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April 25, 2003

by Bill Hogan


This weekend coaches, general managers, player personnel directors and owners will put their reputation and the future success of their team on the line at the 2003 NFL Draft.

They will sift through a mountain of data compiled over the past few months on hundreds of college prospects. They will review and re-review each player's profile to evaluate speed, strength, quickness, agility, intelligence and psyche.


And they'll do it all in the confines of what has been commonly referred to as The War Room. Maybe it was all the television coverage of the war in Iraq, or maybe it's just me, but I don't get the analogy.

I doubt General Tommy Franks will be giving Bill Parcells advice on whether to go after a "blue chip" defensive back or find someone to replace Emmitt Smith. Will Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld be sitting beside Steve Spurrier and Daniel Snyder when the Redskins are "on the clock"?

I understand the significance of having a meeting place to develop a military strategy for occupying downtown Baghdad as swiftly and with as few casualties as possible. But I don't see the correlation between planning a precision air strike and trying to improve on the Bengals' dismal 2-14 record.

The military connotation of "the draft" is obvious, but The War Room? Is there a red telephone in there with a direct line to the Kremlin? Will Ari Fleischer be announcing each draft pick instead of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue? And if so, will Helen Thomas be sitting in the front row heckling him relentlessly after every selection?

And if they're going to have a war room, shouldn't they be fair and balanced and also have an anti-war room? Although the only protestors in the area will be old Jets fans wearing worn out Joe Namath jerseys that are still bitter about their team passing on Dan Marino in favor of Ken O'Brien 20 years ago.

The fact is it's just a bunch of overweight executives sitting around a conference table munching on pigs-in-a-blanket from the draft-day buffet while trying desperately to figure out if Willis McGahee's knee is going to hold up.

These guys are evaluating Terrell Suggs' poor performance in the 40-yard dash at last month's combine; not deciding whether an entire platoon can make it across a bridge before the guy in the sandals figures out how to fire that 30-year-old Russian-made grenade launcher.

When the Philadelphia Eagles made Jay Berwanger the first pick of the NFL's first draft in 1936, there were no computers, no video phones, no television coverage and no war rooms. And when the Eagles traded the rights to Berwanger to the Chicago Bears, there were no draft "experts" analyzing their decision to death.

When Bears owner George Halas balked at his $25,000 price tag, Berwanger also became the NFL's first draft dodger. The Heisman Trophy winning tailback from the University of Chicago turned down the opportunity to play in the NFL and instead became a foam-rubber salesman.

I wonder how such a snub would be received in the high-tech war rooms of this year's draft. Could you imagine a college player turning his back on the NFL to pursue a business career? It seems like a ridiculous scenario considering the payoff for being a number one draft pick is better than winning the lottery.

"Hey, Charles Rogers, this is Coach Mariucci. I'm happy to inform you that the Detroit Lions have just selected you with our number on pick."

"Gee, Coach, I'm really sorry you wasted your pick on me. You see, I've just been promoted to assistant manager at the Dairy Queen and I start student teaching in the fall, so I'm gonna have to pass. But thanks anyway."

The fireworks in that war room would make "Shock and Awe" look like a July 4th picnic. They'd probably have to call in the troops to keep Mariucci and the rest of the Lions executives from going ballistic.

Imagine. Ambushed by a college student who would rather pursue a career other than professional football. Outflanked by an ice cream parlor. Not even the Iraqi minister of information could put a positive spin on this bomb shell.

Professional football uses a lot of military jargon. But in The War Room, there should always be at least one person with the authority to pick up the phone and give the order to drop the big one.



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