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The 2005 NFL Draft - by Zennie Abraham

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Thanks to Frank Supovitz, SVP of Special Events for the NFL, Greg Aiello, Vice President of Public Relations of the National Football League, and Leslie Hammond, VP of Media Relations for the NFL, I was able to cover the 2005 NFL Draft. Here's my account - Zennie Abraham, Chairman and CEO, Sports Business Simulations.

The 2005 NFL Draft -- Part 3

How a Draftee's Name Gets Called

While I was next to the stage, I took time to record the process by which a name gets called to be the "whatever round" pick of a team. It works like this: First, the team -- let's say the San Francisco 49ers -- has 15 minutes (or a quarter in football lingo) to decide who they're going to select. Two giant football-style clocks count down the seconds. If a team fails to make a pick during that time span, they must pass and the next organization in draft order has 15 minutes to make a selection. This is called being "On the clock."
Redskins' Team Table: One of 32

It's Starts With The Team Table

Second, the team's representatives, including (depending on the team) the owner, general manager, head coach, and player personnel staff, are not in New York at the Draft, they're at the team's headquarters. It's from here that they call in their selection to their representative at the team table. Washington Redskins team representatives are in the foreground in the first picture shown on this page.
NFL Head Table

...Then The Name Is...

Third, the team's representative -- which range from a friend of the organization to a young employee -- write the name of the choice on a card. NFL and CSC events employees pick up that card and carry it to the NFL's main operations table. (NFL SVP Frank Supovitz is the leftmost person above.)

Fourth, from that table and to its left, the card is passed over to a bank of NFL staffers that enter it into a computer system to be recorded.

Finally, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is given the name of the draftee. He steps out of his room backstage and onto the main stage to read the selection to the ballroom and TV audience. The Commissioner does this work only for the First Round, he then gives way to NFL Director of Operations Gene Washington for subsequent rounds on Saturday, and then other NFL officials for the final rounds on Sunday. Then, there's the event that comes with the selection of "Mr. Irrelevant." But we'll get to that later.

The San Francisco 49ers are on the clock.

The First Round Surprise -- At least to me and the "Back of the Pack Club"
The Clock -- Keeping Draft Time

Niners On The Clock

The draft officially got underway with the announcement that the San Francisco 49ers had the first pick in the draft and were on the clock. "Yes, as you can see by the picture, the clock is just like the ones you see at every football game.

Finally, after waiting and joking with Chachkes and the group of guys I call the "Back of the Pack Club," Commissioner Tagliabue stepped forward to say "And with the First Pick in the NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Utah Quarterback Alex Smith." Some cheers and a few hoots of surprise went up; mine was one of the hoots and this was true for the Back of the Pack Club. Why?

Scouts,Inc., perhaps the most respected player evaluation organization in pro football, had Rodgers ranked ahead of Smith. As recently as three weeks ago, Rodgers was the consensus lock to be the pick of the 49ers.

And from a marketing standpoint, it just plain made sense. If the 49ers had picked Cal's Rodgers he would have been the first quarterback in NFL history to be the Number One pick in the First Round by the team that's in the same metropolitan area as the college he went to. You know what that means? Instant ticket sales as "Old Blues" (Cal Alumns) and the entire population of Chico, CA -- where Rodgers is from -- come out of the woodwork to see their guy play for the Niners.

A 49ers Digression

But this isn't the first time the 49ers have picked an outsider over a local. They did it in 1997, selecting Virgina's Jim Drunkenmiller over local Cal Quarterback Pat Barnes, even though then-49ers coach Steve Marriuci coached Barnes at Cal in 1996. That was a real head-scratcher to me. It was like admitting that you really didn't do well with your prized student after all -- in fact Barnes set several Cal records under Marriuci and with essentially the same offense the 49ers used, nomenclature and all.

Someone said Drunkenmiller , like Smith, had a stronger arm, yet he failed in his role as 'the next Montana / Young SF QB.' As Dennis Miller would say, "I don't want to go on a rant here,.." but arm strength is only important if you're going to overthrow a government -- and even then, I'm not so sure it means much. If you're comparing the top 20 quarterbacks to be drafted, their arm strength is not going to be so different that it's worth fighting about. Besides, you don't want someone who's too strong, anyway. They made not be coachable when teaching the art of the short pass is in order. Plus, and to make matters worse, there are conflicting views on Rodgers' and Smith's arm strength, so you know it's not a trustworthy claim.

For example, the same comment about "weak arm strength" was made about Rodgers versus Smith during the Draft -- issued by ESPN in one of the worst examples of anti-intellectualism I've ever seen on their website. By contrast, Scouts,Inc. made the opposite claim: that it was Smith and not Rodgers who suffered from a weak arm, because he "never had to throw deep" in the Utah system. So, which is it? You know what? There should only be one view on this subject, not conflicting ones. Yet, the simple fact that there are shows you just how far talent evaluation hasn't come. The industry's got to get it's act together.

Look, I'm biased. I've seen Rodgers play. A lot. I've seen Smith play. A little. I went to Cal, and since Sports Illustrated Senior Writer and friend Mike Silver isn't here, I can say I'm the most feverent Cal supporter in the room. I'm pro-Rodgers, but he gives you reasons to defend him, like an NCAA-record 26 straight completions in 2004. And he did this at Cal, in the 49ers backyard - the Bay Area.

Let's see. We've got an organization concerned about it's fiscal health, right? What better decision to make to sell more tickets than to hire the local hero? You tell me? I like the 49ers, I like the staff and the braintrust. I especially like John York and Denise DeBartolo York (because they were so open and helpful to me when I was working on the Super Bowl: Oakland Bid from 1999 to 2001). I like Alex Smith ( His ASAPSports interview can be read with a click here). His family's really nice. But I don't think he's the best fit for the 49ers.

The Niners should have signed Aaron Rodgers before the draft and saved us from all this drama, signaling the birth of a new, aggressive management style in the process, and causing a spike in ticket sales. But, as you will learn, Rodgers ended up in a better place... more..

NFL Draft Part One | NFL Draft Part Two | NFL Draft Part Three | NFL Draft Part Four | NFL Draft Part Five | NFL Draft Part Six | NFL Draft Part Seven

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