Posts Tagged ‘NFL Draft

08
May
10

Another Bust Bites the Dust: Raiders Fire Russell

Photo: Associated Press

This just kills me. Sports Illustrated online columnist on Don Banks, a former Minnesota Vikings beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote a post-mortem piece today on the Oakland Raiders releasing, i.e., firing, their starting quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick from 2007, JaMarcus Russell. The apparent cause was a lack of motivation and work ethic by Young Mr. Russell. I’ve heard this before: A player liked the trappings being a pro athlete gave him more than he loved the challenge of excelling at the game which game him the lifestyle in the first place. Now he’s done.

The Raiders committed $39.6(m) for Russell’s first contract, but according to Banks’ piece, the money might as well have been spent in Vegas. As one of his sources said:

“[The Raiders] knew the question about his self-motivation going into the 2007 draft. They gambled, and they lost. I just think he doesn’t really want to be an NFL player. He was a great college football player, but he didn’t want it in the NFL.”

There’s an accompanying photo gallery featuring some superb photos (none are mine, however) of Russell from his college days at LSU and as a pro along with comments from 12 football experts giving their prognosis on his skills and his future as an NFL QB.  Only one of the experts wondered about his work ethic. One. “It (his pre-draft work out) just blew me away. If I had the first, second, third, fourth, fifth pick in that draft, I would be tearing apart his personal life trying to figure out whether or not I could trust this kid with $10-million …,” said NFL Networks analyst Mike Maycock.

Apparently, the Raiders didn’t do enough homework. Now here’s my point: If you were spending that kind of money on a rookie, wouldn’t you want to be sold on his work ethic and leadership abilities? I would. It goes without saying that you can have the most talent in the world, but if you have little work ethic or are a high maintenance person (needing a lot of attention to get you going), you won’t amount to much. One of my mentors as a young guy was Ron Woodey, general manager of the St. Paul Vulcans and a scout for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Mr. Woodey always wanted to know whether a player was an “overachiever.” Whether for the Vulcans or the Flyers, a player’s work ethic was a question he wanted to have answered sufficiently. Years later, that has stuck with me.

Good luck, JaMarcus Russell. I hope you saved your money.

24
Apr
10

Tyson Alualu: Yeah, we remember him!

Photo by Vince Muzik

As I was pulling into my parking spot at the Minnesota Vikings draft Party at Jimmy’s in Vadnais Heights Thursday night, I listened to the incredulous tone of the guys on the radio as the Jacksonville Jags made their first round selection in NFL Draft — Tyson Alualu, defensive tackle, from the University of California Golden Bears!

Say what?

Young Mr. Alualu, the 10th overall selection, wasn’t scheduled to go until later in the draft, perhaps as late as the fifth round according to some. Maybe he was a reach. Time will tell. However, if you watched the Golden Bears play the Gophers last September here at TCF Bank Staduim, Alualu stood out. He was very “active” as they like to say in the business. At half-time, my friend Matt Sherman, himself a former quarterback at Iowa (1994-97), said, “That one defensive tackle they’ve got is really good.” Were Matt and I the only ones who took note?

“Has anyone ever in the history been this much of a reach?” one of the guys on the radio inquired. Yes, and the name should be very familiar to football fans. William “The Refrigerator” Perry was selected out of Clemson by the Chicago Bears in 1985. “The Frig” was thought to be more of a fifth rounder due to weigh concerns. Those who remember the great ’85 Chicago Bears team know Perry etched a place in NFL history as the blocking back for Walter Payton in goal line situations who also scored two TDs himself as a rookie, one in the Super Bowl. He played 10 NFL seasons.

The NFL Draft is fun because you get to see where your favorite college players will continue their careers. Beyond that, it gets ridiculous to think you can forecast the future. Rick Reilly of ESPN put it well: “It’s a drama with no ending.” It’s just a start; the conclusion comes years later. The day after is way too early to talk winners and losers.  That’s why the late Toronto Maple Leafs chief scout Pierre Dorion told me back in 1990 during a conversation we had in his Marriott Hotel room, “You never criticize some one else’s player decisions because you never know when you’ll be the one picking a dog — and the one subject to the criticism that goes with.”