John Chaney died over the weekend at the age of 89. He was the head basketball coach at Temple for next-to-forever and is most deservedly a part of the Naismith Hall of Fame. Chaney was a charter member of the “Tough Love School” of coaching; he would not fit in well in today’s world of coaches being kinder and gentler that he was. His teams played ferocious defense; he demanded that. It would have been fun to watch one of his Temple teams play one of Bob Knight’s Indiana teams back in the day…
Rest in peace, John Chaney.
As I am sure you have heard/read, the Rams and Lions exchanged QBs over the weekend and the Lions got three draft picks in the process. The rumors that the Rams’ coaching staff was not enamored with Jared Goff proved to be accurate; they shipped him off to the Lions – even under new management the Lions must be considered part of “NFL Purgatory” – and they tossed in two first round picks and a third-round pick. It seems clear to me that the Rams believe they will be serious Super Bowl contenders next year with upgraded QB play from Matthew Stafford.
It is the “draft picks” part of this trade that I find interesting. Most commentators place great value on two first round picks plus a third-round pick; they call it “draft capital”. The Rams seem to be selling that “draft capital” short and the Rams have been doing that for a while now. Assuming that they do not trade to acquire a first-round pick between now and the 2023 NFL Draft, the Rams will have gone 7 consecutive years without a selection in the first round:
- 2017: Traded this pick as part of the deal that got them Jared Goff in 2016.
- 2018: Traded this pick to the Pats for Brandin Cooks.
- 2019: Traded this pick to the Falcons to move down in the draft for lower round picks.
- 2020: Traded this pick to the Jags for Jalen Ramsey
- 2021: Traded this pick to the Jags for Jalen Ramsey too.
- 2022: Traded this pick to the Lions for Matthew Stafford.
- 2023: Traded this pick to the Lions for Matthew Stafford too.
I believe that “draft capital” is highly overrated. The NFL Draft is a gamble and not an investment; “draft capital” is more akin to a “poker stake” in the NFL Draft shuffle. I use poker as my analogy purposely because to win at poker you need a combination of luck and skill and that is exactly what you need to be successful in the NFL Draft. The Rams now – – and 50 years ago under George Allen – have chosen to give up their position in the first round of the Draft in exchange for what they consider to be known talent entities. If it works, watch lots of other teams try to copy that behavior; if it flops, the pundits will point to the Rams’ braintrust as a pack of naïfs.
Here is why I find the Draft to be interesting but not all that important. Consider a Draft where there have been no trades and consider that each of the 32 teams would make the best selection available when it came their turn. To make it simple, consider only the first two rounds for a moment:
- “Worst Team” has Pick 1 and Pick 33
- “Best Team” has Pick 32 and Pick 64
If each team is picking the best player every time, there is a marginal difference between the “Best Team” at Pick 32 and the “Worst Team” at Pick 33. In terms of great improvement potential for the “Worst Team” the difference lies in the talent gap between Pick 1 and Pick 64.
However, the same conditions exist at the interface of every round of the Draft; the “Best Team” picking at 65 “evens out” the “Worst Team” picking at 64 and then at the end of the third round, the “Best Team” picking at 96 evens out the “Worst Team” picking at 97 and so it goes. The net result of a “perfect Draft” of this type is that the big advantage for the “Worst Team” is that they get Pick 1 and the “Best Team” gets Pick 224. Not exactly Earth-shattering…
The NFL Draft is interesting because the teams are NOT perfect in their selections. Every team in the NFL passed on taking Tom Brady several times; the Niners traded up to get a kid from Mississippi Valley State University that few folks had ever heard of named Jerry Rice; in 1965, the Bears had back-to-back first round picks at #3 and #4 and they took Dick Butkus and Gayle Sayers with those picks. [Aside: The two players taken ahead of Butkus and Sayers in that Draft were Tucker Frederickson and Ken Willard.]
The trade that took place this weekend means that the Rams have their eyes on a Super Bowl appearance in the next year or three and are convinced that Matthew Stafford’s improved play at QB will be the impulse that gets them there. Meanwhile, the Lions seem to recognize that they have a major rebuilding project in front of them – – as they seem to have had for the last 30-50 years – – and that they want to have more chances to strike it rich in the Draft poker game.
- Shuffle up and deal …
Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot two weeks ago:
“Inside info: Gamblers and other interested parties might have appreciated knowing beforehand that Drew Brees played out the season with a torn rotator cuff and torn fascia in his foot. This according to an Instagram post by wife Brittany Brees.”
To which I say:
- Are we sure that “gamblers and other interested parties” were in the dark here?
Finally, let me wish everyone here a Happy Virtual Groundhogs Day. The normal pomp and circumstance associated with today has been replaced by a virtual ”ceremony” whereby the large ugly rodent makes his annual prediction on the arrival of Spring. The pandemic strikes again…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………