VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – It’s time once more for NFL personnel honchos to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
In other words, the pro football draft will be taking place shortly. And much like 8-year olds at a birthday party playing that ageless blindfold game, team mucky-mucks will once again fail much more than they succeed in making picks they hope will lead to Super Bowl glory.
Like partying kiddies, ball club talent execs, most of whom have never snapped on a chin strap, will end up metaphorically pinning tails on the donkey’s nose and toes — anywhere but the butt. Sometimes they’ll totally miss the animal and nail the freshly painted walls to the shrieks of homemakers (i.e. their fans).
Just look at your favorite team — I’ll bet less than half of their draftees end up making the ball club yearly.
And at least 50 percent of those picked in the first round will have much less impact than anticipated — while sixth rounders and free agents flourish.
Top picks often stick only because teams HAVE to give them an extra long look due to the huge sums — and face — they have invested in them.
Put it this way, for every Andrew Luck, there are three Brodrick Bunkleys.
Don’t know him?
He was a defensive lineman for MAS’s hometown Philadelphia Eagles drafted in the first round a few years back as the second coming of Reggie White, the former Iggle and Hall of Famer who terrorized NFL quarterbacks for years.
The team fruitlessly waited and waited for Bunkley to develop, wasting both the ball club’s time and money. Eventually, they let Bunkley — by then an established mediocrity — walk when his jumbo contract was up.
As Marlon Brando’s “Apocalypse Now” character, Captain Kurtz, uttered in dismay: Oh, the horror!
After draft failures, teams — to cover their rear ends — are fond of saying: “Well, it’s not an exact science.”
Well, of course it’s not — not with the increasingly knucklehead methodology NFL clubs employ en route to making selections. Their modus operandi practically invites hit-or-miss type picks.
Rather than believing what the trained eye sees in actual game action — be it on tape or in person — they go way beyond what is necessary for the sole purpose of showing they are doing their homework.
Take the absolutely ludicrous NFL Combine . . . PLEASE (Henny Youngman lives!).
MAS is convinced this is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by the league to keep the nation’s eyes on their sport during its traditional downtime from February to draft day in late April.
And of course, the money-hungry TV networks and media outlets are more than happy to go along for the revenue ride.
How else to explain bringing what the league perceives to be the nation’s top collegiate prospects to a useless media spectacle in Indianapolis where the players are asked prying personal questions, given irrelevant Wonderlic tests and then put through a series of drills that have little or nothing to do with football.
MAS is talking about, among other absurd activities, the vertical leap, broad jump and the 20-meter shuttle and three-cone drills in which the players are timed as they scurry around and through orange cones like inebriated gerbils. Also, included: quarterbacks throwing to targets with no pass rush and receivers catching passes unimpeded and a host of other prove-nothing exercises that are a waste of everyone’s time.
What in holy heck do all these nonsensical drills have to do with playing football?
When have you ever seen a player leap straight up (except a pass rusher who has been stonewalled) or execute a long jump — unless it’s over doggy-doo on a practice field?
Even the 40-yard dash is dumb when you think about it — when was the last time you saw an offensive or defensive lineman run 40 yards during a play?
When does a receiver or ball carrier ever run in a straight line?
And how often do offensive and defensive lineman bench press each other during the course of a game?
The only measurement really needed is hand strength because of all the ridiculous offensive holding that is allowed in the NFL these days.
Please don’t call it blocking anymore; call it what it is: shirt-grabbing (which, as an ex-linebacker, infuriates MAS). Japanese judoka must be so proud to see that elements of their sport are now such an integral part of American football.
And the NFL-run Senior Bowl is another example of skill-estimation overkill. As are the “pro days” put on by the universities to keep the NFL bird dogs from lurking about during the regular season.
MAS feels if more NFL personnel suits had suited up on the gridiron maybe they would know a good ballplayer when they see one. And all these showy charades under the guise of crossing your t’s and dotting i’s, leaving no stone unturned, yada, yada, yada would be unnecessary.
In trying to look busy, pro football people are making the selection of players far more complicated than it really needs to be — maybe even disrupting it.
On-tape and in-person viewing of collegiate prospects exhibiting their skill 13 times per fall is all the keen eye for talent should need. And maybe conversations with prospects’ coaches.
Ball clubs would make far fewer mistakes if they would just stick to the observation basics — and not waste their time with publicity-grabbing offseason garbage that, as Bill the Bard would say, are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Although, come to think of it, Pin the Tail on the Prospect might be a good way to gaugea player’s pain threshold.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org