Eleven years ago, after skipping out on a Patriots team he'd coached to a Super Bowl, Bill Parcells uttered what is probably the most famous draft analogy in NFL history. As a means of complaining about his lack of personnel control, Parcells said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."
Now that it's finally time for Tuna to bust out the king-sized shopping, the Miami Dolphins' new executive vice president of football operations is undoubtedly licking his lips. But before Parcells makes the first selection of the 2008 NFL draft, he's on the imaginary clock for the Ultimate Mock Draft, an annual tradition I started for my former employer in 2005 and am now bringing to the Y!
Here's how the hypothetical exercise works: Using the original draft order, each of the 32 teams is allowed to pick any athlete on earth as the cornerstone of its franchise. In the UMD, no one is off-limits. A team can pick Pacman Jones or Marion Jones or Tim Tebow or Michael Vick, who happens to have been the No. 1 overall pick in the first incarnation of this draft (oops), followed by Tom Brady in '06 and Carson Palmer last year.
Again, I am using the original draft order, before trades and, in the case of the Patriots, commissioner-mandated confiscation. Let me spell this out in capital letters: THIS IS THE ORIGINAL DRAFT ORDER, NOT THE ORDER IN WHICH TEAMS WILL ACTUALLY DRAFT IN THE FIRST ROUND LATER THIS MONTH.
I'm making this clear because, despite these efforts, many of you will send condescending emails mocking my stupidity for, say, not knowing that the Patriots will pick seventh in the first round of the real draft. Trust me; it happens every year. And come Tuesday, I will do my very best to mention the name of each and every emailer who recklessly commits this easily avoidable atrocity.
OK, back to Parcells. We know he likes big, disruptive, surly players who dominate the line of scrimmage, and my first instinct is that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is the player of his dreams. But despite the fact that Haynesworth was a dominant force for the Titans in '07, it was a contract year, and the big guy's career has been plagued by inconsistency.
We also know Parcells is an impatient man who gets restless after three or four years at every stop, regardless of his role in grocery selection. He's not quite George Allen, but he's definitely not looking out for the long-term interests of the franchise. He wants to win now, meaning a dominant young halfback like Adrian Peterson – or even a veteran coming off a knee injury like LaDainian Tomlinson – is not someone he'd shy away from, even given the relative lack of longevity at the position.
Most of all, we know that Parcells, as much as I like to make fun of his overbearing and self-serving tendencies, is nobody's fool. The most valuable guy on a football team is a franchise quarterback, and there happens to be a pair of future Hall of Famers in their prime on display in this hypothetical grocery store.
Hint: One of them is being followed down the aisle by paparazzi, while the other is chanting, "Cut that meat!"
Doesn't it always seem to come down to Brady and Manning, one way or the other? And no, we're not talking about Eli, his February heroics notwithstanding.
Will Parcells make South Florida Peyton's Place, or will the Dolphins become the Brady Bunch? Tune in to UMD4 and find out:
1. Miami Dolphins – Tom Brady, QB. We can only imagine the conversation at the family barbecue on Memorial Day between Parcells and his son-in-law, Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli. SP: "Bill, how can you steal Brady? We're the ones who discovered him eight years ago." BP: "You mean when you made him the 199th overall pick? Right. Hey, got any more of that potato salad? …"
2. St. Louis Rams – Peyton Manning, QB. The Greatest Show on Turf makes its triumphant return to the Edward Jones Dome, with Manning's wife, Ashley, inheriting the Brenda Warner seat in the front row, sans the electric blue feather boa. Suddenly Torry Holt feels five years younger, and Scott Linehan is an offensive guru once more. Now, if he can just get Manning some serviceable offensive linemen.
3. Atlanta Falcons – Carson Palmer, QB. New Falcons general manager Tom Dimitroff is a vegetarian, but he can't resist putting some meat in the team's offense, plucking the game's best pure passer with the blessing of owner Arthur Blank. Upon telling Palmer that, should the quarterback ever suffer another severe knee injury, "I'll be there to wheel you around the stadium," Palmer gives the owner a steely glare and snaps, "That won't be necessary."
4. Oakland Raiders – Devin Hester, WR/KR. No, this is not a misprint. Al Davis is that far gone. "Who is the fastest player on our board?" Davis asks in the war room. When Lane Kiffin starts to answer, Davis puts his finger to his lips as five armed security guards surround the second-year coach, place him in a straitjacket and lock him in the broom closet. The last thing Kiffin says before his mouth is gagged is "Yo, Adrian," and no one knows whether he's talking about a halfback named Peterson or paying homage to Sly Stallone.
5. Kansas City Chiefs – Walter Jones, LT. Yes, Jones is 34, and he has his share of physical issues. But he's still the game's best lineman, a blocking force whether the play is a pass or a run. After watching his once-dominant offensive line deteriorate, Chiefs president Carl Peterson is desperate for a potent left tackle.
6. New York Jets – Vince Wilfork, NT. It turns out Jets coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum have two separate draft boards: One which lists the best players, regardless of position, and another consisting of the guys they'd like to steal from the Patriots. "This'll really mess with 'em," Mangini says before selecting Wilfork, a beast in the middle who is the game's best pure, 3-4 nose tackle.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Tony Romo, QB. So much for the Alex Smith experiment. Romo may not be the next Joe Montana, but he's got the best chance of anyone on the board to re-inject some life into this dysfunctional franchise, and there's no way GM Scot McCloughan can pass him up. The only glitch? Come September, Jessica Simpson refuses to set foot in Monster Park because "it's, like, so gross. And, you know, monsters live there."
8. Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Willis, MLB. Imagine a younger, more agile version of Ray Lewis; GM Ozzie Newsome surely can. Encouraged by new coach John Harbaugh to come up with an elaborate rant and dance step to perform during pregame warmups, last year's defensive rookie sensation replies, "How about if I just conserve my energy for the last drive of the fourth quarter, when I'll be making my 23rd and 24th tackles?"
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Shawne Merriman, OLB. "I'm sick of sucking on defense," coach Marvin Lewis declares. "This guy scares people." When the Bengals' lone scout reminds Lewis that Merriman served a suspension in '06 for violating the league's policy on steroids and related substances, the coach scoffs, "That's it? Unless the dude is getting arrested while wearing his own jersey, don't even bother mentioning it to me."
10. New Orleans Saints – Jay Cutler, QB. Sean Payton doesn't need a big-armed quarterback to run his crafty offense, but with apologies to Drew Brees, it seldom hurts to have a guy who can flat-out sling the ball. While fellow '06 draftees Vince Young and Matt Leinart regressed in their second seasons, Cutler showed signs of blossoming into a full-fledged star.
11. Buffalo Bills – Albert Haynesworth, DT. The Bills can't believe the big guy slips this far, not after his incredible 2007 campaign, and they're not frightened away by his past anger issues. Rationalizes coach Dick Jauron: "He'll fit in fine. We're all angry. If you lived in a place in which winter begins on Columbus Day, you'd be angry, too."
12. Denver Broncos – Jared Allen, DE. Sure, the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder served a two-game suspension last season after incurring two DUI arrests in less than a year, but the man is a pass-rushing phenomenon. He led the NFL with 15½ sacks in 14 games last season, he never lets up and he has a mullet. Besides, Mike Shanahan sure isn't averse to taking on character risks. Just keep Allen away from the Coors plant.
13. Carolina Panthers – Bob Sanders, SS. A franchise that has had so much success with diminutive wideout Steve Smith scoops up his defensive twin, a hard-hitting, oft-injured 5-8 safety. With Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed coming off surprisingly underwhelming campaigns, Sanders, the NFL defensive player of the year in '07, has emerged as the top player at this crucial position.
14. Chicago Bears – Adrian Peterson. "Let me get this straight," general manager Jerry Angelo says. "You mean I can end this Cedric Benson charade and draft the other Adrian Peterson?" When coach Lovie Smith nods yes, Angelo launches into a 30-second spurt of Dr. Evil-style laughter. Benson then bursts into the war room, screaming "I knew you guys were out to get me."
15. Detroit Lions – Larry Fitzgerald, WR. Matt Millen can't help himself. Just as he must habitually hire coaches with "M" names, the Detroit president is inextricably bound to select a wide receiver with his top pick. This time he lands the NFL's highest-paid wideout, a 24-year-old rising star who caught 100 passes in '07.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Ben Roethlisberger, QB. Though Big Ben took some shots at former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt after Whiz got the Cardinals' coaching job, it's nothing that can't be settled over beers in assistant head coach Russ Grimm's resplendent backyard. General manager Rod Graves makes a case for Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson until Steve Keim, Arizona's director of college scouting, threatens to "beat the living hell out of everyone in this room if we don't take Roethlisberger."
17. Minnesota Vikings – Dwight Freeney, DE. Yeah, he's 28 and coming off a severe foot injury that wrecked his (and the Colts') 2007 season, but Vikings coach Brad Childress doesn't care. Freeney is the league's best pure pass rusher, and he's too svelte to be accused of taking any banned substances. After announcing the pick, Childress feels compelled to add, "And Tavaris Jackson is still my quarterback."
18. Houston Texans – Joe Thomas, LT. Remember the days when David Carr used to spend most of his time in the fetal position? Texans GM Rick Smith does (even though he wasn't with the franchise at the time), and this pick is a no-brainer. Has any left tackle been so smooth and effective as a rookie since Jonathan Ogden? Smith thinks not, and he charters a boat to track down Thomas on Lake Michigan and tell him so.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – Champ Bailey, CB. Suddenly, Asante Samuel is Philly's second-best cornerback. Bailey's impending return to the NFC East makes Andy Reid so ecstatic, the coach actually smiles for a split-second. However, Reid's scowl returns when Eagles fans loudly boo the pick. Later the same fans boo the Dalai Lama.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – LaDainian Tomlinson, RB. The great LT is suddenly a high-risk pick, what with seven NFL seasons in the books and a knee injury that limited him during the '07 playoffs. But to Bucs coach Jon Gruden and GM Bruce Allen, Tomlinson is farm fresh. "Hell," Gruden growls, "I tried to talk Barry (expletive) Sanders out of retirement, but for some reason he wouldn't bite."
21. Washington Redskins – Terrell Owens, WR. Sure, TO is 34, but he's got enough left for impatient owner Dan Snyder to justify this splashy selection. In choosing Owens over Randy Moss, executive vice president-football operations Vinny Cerrato explains, "TO's a much better blocker. Besides, we go way back to San Francisco – and we both feel the same way about John York."
22. Cleveland Browns – DeMarcus Ware, OLB. GM Phil Savage gives coach Romeo Crennel the greatest gift of all – a fantastic 3-4 edge rusher who is still ascending. "Here you go, Romeo," Savage says. "Maybe this season we'll stop somebody." At draft headquarters in New York, Brady Quinn slams his fist on the table.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers – Vernon Gholston, OLB. Second-year coach Mike Tomlin buys into the 3-4 wholeheartedly, pouncing on the chance to convert this college defensive end into the role in which Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Chad Brown, Joey Porter and so many others thrived. Besides, Gholston starred at Ohio State, and the Steelers love sticking it to the Browns.
24. Tennessee Titans – Nnamdi Asomugha, CB. Big, physical, fast and active, Asomugha is a beast of a corner who'll fit in well with the "Tyrants." His first move is to lay out predecessor Pacman Jones at a Nashville nightclub, earning Asomugha the undying affection of coach Jeff Fisher. Despite numerous witnesses, Pacman claims it wasn't he who got decked.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Lofa Tatupu, MLB. Mindful of Mike Holmgren's regard for Tatupu, general manager Tim Ruskell contemplates tweaking the outgoing coach by picking DeMeco Ryans, another outstanding young middle linebacker. Ruskell relents, however, when he remembers that the day Seattle acquired a defensive identity was the day Tatupu entered the huddle.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars – Braylon Edwards, WR. Tired of watching wideouts like Reggie Williams and Matt Jones mess up his otherwise potent offense, coach Jack Del Rio goes out and gets a young stud. Edwards caught 16 touchdown passes in '07, and suddenly those Browns drafts didn't seem so cursed anymore.
27. San Diego Chargers – Steven Jackson, RB. I am not a fan of general manager A.J. Smith's brusque managerial style, but the man has skills in the war room like A.J. Foyt did at the Brickyard. Jackson, like the rest of the Rams, had a rough year in '07, but the 24-year-old halfback can run and catch and bring Norv Turner's pretty plays to life like few others. Then again, they're kind of used to that in San Diego.
28. Dallas Cowboys – JaMarcus Russell, QB. Coach Wade Phillips insists that the team replace his top pass rusher, provoking this response from owner Jerry Jones: "I'll tell you what, Wade: I'll get you a guy whose first name sounds like DeMarcus and who can help fill up that quaint little new stadium I'm building. You know, the one Jason Garrett will be coaching in …"
29. Indianapolis Colts – Brian Urlacher, MLB. There is talk in league circles that Urlacher, who turns 30 next month, is on the decline, and he reportedly has a degenerative back and neck condition. That's fine with coach Tony Dungy, who isn't in it for the long haul and craves a rangy middle linebacker to key his Tampa 2 defense. Team president Bill Polian, one of the league's best talent evaluators, is happy to oblige. Ending a Super Bowl drought will do that for a guy.
30. Green Bay – Kevin Williams, DT. The Packers, like everyone else in the NFC North, are sick of trying in vain to run inside against the Vikings – and their pair of shutdown defensive tackles with the same surname. Pat Williams is the mammoth middle-clogger, but general manager Ted Thompson goes for Kevin, whose ability to rush the passer and collapse the pocket makes him more versatile.
31. New England Patriots – Ed Reed, FS. Still steamed about losing Wilfork to the traitor Mangini, Bill Belichick plots his revenge. "How can we mess with the Jets?" Belichick asks Pioli. "I know – let's take away one of their stars." The two men scan New York's roster and conclude that the Jets don't have one. Belichick then goes to Plan B, considering Baltimore pass rusher Terrell Suggs before choosing T-Sizzle's multitalented Ravens teammate, of whom the New England coach said last November, "Ed Reed is an awesome football player. He's really, really good, as good as anybody I've ever seen."
32. New York Giants – Eli Manning, QB. Would the reigning champions have it any other way? "We'd have taken him over Peyton," general manager Jerry Reese proudly announces. "If we were casting a movie, we'd would have picked him over Robert DeNiro. If we were looking for a scandalous governor, we would pick him over Eliot Spitzer …."
TAKE IT TO THE ATM
Now that David Garrard has signed a lucrative contract extension, he'll justify it with an even more impressive season in 2008. … Given his impressive grasp of the English language, former Oklahoma receiver Malcolm Kelly will soon be sending me emails proclaiming "Your an idiot." … One of these days, when Jon Kitna least expects it, Detroit Lions backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky is going to get some revenge for a well-crafted April Fool's Day prank.
LIES, LIES, LIES
1. Any NFL team holding one of the top five overall picks that wants to deal down for multiple selections can easily find a willing trade partner.
2. Everyone I call, text or email lately gets back to me promptly, which is one of the more fulfilling things about my job.
3. Kansas guard Mario Chalmers got a "good look" at his tying three-pointer at the end of regulation in the NCAA championship game.
OXYGEN-DEPRIVED THOUGHT FROM ABOVE
In reference to a Yahoo! Search Words Of The Week" item from back in September, I'm guessing that "Don't Tase Me, Bro" is not a phrase likely to be uttered by former Vikings defensive end Carl "Bring it on" Eller. And can someone pitch a Purple People Eaters Reunion reality show so that Eller's former linemate, Alan Page, can attempt to restore order?
LET'S DO SOME DON JULIO SILVER SHOTS FOR …
My friends over at the Arena Football League, who have a much different approach to reality-show cross-promotion than the NFL does when it comes to Jason Taylor. Capitalizing on the fact that Colorado Crush quarterback John Dutton is married to the sister of "American Idol" finalist Kristy Lee Cook, executive vice president of Chris McCloskey has been issuing regular press releases encouraging Arena fans to watch the show and vote for Dutton's sister-in-law. "I'd like to thank the AFL family for voting for Kristy last week," Dutton said in the March 31 release. "Obviously it made a (difference) because it was her best showing of the season." Cook, a 24-year-old singer from Selma, Ore., is one of the eight remaining contestants despite some close calls.
YAHOO! SEARCH WORDS OF THE WEEK
Leprechaun in Mobile
ROLLIN' WITH THE ROYALS
Reading left St. James's Park flatter than a three-day-old pint of Newcastle Brown Ale last Saturday following a 3-0 defeat to Newcastle United, a discouraging result that kept the Royals six points clear of the relegation zone with five games left in the English Premier League season. Goals by Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen and Mark Viduka doomed Reading to defeat in front of 52,179 fans, sending the Royals home to prepare for Saturday's clash against 19th-place Fulham at Madejski Stadium. That game should feature plenty of desperate Americans (Fulham's roster includes Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Brian McBride, while Reading's has Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann) as each side tries to avoid being dropped into the League Championship division.
LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK
Give Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour the mic and get out of her way. To the tune of Biggie's "Things Done Changed" …
Remember back in the days, when Ben got a raise
No inbounds plays or open treys
Cheatin' Bozeman, homies had the high top jellies
Football was smelly, and our AD was all friendly
Loungin with the Old Blues, drinkin booze
like the homeless dudes, on Telegraph Avenue
Turn your BlackBerrys, to 2008
Stuff is getting flushed Nate, ain't it great?
Throw dumb picks, you ride the pine real quick
Cause Poppa Jeff Tedford ain't havin that script
Rockin' that Nike vest, give the ball to Jahvid Best
always, breakaways all day
Wait for our rivals to step up on some fightin' tip
We take their hoops coach and make 'em sick, don't you even trip
So step away from your defeatist ways
Old-school suckas this ain't back in the days, but you don't hear me though
No more Leon Powe leave-io, NIT
Julian Sensley, all of this to me, is a travesty
I heard them other suckas bitch about it
Now you see a couple of coaches who be lyin' in a ditch and drownin'
And I'm down with the search too
All the stupid writer suckas wantin' me to hire Mark Few
Instead of a Pac-10 livin' legend
Tire tracks on Bowlsby's head and, that's what the hell happens
when you sleep in my trees
Oski be comin' with heat, want to make their smelly asses leap
And we be goin' to Pasadena
To make sure the Rose Queen's in blue and gold like no one's ever seen her
Back in the days, our rivals used to talk trash to us
Look at em now, they know they 'bout to get smashed by us
Trent Johnson skippin' town for Baton Rouge because he can't maintain
Damn, it done changed
Back when our program was so lame
We couldn't even draw 40 grand for a football game
Because our coach was an inkblot
And Michael Ainsworth got caught and Legans couldn't hit a jumpshot
Damn, it's fun cleanin' up Kasser's slums
Followin' what Gladstone done by bustin' out the heavy guns
And now the stuff's gettin crazier and major
Counting Crows on campus and Kip's hosting nightly ragers
Boyle on the recruiting trail, blowin' up
Twelve months later Final Four, we'll be showin up
It makes me want to break out the Cris and Dom
But first I gotta smack a Berkeley judge's mom
Damn, what happened to the days of Lou and Gilby?
Everytime I make a hire I make the rest of 'em look silly
Look, Montgomery be huggin' Oski Bear
Don't ask me why them other suckas scared, things done changed