Of the many decisions that should’ve gotten the Dallas Cowboys’ GM fired, trading for former Lions wide receiver Roy Williams during the ’08 season has to rank near the top. Troy Aikman said the trade had the potential to be one of the biggest busts in NFL history… and he wasn’t far off.
This is an organization that has been undermined by men named Roy Williams for more than a decade. But Roy the receiver cast more of a shadow than Roy the safety, a brooding young man who was briefly engaged to the lovely Kelly Rowland ofDestiny’s Childfame.
In case you need a refresher, the Cowboys sent first-, third- and sixth-round choices to the Lions for Williams, who would team with Terrell Owens for the remainder of the ’08 season. If you can believe it, T.O. frowned upon the news because Williams was considered a No. 1 receiver. No, I’m serious. He’d been viewed as a decent draft pick by Matt Millen’s laughable standards in Motor City.
Williams was beyond pitiful on the field, and the Cowboys didn’t rally to make up for what he cost them in that infamous ’09 discount draft. I’ve looked at the rosters of some of the top teams from the past four years (Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, etc.) and made the shocking discovery that several players from their ’09 drafts are still hanging around. The Cowboys were late getting started in that draft because of the Williams trade and they whiffed on their two picks in the third round.
Linebacker Jason Williams out of Western Illinois was released during the 2010 season, in part for his failure to grasp Wade Phillips’ defense. I’d like to give Wade a pass on Williams, but I seem to recall hearing that he argued the loudest for him in the “war room.” Only a few picks later the Cowboys went with the immortal Robert Brewster out of Ball State.
A longtime scout from the AFC North told me immediately after the draft that his team didn’t consider Brewster because he was an injury risk. I was scolded by Cowboys fans for providing that negative review. And a few months later, Brewster tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights and never played a down in the NFL. For those of us who met Brewster that first spring, it was surprising to learn that Brewster had a pectoral muscle.
The Cowboys made 10 more selections in that ’09 draft, but only linebacker Victor Butler and tight end John Phillips were on the roster last season.
By comparison, the defending world champion Ravens only had six draft picks in ’09. In the first three rounds, they selected three players who now start for them. First-round pick Michael Oher has started all 64 games since he was drafted and second- and third-round picks Paul Kruger and Ladarius Webb have both been impact players on defense.
The Ravens’ fourth-round pick that season, linebacker Jason Phillips, has been a valuable contributor to the Panthers the last two seasons, and sixth-round pick Cedric Peerman plays a solid backup role for the Bengals. The Steelers and Patriots also used the ’09 draft to fortify already-talented rosters.
The Cowboys will likely have one member from their ’08 draft class on the roster this season, and that’s fifth-round pick Orlando Scandrick. The team’s two first-round selections from that draft, running back Felix Jones and cornerback Mike Jenkins, will be taking their talents elsewhere in free agency. It’s drafts like those that forced the Cowboys to sign seven free agents last March. And in true Cowboys fashion, some of those contracts are being restructured as we speak.
Dallas has certainly hit on some picks in recent years, but whiffing on entire drafts means it’s always in catch-up mode. You can blame some of that on the infamous Williams trade.
Folks have lost their jobs over less glaring errors. Sadly, none of them had the good fortune to own the Cowboys.