Brady is a first ballot Hall of Famer still at the top of his game, and no region is more passionate about their team than New England.”
GRUDEN: “Mel, I swear, I will bury a hatchet in your chest if you do not clam up.”
BERMAN: “That’s what is great about the draft…the reasonable differences of opinions we can discuss all in good fun! Now, what do you guys think about Johnny ‘I’m the MAN’-ziel …you know, like the song we played 9,000-times tonight?”
WORST: You know what the Giants needed to ‘fix’ things…another Victor Cruz
There is nothing wrong with Victor Cruz or Odell Beckham Jr. on a football team. The problem is that the Giants have 99-problems…and a 5’11”+ WR ain’t one. In fact, Beckham seems like the 847th best answer to turn this sinking ship around. Beckham will probably look sensational running routes as Eli Manning gets sacked, and/or throws the ball to the other team every other play. If I’m a Giants fan, and I watched Aaron Donald, Ryan Shazier, and Zack Martin go off the board after OBJ was selected…I would have been beyond livid.
BEST: Bucking the system…
I admire the teams that stick a big, draft middle-finger up, and select someone way out of the socially-accepted norm that we’ve all been force-fed for weeks/months.
My personal favorite move was the Cardinals trading backwards, away from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, avoiding another Alabama-hype trap, and then snagging the BEST Safety in this draft, by far, in Deone Bucannon. Besides having the best measurables and top on-field performance/tape, I’m not sure what else Bucannon could have offered the draft analysts…if only he had played on Alabama, I guess.
The best ‘reach’ (to a degree) was the Patriots at #29 taking Dominque Easley. Teams were, rightfully, scared off by his multiple ACL injuries. However, when healthy, Easley might be a top 10-15 prospect. I would not have made that pick at #29, because of the ACL risk, but kudos for the Patriots who continue to do what they want, when they want in the draft.
There is one exact science to the NFL Draft: Teams with management under fire, worried about public opinion tend to follow ‘the book’…or the homeless. People, like Bill Belichick, who are beyond football reproach, do what they want…and it never seems to agree with the ’experts’. Most teams that the experts ‘love their draft’ tend to be picking highly in the draft every year…so they can be ‘loved’ again and again by experts. Congrats to the teams who didn’t agree with analysts’ values…and acted upon it.
WORST: NFL Network: Enough with the “Jerry Ricecakes” already…cease and desist, please
I cannot wait to see what ‘high comedy’ ensues for 2015. First, you gave us ‘Leon Sandcastle’, and now ‘Jerry Ricecakes’. I am breathless to find out ‘who’s next?’.
It can only get funnier every time you replay the commercials, mention it during football segments, and use it as backdrops on webpages. If any of you played NFL Network’s ‘Predict The Pick’, embedded among your choices was one ‘Jerry Ricecakes’…”Bazinga” (speaking of other unfunny things beaten to death). He’s not even a real person in the draft! Get it?
I know Barry Sandcastle, brother of Leon, is coming next…I know it. I’m going to go buy the website domain right now.