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Will the mock draft now disappear from history? With Mario Williams going first, not only was every mock draft erroneous, no mock draft was accurate past the first pick! Mock drafts are always inaccurate by the fifth or sixth pick, since all it takes is one surprise to throw off every projected choice below. But in this case all mock drafts were wrong from the first pick on down.
So far as I can determine, not one single mock draft in the entire local space-time continuum had Williams first. (Actually, mine did, but I didn't finish my board until late Friday night.) Obviously people do mock drafts as a diversion from the fact they are desperate for football but there isn't any this time of year. Still, it set some kind of record for futility that with all the energy put into mock drafts by millions of sportswriters, bloggers and fantasy leaguers, everyone was completely wrong about everything.
Speaking of energy, yours truly attended the draft and was stunned by the amount of energy put into an event that has no meaning whatsoever to human history. Perhaps 1,000 media people were at Radio City Music Hall: most armed with laptop, Blackberry, Treo and at least one cell phone. Thousands of spectators attended, hundreds of event staff were present, many dozens of carpenters and stage crew worked on preparing the set. Three gigantic mobile television studios, the size of tractor-trailer rigs, were parked outside, along with satellite-uplink vans and a mysterious Illumination Dynamics truck mounting a device that appeared to be the shield generator Darth Vader positioned on the Endor moon. (The mysterious vehicle is the one on the right.) By dusk Friday, hundreds of New Yorkers began milling around outside Radio City, taking in the scene, as if something momentous were about to happen. Hey, it's just the NFL draft -- which not only has no meaning whatever to human history but also won't even have much effect on the next NFL season: three rookies started in the last Super Bowl. Yes, the NFL is a big business, but $6 billion in revenue in 2005 is a blip on the corporate landscape. Last week General Electric, which had $148 billion in 2005 revenue and whose status is essential to the future of the American economy, held its annual meeting. A thousand media people did not attend.
This week: Gregg Easterbrook on ...
• Value of trading down
Yet the draft is great because it's democratizing. No one has the slightest idea what will happen, so all opinions are equally invalid. Hanging around the crowd at Radio City, I overheard emphatically expressed football views that were indistinguishable from those being offered by The Experts. And the fact that The Experts are constantly wrong is democratizing. For example, most draft experts had Winston Justice going in the first half of the first round; he went in the second round. How pleasant -- The Experts publicly wrong! That everyone's views are equally invalid is the best thing about the draft.
In news about news, one subject of debate within journalism circles is whether the "scoop" matters. Everyone wants to be first, of course, but how important is it to be first with something that everyone else will also report a short time later, if not within minutes? True scoops -- such as the New York Times reporting the Bush administration's unauthorized electronic surveillance, something no other news organization knew -- are significant. First-to-the-microphone scoops, where one reporter beats others by minutes, seem evanescent. Nevertheless John McClain of the Houston Chronicle was, so far as I could determine, first with the scoop that the Texans would use the No. 1 pick on Williams. The Chronicle had this on its Web site at 8:20 p.m. ET the night before the draft. Adam Schefter of NFL Network barely missed being first, reporting this on air at 8:24 p.m. ET. Rachel Nichols of ESPN also barely missed being first, reporting it on air at 8:33 p.m. ET.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long been suspicious of cases in which two highly drafted players played similar positions on the same college team. In 1998, for example, quarterback Peyton Manning of Tennessee was a first-round choice, and wide receiver Marcus Nash of Tennessee also a first-round choice. Nash was a bust: Manning had made him look better than he was. Call it Nearby Nepotism -- beware of collegians who played near other good collegians. Nearby Nepotism ran wild at this year's draft. Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk went fifth, then Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter went 18th -- most likely they made each other seem better. Three members of the Florida State front seven -- Ernie Sims, Kamerion Wimberly and Brodrick Bunkley -- went in the first 14 selections, and most likely made each other look better. The cake was taken when three of NC State's four defensive linemen went in the first 26 selections. NC State had a 6-5 record -- if its D-line was so fabulous, how come the team barely broke .500? Buffalo used the 26th overall choice on defensive tackle John McCargo, who lined up next to the top overall choice, Williams. Most likely Williams made McCargo look better than he is. Or maybe McCargo made Williams look better than he is: either way someone is in for disappointment. Yours truly is guessing that of the trio of teams that took Florida State frontline defenders (Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Diego) and the trio that drafted NC State defensive linemen (Houston, Buffalo and San Francisco), many will soon be asking themselves, "How come this guy doesn't look as good as he did in college?"
See below for my team-by-team analysis.
What If You Offered to Trade Down for Nothing and Couldn't Get a Deal? Researchers Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago and Cade Massey of Yale got some ink for a study suggesting low NFL draft picks are worth more than high picks because the high picks get huge bonuses that crush a team's salary cap. The NFL draft system actually penalizes losing clubs by awarding them top picks, the researchers maintained, because on average highly drafted players are overpriced compared to what they accomplish.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback is suspicious of this finding. If a high choice actually is worth less than a low choice, why don't teams with high choices simply swap them for low choices? Many teams with high first-round picks want to "trade down" but cannot find a trading partner offering anything enticing. Presumably a team would have no trouble trading down if it offered a high pick even-up for a low pick. Yet in actual draft practice, teams absolutely never trade down for nothing in return. Teams with high picks could also simply pass on their selection, allowing the next team to go on the clock and effectively lowering draft position. In the first round, each slot adds roughly $1 million to a player's guarantees. So if a team drafting, say, 12th simply failed to choose for three consecutives clock periods, converting its choice to 15th, that team would save around $3 million in bonuses. Yet no team Saturday simply passed on its chance to select. Failing to choose while on the clock has happened only a couple times in NFL draft annals, and that turned out to be a faux pas, not a plan to reduce bonuses.
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Thus Thaler's and Massey's paper seem to me another instance of abstract academic theory that ignores how people and organizations behave in the real world. Presumably most NFL teams are what economists call "rational actors," and would get rid of high picks if such selections actually were worth less than low picks. That NFL clubs never offer a straight exchange of high picks for low picks suggests they perceive this not to be in their self-interest, and it can't be that every one of 32 NFL teams fails to grasp its own self-interest. Perhaps teams calculate that the bad press and fan anger that would be incurred by deliberate sacrifice of high picks would outweigh any salary-cap leverage gained. In their paper, Thaler and Massey don't address the value of public relations. Public relations is an economic good and one of considerable worth to organizations in the entertainment business, such as sports teams.
If there is an NFL club following the Thaler-Massey prescription, it's the Broncos. In 2005, Denver swapped its first choice to Washington for a 2005 third and a 2006 first -- thus discarding a first-round bonus obligation in 2005. That left Denver with two first-round selections in April, and the Broncs traded one to San Francisco for second- and third-round selections, again freeing themselves of a first-round bonus. OK, Thaler and Massey, I'll give you that Denver seems to have nodded to your hypothesis. But I want to see a big trend of teams actively unloading first-round picks before I'll concede the real-world value of this line of thought, especially since Denver later shifted gears and traded up its remaining 2006 first-rounder. Also, the Broncos may simply be spooked by the first round. Of Denver's last dozen first-round choices, Mike Croel, Tommy Maddox, Willie Middlebrooks and Marcus Nash were busts, while Ashley Lelie and Deltha O'Neal were disappointments in one way or another. Six of the last 12 first-rounders bad picks -- ouch.Legitimate Sports-Related Excuse for Pictures of Nearly Naked Women: NBC insisted the Winter Olympics occurred in "Torino, Italy." Organizers wanted the city designated Torino, not the anglicized Turin. But Italians don't call their nation Italy, they call it Italia. As reader Patrick Roche of Alexandria, Va., pointed out, "Torino, Italy" mixed languages. Munich is called Muenchen by Germans; here, tourists may purchase an "eco-friendly Munich welcome card." The eco-friendly city should be "Munich, Germany" in English and "Muenchen, Deutschland" in German. Calling it "Muenchen, Germany" would be lame -- same as calling the city of the Olympics "Torino, Italy," rather than "Turin, Italy" or "Torino, Italia."
I mention this not for grammar-snob reasons but to create a perfectly legitimate excuse for the ESPN.com art department to add pictures of the women's ice dancers at Torino. Isabelle Delobel of France wore little more than glued-on rhinestones above the waist, ditto for Barbara Poli of Spain. Elena Grushina of Ukraine wore so little she appeared to be a Vegas stripper most of the way through her act; the Washington Post dubbed hers the "sluttiest costume" at the Olympics. Not that TMQ has anything against strippers or slutty attire -- to everything, there is a season! But the Olympic event in question is a competition of dancing, not of disrobing. Plus, female and nontraditional male spectators have every right to complain that if the women perform nearly topless, the men should perform shirtless. Why not solve the problem for future Olympics by mandating that ice dancers perform in plain leotards? That would avoid the preposterous outfits and tittering about same; also, fit women look really sexy in leotards, so it accomplishes the marketing goal, too.
Frequent Flyer Pick of the Year: Choice No. 93 was held by four teams -- traded from Denver to Atlanta to Green Bay to St. Louis. There were 23 total trades of the 33 choices in the third round. Of the 32 NFL clubs, only Arizona simply went 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 with its original picks.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Yawn: I took the Official Kids of TMQ to the Smithsonian's new National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport in Virginia. We saw lots of planes, including an SR-71 and, poignantly, the Enola Gay. We watched the Imax movie "Roving Mars" -- "Presented as a Public Service by Lockheed Martin" -- about the Red Planet rovers Spirit and Opportunity. But wait, "Roving Mars" depicts sound in space! This flick, blessed by NASA and featured at the Smithsonian, has an animated scene in which the rocket propelling the Mars probes has left Earth's atmosphere yet makes lots of loud noises as its engines fire and its fairings disengage. The noises add to the Imax theatrical touch, since Imax theaters have lots of bass. But even my 11-year-old, Spenser, leaned over and whispered, "Dad, I thought there was no sound in outer space." If the Smithsonian can't get this kind of detail right, how can we believe its exhibits are accurate?
The Spirit and Opportunity rovers are still operating, two years after they were expected to expire; check out the latest views from the Martian surface. The most important news from Mars this month comes from the European Space Agency's spacecraft Mars Express, in orbit around the Red Planet. Analysts, led by Jean-Pierre Bibring, are convinced readings from the Mars Express show there was liquid water flowing on Mars; substances called phyllosilicates, detected in Martian rocks, are thought to form only in the presence of liquid water. Note the European Space Agency's own Web site shows a picture of a NASA rover and identifies it as Mars Express. The Mars Express is a satellite orbiting Mars; this mission did have a small rover, but it crashed. Hey ESA, fact-check your Web site!
Here's the rub, unmentioned in news coverage of the Mars water finding: Readings suggest liquid water last flowed on Mars 3.5 billion years ago, and has not done so since. How could this have happened? An essential aspect of Earth's geologic history is the "faint sun" problem. When the Earth formed, about 4.5 billion years ago, our star, Sol, gave off less heat and light than today. It is thought that for much of the early eons, Earth was a snowball, because the sun's heat was insufficient to melt water on our world. Gradually solar output increased as the material of our star compressed; somewhere around a billion years ago, Sol began emitting as much heat as it does today, the Earth warmed, and complex life followed. But if Earth was a snowball 3.5 billion years ago how could Mars, much farther away from the sun, have been warm enough for flowing water?
Note one: TMQ loves that the new Air and Space Museum is named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, after the aircraft-leasing millionaire who donated seed money for the facility. It's not just the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center, it's the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Oh, so you mean that Steven Udvar-Hazy!
Note two: Jacqueline Trescott of the Washington Post recently reported that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small is paying himself $813,000 per year. The Smithsonian's secretary has virtually no responsibilities, other than deciding what to order for lunch, since the location and use of Smithsonian facilities is determined by Congress. The Smithsonian boss experiences none of the business risk that may justify high pay to public-company CEOs, since the Smithsonian holds a government-granted monopoly and exists on federal subsidies. Here is the Smithsonian's fiscal 2007 budget request to Congress; in it the Smithsonian asks federal taxpayers for $644 million in subsidies, including $537 million for salaries. So federal taxpayers with a median family income of $53,692 are having their pockets picked to give Lawrence Small $813,000 a year, 15 times the median income of the taxpayers. Why isn't this viewed as white-collar crime?
Conservationists Rarely Observe the Media Feeding in Their Natural State: During commercial breaks at Radio City Music Hall, a woman hired by the NFL attempted to assuage the barbarians in the crowd by interviewing NFL players present. (Sorry, on repeated attempts I was unable to learn the woman's name.) When she interviewed Amani Toomer, the Giants' receiver explained his first name means "peace" in Swahili. The interviewer promptly asked, "Were your parents Swahili?" Donate here to the Kamusi Project, an attempt to create on online English-Swahili translation program.The lunchroom for ESPN and NFL staff was on the ninth floor of Radio City, in an area accessible only via a 19th-century style "stage elevator" built to bring actors and musicians from their dressing rooms to the proscenium. Passageways to the stage elevator were 19th-century narrow. The lithe Rockettes must have trouble squeezing through these passageways; it was hilarious to watch enormous former NFL types trying to negotiate them. Anyway, I learned the lunchroom was on the ninth floor by first going to the general media lunch area. The guard said, "Sir, ESPN is feeding on the ninth floor." Feeding? I worried I would get there and find a carrion, with Trey Wingo and Michael Irvin circling around.
The new network contracts allowed NFL Network to broadcast the draft, breaking ESPN's decades-long exclusive. Sets for Chris Berman's and Rich Eisen's competing desks were arranged so neither would see the other in the background. The ESPN and NFL Network audio was broadcast throughout Radio City, and media were invited to listen on radios. It seemed ESPN was playing only on frequency 104, while NFL Network was playing on all other frequencies. Yours truly suspected NFL Network was employing some jamming device to block the ESPN signal; maybe there was an electronic warfare drone circling around Radio City, broadcasting "spoof" signals. Seeing ESPN and NFL Network presenting the draft simultaneously made me wonder what will happen in 2011, when the television master contracts expire. Right now ESPN is light years better than NFL Network. I flipped back and forth between the two during the draft.Bloopers are inevitable. In mid-afternoon, Chris Berman interviewed Herm Edwards. The draftniks at Radio City, most of them wearing Jets jerseys, noticed and began lusty booing. Over on NFL Network, Rich Eisen declared, "The booing you hear is because New England is on the clock. Jets fans don't like New England." New England had been on the clock nine minutes at that point. Eisen might simply not have known why spectators were suddenly booing. True draft fact No. 1: Media interviews with players were held in a makeshift area set up in a Radio City hall where the sculptor William Zorach's "Spirit of the Dance" is the centerpiece. "Spirit of the Dance" depicts a gigantic naked woman with "perky nipples," as the "Sex and the City" heroines would say. Yours truly found it entertaining to watch draft choices, family members of draftees and agents screaming into cell phones as they crowded around the statue, all of them, so far as I could tell, totally oblivious to it.
True draft fact No. 2: Not only were the Rockettes not present, Radio City's fabled Mighty Wurlitzer, the largest theatrical pipe organ ever constructed, was not used. This 4,410-pipe instrument was built in 1932 in the old Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda, N.Y., near my boyhood home. As a child, I often bicycled past the Wurlitzer factory, which closed in 1983. The Mighty Wurlitzer was this company's greatest product and is capable not just of roller-rink sounds but of producing the full range of symphonic music. It was a sign of the dumbing-down of mass culture that the NFL held its draft in Radio City Music Hall, location of one of the most renowned musical instruments that exists in the world, and never switched on that great instrument. Think of organ crescendos from 4,410 pipes as the commissioner approaches the podium! Instead, low-quality, ear-splitting, swelling electronic sounds like you hear at amusement parks were played the entire day, the same numbing recording over and over and over again. The draft must have cost $10 million to stage; they couldn't hire an organist?
TMQ to ESPN Auditors -- Please Approve My Expense Account for Fact-Finding Trip to Oslo: "Norwegians lead the world in casual sex," a study asserts. Surely the Norwegian Tourism Board will extensively promote this finding! In the past year, "Seven out of 10 Norwegians have had a random sex partner, and the nation is among the top of the list for one-night stands." What, exactly, is a "random sex partner?" You don't even know who the other person is? Key additional finding: "Norwegians are also among the least sexually satisfied in the world." So those Norway types get more spur-of-the-moment sex with strangers than you or I, but it doesn't make them happy. Why does this not come as a surprise?
Fact-Finding Trip to Belgium Is My Backup Request: Researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium recently announced a study suggesting men lose their financial bargaining edge after they have seen beautiful women. Volunteers played a wagering game in which a participant could either gamble for big winnings, running a risk of obtaining nothing, or fold and accept a medium return. Most men gambled for big winnings. Then half the group was shown pictures of babes in lingerie, the other half photographs of landscapes. When the game resumed, the men who had been gawking at pretty women lost their focus and began to agree to whatever offer was on the table, while the men who had seen the landscape photography kept playing for big wins. Isn't the NFL implication here obvious? When men are considering a season-ticket purchase, first invite them to peruse the cheerleader swimsuit calendar, then give them the season-ticket order form.
Mel Kiper Watch: A man who makes his living obsessing about the NFL draft -- only in America! Though Kiper is often lampooned, the day ESPN put him on the air was an important day in football annals. First, Kiper's example allowed millions of Americans to come out as draftniks. At this time of year, very large numbers of people have intense, strongly held convictions regarding football prospects they may never have seen perform. Mel's example made it all right to be a draftnik -- the man makes his living talking about this stuff! Everybody laughs at Mel's hair, but deep down, there are significant numbers who wish they could exchange occupations with Kiper. And I don't mean just miners or stevedores who would trade places with Mel in order to exchange dangerous or exhausting work for sitting in an air-conditioned office. Many doctors, lawyers and business managers would trade occupations with Kiper in a New York minute, because a huge number of Americans simply love the draft, and Kiper lives in the draftnik world 365 days a year.
Kiper is significant in another way, too. His example made it OK for men (and, increasingly, women) to admit they are totally obsessed with football. Obsessed is the key word. Before Kiper, people watched NFL or college games, and maybe the occasional highlight show, and now and then absentmindedly thumbed through a football annual. Kiper made it OK to be obsessed about football, to watch every last game that's on, to read every last sentence that's written, to pore over stats and tapes. In this sense, Mel Kiper Jr. has made a greater positive contribution to the incredible financial success of the National Football League than all but a few people in broadcasting. Watching him on his perch at Radio City on Saturday, I reflected on the fact that the respectable media and football worlds refuse to honor Kiper: he's too out-there, too goofy. Yet many respectable-media types who snicker at Kiper privately know he has accomplished more than they have. His was a central role in the last two decades of the promotion of professional and college football, helping inspire round-the-clock viewing and, now, round-the-clock Internet following. And Kiper has been a populist influence, expressing in his own inimitable way this message: anyone can figure this stuff out, The Experts don't know anything you can't know. I say in full seriousness that someone needs to give Mel Kiper an award. Think what you will about the pompadour: Kiper's contribution to broadening the base of public interest in football exceeds that of most famed broadcasters and sportswriters and of most NFL executives, for that matter.
These things said, part of the fun of Kiper is watching him be all over the map. This year he issued five mock drafts, each contradicting the one before. Mel had the Dolphins going first for Winston Justice, or Ashton Youboty, or Donte Whitner, or Antonio Cromartie; they actually used their first selection on Jason Allen. "If Justice is available, he has got to be the call for Miami," Mel foresaw; Justice was available and was not the call.
Kiper had the Bucs going first for Cromartie, or Marcus McNeill, or Chad Greenway; they actually used their first-rounder on Davin Joseph. Kiper had Dallas investing its first choice on Jason Allen, or Chad Jackson, or Manny Lawson; the Cowboys chose Bobby Carpenter. Kiper had DeAngelo Williams going as high as 10th or as low as 22nd, being picked by Arizona or New England or Denver; Williams went 27th to Carolina. Kiper had Tamba Hali going as high as 12th to Cleveland or as low as the second round; he went 20th to Kansas City. On March 6, Kiper predicted Oakland would use the seventh overall choice on quarterback Jay Cutler; on March 27, Kiper said "it would be odd" if Oakland used its first pick on a quarterback. (Oakland passed on Cutler.) With its first pick, Jacksonville "could go one of two ways, Thomas Howard or Deuce Lutui." Both were available when Jax picked, and the team went a third way. At various points, Mel had the Chargers taking Tye Hill or Justice or Jonathan Joseph or Santonio Holmes; San Diego took Cromartie. At various points Kiper predicted the Eagles would take Justice or Holmes or Jackson or Ernie Sims or Greenway; they took Brodrick Bunkley. Surely if any one of his multiple forecasts for any of these teams had been correct, Mel would have claimed to have predicted it!
Kiper's player comments are similarly all over the map. Davin Joseph was chosen in the first round; two months before the draft, Mel said Joseph "has a chance to be a second-round pick." Mark Anderson: "He could be a second-round pick." Anderson went in the fifth round. A month before the draft, Kiper called Kellen Clemens "a late-round possibility." Then Kiper forecast Clemens as a second-round choice. As Clemons was chosen in the second round, by Jersey/B (aka the Jets), Kiper said, "That's a little high for Clemens, considering Brodie Croyle is still available." In his own final mock, Mel had Clemens going before Croyle. When Detroit took Daniel Bullocks early in round two, Kiper said, "That's where I thought for him, early round two." In all his mock drafts, Mel had Bullocks going either late round two or below the second round. Kiper predicted of Denver's first choice, "They could get a wide receiver or running back. Their key area is defensive end." Denver used its first choice on a quarterback. The Panthers, Kiper said, "would be hard-pressed to pass on Mercedes Lewis." They passed on Mercedes Lewis. For the Titans to choose Matt Leinart would be "a no-brainer." The Titans passed on Leinart. Of course there are hundreds of prospects, and Kiper was exactly right about some of their destinations: he forecast Nick Mangold to the Jets with the 29th selection, for example. But Kiper makes draft predictions the way Kobe Bryant takes shots: they both launch so many that one or two have to fall. My favorite Kiperism this year? When Donte Whitner went eighth overall, Mel said, "That's about right. I had him going 16th to Miami, but that's still about right." Kiper did have Whitner going 16th to Miami -- in a January mock. The day before the draft, he forecast Whitner to Cincinnati at the 24th slot. Kiper couldn't keep his own predictions straight. And who could blame him?TMQ Continues to Advocate a Stadium Named "Your Trademark Here Stadium": What a relief the NFL and its players signed a new collective bargaining agreement, which TMQ will analyze in detail when this column resumes in earnest in August. The only teams to vote against the CBA were Buffalo and Cincinnati, both low-grossing franchises that believe -- falsely, in all likelihood -- they won't be able to compete against high-grossing franchises as the salary cap skyrockets. In many areas of life, the key question is "compared to what?" The new CBA may not lend Green Bay, Jacksonville and other small-market teams as much financial help as might have been ideal. But -- compared to what? The wealthy teams might have insisted on giving small-market teams nothing, or might have torpedoed any CBA in order to have uncapped years that would have clobbered the small-market bloc. Instead the wealthy teams agreed to share more with the little guys -- quite statesmanlike on the part of Dallas, Denver, Houston, New England, Washington and other high-revenue franchises.
Owners of some of high-grossing teams groused that Buffalo and Cincinnati complained of insufficient transfer payments while both decline to sell stadium names to corporate buyers. If they need more revenue, the wealthy owners ask, why don't they sell like we did? Despite the impression that everything in pro sports is for sale, roughly half of NFL franchises have either never sold the stadium name or sold it once and then taken the name back. The Bears (Soldier Field), Bengals (Paul Brown Stadium), Bills (Ralph Wilson Stadium), Browns (Cleveland Browns Stadium), Cardinals (Sun Devil Stadium), Chiefs (Arrowhead Stadium), Cowboys (Texas Stadium), Dolphins (Dolphin Stadium), Falcons (Georgia Dome), Giants (Giants Stadium), Jets (Meadowlands Stadium), Packers (Lambeau Field), Saints (Superdome), Titans (The Coliseum) and Vikings (Hubert Humphrey Metrodome) lack stadium-name income. Some of these, such as the Browns and both New Jersey clubs, are high-grossing teams, showing that even the marketing-obsessed don't necessarily sell everything. Teams on the unsullied list may end up with corporate-named stadia, pending the details of new-facility projects; although any chance the Chicago facility would be renamed Soldier Field by Marshall Fields expired when the sinister Federated Department Stores holding company announced it would abolish the Marshall Fields brand. Anyway, it's not just fussy traditionalists who decline to sell their stadium names: a significant number of NFL franchises have said no sale to corporate sponsors.
True, only Buffalo has a stadium named for its current owner. The new crowd of max-marketing owners such as Robert McNair and Daniel Snyder have a point when they note Wilson wants them to share the wealth in part so that he can keep his stadium named after himself; while if Snyder or McNair named their teams' fields after themselves, they would be accused of egotism. The point that can be made in Wilson's corner involves succession. Wilson may leave the team to his wife Mary, engaging no estate tax, or to his daughters, which would involve them borrowing to pay the estate tax. In either case, if the franchise stays in the family, Mary or the daughters would be deeply hesitant to move the team away from a stadium named for Ralph. Whereas if the place were named Call Now for Papa John's Spicy Buffalo Wings Stadium, there would be no sentimental attachment and new Bills management might say, "Los Angeles, here we come." Ralph Wilson choose the stadium name in part to increase the odds the Bills remain in Buffalo after his death, a point that isn't widely known.
Yours truly loves (and slightly knows) Ralph Wilson, but lobbied for the Orchard Park facility to be named Robert Kalsu Field. The sole American professional athlete who died in uniform during the Vietnam War, Kalsu voluntarily left the Bills in order to serve his country, surrendering an exemption. Whatever you thought of the Vietnam War, there is no higher patriotism than to serve voluntarily from the sense of duty, not owing to conscription. Though I wish the Bills' facility were named for Kalsu, the fieldhouse adjoining Wilson Stadium is now Robert Kalsu Fieldhouse, and a statue at the stadium stands in his honor. That's pretty good when you take into account that Kalsu died before the 24-7 cable era -- 99 percent of those who follow sports have never so much as heard his name. Which brings us to the question of a man whose name definitely has been heard. The new football facility rising in Glendale, Ariz., has the working designation Cardinals Stadium. If on dedication day its name is not Pat Tillman Field, the Cardinals franchise, and the whole National Football League, should be ashamed.Disclaimer Watch: Recently, yours truly signed on to a high-speed Internet connection in a Westin hotel and first had to click "accept" to 1,025 words of verbiage presented in all-caps, apparently to discourage anyone from actually reading it. Basically the agreement specified I would not use the hotel's Internet connection to take over the world. The statement included such provisions as, "You shall be prohibited from usage that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, right of publicity or other proprietary right of any party." But I'm already prohibited -- everything mentioned in the sentence is illegal, and the fact that something is illegal is a more powerful restriction than that it's mentioned in an unread disclaimer.
Disclaimer bonus! Recently, yours truly signed in at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to visit a Google executive.
The sign-in required me to click "accept" to a lengthy disclaimer which I had no way of copying to find the amusing sentence that must have been in there somewhere. And recently I registered for TimesPoints, the affinity program of the august New York Times. (That's the august newspaper, not an August edition.) The disclaimer was 19 paragraphs long and could not be printed or copied; which is to say, the New York Times wanted to make it impossible for you to keep a record of what you agreed to. One stipulation the Times didn't want you to be able to copy: "Any use of your assigned user ID or password will be assumed to be your use." That means if someone hacks your password it is your problem, not their problem.
Disclaimer double bonus! The disclaimer on the back of my NFL-issued press pass for Saturday's draft at Radio City Music Hall declared, "Holder assumes all risk pertaining to use." It's dangerous to attend the draft?
Being Paid Not to Want Someone -- If Only Dates Worked This Way: Baltimore, drafting 13th, traded with Cleveland, drafting 12th; the two teams swapped positions, the Ravens giving the Browns a sixth-round choice as payment. Baltimore then drafted Haloti Ngata. Essentially Baltimore gave Cleveland a sixth-round selection in return for the Browns agreeing not to select Ngata.
Atlanta: In two of the last four drafts, Atlanta traded its first-round choice for a player another team "franchised" solely for the purpose of unloading -- Peerless Price and now John Abraham. In each case the original employers of these gentlemen were not planning to invite them back. Price was a bust in Georgia. Now the Falcons have duplicated the model.
Arizona: Had he come out in 2005, Matt Leinart would have been the top overall choice, gone to glamorous San Francisco and gotten a monster contract. Instead he was true to his school and returned for his senior season, now goes 10th to the woeful Cards and will get a medium-sized contract. Leinart took the most expensive ballroom dancing class in history!
Baltimore: Arriving at their assigned team desk near the front of Radio City Music Hall, Ravens' officials said, "What are these?" They were puzzled by the strange devices on every team desk. The strange devices, which Baltimore officials had never seen, were regular landline telephones.
Buffalo: Since 1990, Buffalo has had 17 first-round draft picks; the team has used seven on defensive backs, versus five on linemen of all types. Buffalo seems addicted to drafting skinny guys: this may explain why the Bills were consistently blown off the ball on both sides of the line in 2005. Once again it was Skinny City on draft day as Buffalo went first for a safety, then used three of its first four selections on defensive backs. The Bills, having one of the league's worst offensive lines, ended 2005 with waiver-wire acquisitions starting at both offensive tackles -- yet signed no OT in the offseason and did not choose one in the draft until the fifth round. Eric Mangini, product of the New England success system, took over the Jets and at the top of the draft immediately went offensive line, offensive line. It's a winning formula. Endlessly drafting skinny guys who get clobbered because there is no one in the trenches is not a winning formula.
Carolina: "A new sophistication is sweeping across the city," the New York Times pronounced in March of Charleston. Hey Claude, did you just feel something sweep across the city? The newspaper's evidence of sweeping Carolina change: a recently opened suspension bridge and the Carolinas' inaugural Food and Wine Festival, which attracted 5,000. "Food experts came from across the South to size up the situation, and many were impressed," the newspaper reported. "Food experts" converge! The Times especially praised an expensive Charleston restaurant for its "classic low-country combination of pork and shellfish in the form of intensely piggy guanciale, made from hog jowls." Intensely piggy?
Chicago: The Bears used their first two selections on cornerbacks. This was sensible since, against Steve Smith in the playoffs, Chicago appeared to be playing without any cornerbacks.
Cincinnati: Third-round choice Frostee Rucker of USC is the first choice in Bengals annals to be named after a frozen confection. "Now that there is Bengals candy, we really wanted to get Frostee too," Marvin Lewis said.
Cleveland: The Browns and Saints essentially exchanged centers. Center LeCharles Bentley of New Orleans signed with Cleveland as a free agent and center Jeff Faine of Cleveland went to New Orleans in a draft-day swap. Hmm -- this is a totally straight football comment, what's it doing in TMQ?
Dallas: When I look at the Cowboys' roster since Troy Aikman retired, I have not seen a premium quarterback. When I've looked at Cowboys' rosters since Jerry Jones bought the team, I have not seen a premium young quarterback in waiting. (Aikman was already there when Jones made his purchase.) And when I looked at the list of Dallas choices in the 2006 draft, I did not see a premium young quarterback. Or any quarterback. How might Matt Leinart have looked in silver and blue? He was there for the taking at a reasonable cost in trade-up terms.
Denver: The orange-clad Broncos should have tabbed Kate Mosse, founder, the Orange Prize, a British award for novels written by women. Presumably, a novel by a woman about the Denver Broncos would include lengthy scenes of women discussing regret, disappointment, loss, hidden family secrets and repressed anger about the Broncos' performance in the AFC title game.
Detroit: Why didn't the Lions draft a CEO or a management consultant from McKinsey? Since Matt Millen took over in 2001, Detroit has the worst record in the NFL; and Millen did not inherit a loser, rather. a 9-7 Lions squad that had just barely missed the playoffs. Millen sure turned the Detroit program around! Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues to wonder what weird hold Millen has over the Ford family, which just awarded Millen a contract extension. In five years under him the Lions' best finish is 6-10, yet Millen hasn't been fired. Does Millen have the negatives of photographs of the Ford family driving BMWs?
Green Bay: The Packers have the most cap space in the league, yet have done little in free agency. Green Bay is also the NFL's sole publicly owned team, meaning management has fiduciary responsibility to stockholders. Can it be that Pack management has concluded its fiduciary duty is to cut costs and maximize profit? Lambeau Field will sell out every game even if the Packers go 0-16.
Houston: Yeah yeah, they passed on Reggie Bush. Yeah yeah, "strictly a football decision." No one has the slightest idea which drafted players will be good. If you knew for sure Reggie would be the next Gale Sayers, then of course you'd take Bush; if you knew for sure Mario Williams would be the next Bruce Smith, then of course you'd take Williams. But you don't know -- you're guessing all the way. What TMQ liked about the Texans' draft was the first and second choices of the third round were both good-looking offensive linemen. Houston, Jersey/B, Philadelphia and Tampa were the teams that emphasized offensive line in this year's draft. Prediction: Houston, Jersey/B, Philadelphia and Tampa will improve their records.
Indianapolis: It's less than six months since the Colts were glistening at 13-0 and widely described, by serious sports observers, as an unstoppable colossus that would become the first-ever 19-0 perfect team. That was less than six months ago. How much did you hear about the Colts over draft weekend? Do your football-nut friends ever even mention the Colts anymore? It's like Indianapolis has ceased to exist.
Jacksonville: Worried about being a low-revenue team under the newly increased salary cap, the Jaguars will begin charging players per cup of Gatorade -- so they drink the whole cup, rather than drinking some, tossing it away and taking a fresh cup later. Also, to cut photocopy costs, game plans will be recycled.
Kansas City: Remember that huge push the Chiefs made last year to improve their defense? Well, Kansas City was 31st in defense in 2004 and 25th in 2005. The huge push didn't amount to much. This is still a team that must outscore you because it can't stop you.
Miami: The Dolphins looked good at the end of 2005. They're also becoming the NFL's soap-opera team -- drug suspensions, domestic court, Quarterback of the Day, road-rage incidents, a coach who wears Panama hats. Why isn't there a reality show based on the Dolphins? Plus, it could have bikini beach scenes. Note the team just renamed its facility Dolphin Stadium, not Dolphins Stadium. Maybe this is an attempt to restart the old fad for singular football names, such as Chicago Fire (WFL, 1970s) and Denver Gold (USFL, 1980s).
Minnesota: Two seasons ago, Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss was the most feared battery in the league. Now the gentlemen have been traded for Troy Williamson and Napoleon Harris, both third string on the Vikings' depth chart, plus a draft choice that just became rookie Ryan Cook. These are looking like some of the worst trades since Russia's Baron Edouard de Stoeckl sent Alaska to William Seward for $7.2 million and an archipelago to be named later.
New England: They must be worried in Foxborough because for the first time since the Belichick success system took hold, the Patriots did not trade down to bank extra choices for next year. It was "smoke 'em if you've got 'em" in the New England draft room. Last week TMQ noted the Patriots have the NFL's first official team Web site in Chinese. Here, in Mandarin, are the vitals on Patriots' cheer-babe Jie Ralls, born in Shanghai.
New Jersey Giants: Last year the G-Men played nine home games and seven road dates; the unprecedented schedule favor helped put them into the playoffs. This happened because the early Giants-at-Saints contest was rescheduled to the Meadowlands after Hurricane Katrina hit the Big Easy. Now the 2006 sked is out, and it lists Saints at Giants. Pairings are determined years in advance via a formula. But why wasn't this game shifted to New Orleans, so Jersey/A could in 2006 play seven home games and nine road dates, atoning for its 2005 windfall?
New Jersey Jets: The Radio City crowd was 80 percent Jets draftniks. The commissioner comes to the podium with the fourth selection and Matt Leinart available. The Jets choose D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and Radio City does not shake with boos. Sure, Ferguson is a Long Island product, though the Jets just abandoned Long Island, moving their headquarters to New Jersey. Jets draftniks did not boo the Jets' first choice. Is there a doctor in the house? The Jets had a second selection in the first round, with glamour boys such as Chad Jackson available, and chose another offensive lineman. Again Jets draftniks cheered wildly. Are these pod people from another planet substituted for real Jets fans? Tuesday Morning Quarterback was impressed that the Jets' faithful were sophisticated enough to cheer for offensive linemen. And TMQ thinks the Jets had a magnificent draft, in no small part because they put blockers first. Eric "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Mangini is giving notice he has the New England success formula down -- substance, not style. Mangini even banked an extra second-round choice for 2007, again following the New England success formula of trading down annually in the middle rounds to add extra choices, and thus extra ammunition, for next year.
New Orleans: Between Reggie Bush and the revival of the Superdome, Monday Night, Sept. 25, has become must-see TV. And oh look, how convenient -- ESPN has the game! Mark your shared Web calendar now. What, you don't know about shared Web calendars? You are a full 72 hours behind the technology curve.
Oakland: The Raiders have spent five of their last eight first-round picks on defensive backs, versus two on linemen of all types. Oakland, like Buffalo, seems addicted to drafting skinny guys: this may explain why the Raiders were consistently blown off the ball on both sides of the line in 2005. In recent seasons Buffalo and Oakland have both gone Skinny City on draft day, ignoring linemen, then both had bad years. Now, could these data points possibly be related?
Philadelphia: The Eagles, at the cutting edge of cheerleader cheesecake, drafted receiver/male model Jeremy Bloom, who's at the cutting edge of athletic beefcake. Bloom has shown the world as much of himself as have the Philadelphia cheer-babes in their annual three-ounces-of-fabric lingerie calendars. Now Philadelphia has its glamorous cheerleaders to exhibit to men, and Bloom to exhibit to women and nontraditional males. Why do I think this was the first NFL draft choice dictated by the marketing department?
Pittsburgh: It's tough being on top. There's intense pressure. Everything feels like it's constantly boiling up. It's really tough being on top. I'm not referring to the Steelers' defending-champion status. I'm referring to Bill Cowher's baseball cap.
San Diego: In the first round the Bolts took Antonio Cromartie, despite his having just one start in college. In 1992, Johnnie Mitchell went in the first round despite not starting in college, and you remember how well that worked out. Antonio, here's some free advice: don't wear sunglasses indoors during television interviews, you looked ridiculous. At least now we know why scouts questioned Cromartie's depth perception.
St. Louis: The St. Louis Rams just passed on a flashy quarterback in order to get a cornerback and a defensive tackle. That was the net of Saturday's first-round Broncos-Rams trade. The St. Louis Rams just passed on a flashy quarterback in order to get a cornerback and a defensive tackle. Maybe if I keep repeating it, I'll believe it.
San Francisco: It was touching when Vernon Davis cried at the draft when he heard his name called. Sportscasters assumed Davis was overcome by joy; actually he was crying because he had been chosen by the 49ers of 2006, not the Niners of 1986. The chain of events that caused San Francisco to hand the keys to its salary cap to Alex Smith in 2005 (one touchdown throw) and then pass over California hero Matt Leinart in 2006 is one Niners' fans may be ruing, really ruing, for years to come.
Seattle: Beginning this year, the league will allow each team to supply its own footballs. Seattle had been hoping to supply its own officials. Coach Mike Holmgren told reporters, "I'm not saying the officials are a bunch of crooked stooges who deliberately robbed us as part of an international conspiracy run by an agency far more secret than the CIA, but it's something you might want to look in to."
Tampa: The Bucs also went offensive line at the top of the draft, winning the football gods' approval. Since Chris Simms left Texas, he has not been able to stand back and scan the field. All quarterbacks suddenly become more talented when they have time to scan the field. Something for Bucs' foes to think about.
Tennessee: Norm Chow throws out his famous 300-play playbook and installs the new Vince Young offense. In the new offense, "Spread 26 motion shallow Y-curl X-dig blast" is replaced by "Pass right."
Washington: The Redskins have had the fewest draft picks since 2000 and have already traded away their second and fourth choices of 2007. In Washington, "the future is now" formula of casually trading away draft choices has been in practice so long the slogan should be changed to, "The future will happen at some point."
Estimating Future Draft Pick Value: Last week TMQ mused on the Dallas Chart, the table of equivalencies that some teams use when negotiating draft-pick swaps. But the chart only concerns the present draft, and picks are often swapped for selections in the subsequent year. Traditionally, a choice today is worth one round less than a choice in the future. For instance, on Sunday the Colts gave their sixth pick in 2007 for the Titans' seventh pick in 2006; if you want someone's second-round choice in the current year, you must offer your first-round choice in the next. This is a form of "discounting to present value," and TMQ suggests the Dallas Chart could be used to discount to present value simply by moving one column over. A team that wants to offer a third-round choice next year for a choice today would look in the fourth-round column of the table to determine the value of next year's third rounder, and so on. Of course it's impossible to know where in the round a next-year's choice might be, but using the table this way would at least generate an approximate value of a future choice being traded for a current choice.
Case study: In 2005, Denver traded the 25th pick of the first round for Washington's third choice in 2005, which was the 76th pick, and first choice in 2006. The Broncos then swapped Washington's first choice in 2006 to San Francisco for the Niners' second and third in 2006, which were the 37th and 68th picks. Here's the discount-to-present-value based on the chart. Denver gave up the 25th pick in 2005 (worth 720 points) for the 76th pick in 2005 (worth 210 points), the 37th pick in 2006 (worth 530 in 2006 but only 245 points in 2005 owing to discounting) and the 68th pick in 2006 (worth 250 points in 2006 but only 100 points in 2005 owing to discounting). Thus Denver traded a choice worth 720 points in 2005 for picks worth 555 points when taking into account that the Broncos received two of the three choices in the future. The economic concept of "discounting to present value" assumes the future is less valuable than the present. Take your picture now, take it again in five years, and you'll know what I mean!
Next Week The draft is over, so we've made it halfway through that long, cold, lonely offseason -- halfway to the resumption of the football artificial universe. Tuesday Morning Quarterback returns on a weekly basis the first Tuesday of August.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse," and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Sound off to Page 2 here or Gregg here.