NFL execs sending smoke screens
There’s a common saying in the NFL during the month of April leading up to the draft: A general manager or coach is lying only when his lips are moving.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had an opportunity to talk with several NFL decision makers during the most unique April in NFL history. A monkey wrench has been thrown into draft plans nationwide with the work stoppage. Are free agents coming back to their respective clubs? Does this mean teams will look at “need” over the “best player available?” Will teams reach on a quarterback? How do you judge potential trades down the road when you can’t even make them now?
With the draft just days away, let’s analyze some of the more nugget-worthy quotes, and what they really mean.
“Do I think Kevin Kolb is a championship-caliber quarterback? Absolutely, I do. I think he possesses that ability. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m in a big hurry to get rid of him. We’ll have to see how everything works out here after the lockout.” — Eagles head coach Andy Reid
Hmm. Let’s look at this one piece by piece. For the record, I think Reid believes Kolb can be great. I think Reid believes he can win a championship in Philadelphia with Kolb. But Reid is smart enough to know that while Kolb, the handpicked successor to Donovan McNabb, has great potential and legit NFL game experience; Kolb is the Eagles’ second-best quarterback, behind Michael Vick.
I also think the savvy Reid knew exactly what he was doing when he uttered his quote.
He let potential suitors for Kolb know what he expects as compensation for this "championship-caliber" quarterback. Because of the lockout, the Eagles cannot trade Kolb before the draft. But whenever we get a new CBA, Reid will desire a king’s ransom for Kolb and will likely get it. That smart man, Andy Reid!
And, sure, Reid is not in a huge "hurry" to get rid of him. He wanted Kolb to be an Eagles quarterback since he saw him play early in his career at the University of Houston.
But Reid is brilliantly lying through his teeth. Philly has most likely already appointed someone to drive Kolb to the airport whenever trades are allowed.
The Eagles can get better on defense and add picks for the 2012 draft by trading him now. And, in the same interview, Reid talked up Mike Kafka. While I most certainly think Reid’s glowing endorsement of Kafka was a bit of hyperbole, I think the Eagles would feel comfortable with him backing up Kolb.
"I want explosive players who can play for us right now." — Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt
I had one executive send me a text message during the interview saying, "HE’S LYING!!" I’m not so sure. I don’t think there is any way the Cardinals draft either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert.
Arizona will most certainly be in the quarterback business when we get an offseason. And the Cards will most certainly be among the favorites for Kolb.
But let me tell you what "explosive players" means. It means Von Miller, Marcell Dareus or Patrick Peterson. Or it means — wait for it — A.J. Green. Try this one on for size: The Cardinals draft Green and team him with Larry Fitzgerald. Kolb is throwing them the football. The Cardinals’ defense gets better with a new coordinator and an offense that keeps it fresh.
Could Arizona win nine games next year with Kolb and Green joining Fitzgerald? Think about it. Either way, picking at No. 5, Whisenhunt will pass on a quarterback in the draft.
Miller, Dareus or Peterson are instant-impact, long-term stars. And the Cardinals know how to dominate on draft day. Very few in the league have been better in the past five years in the NFL draft. I think Whisenhunt was telling me the truth, which officially scares me.
"It’s our job, our responsibility to our fans, to check out every position" — Broncos general manager Brian Xanders
HAHAHAHAHA. This answer came off a discussion in which I told Xanders that I didn’t remotely believe the smoke screen that John Elway and Co. were considering a quarterback. I will faint Thursday night, as I host the draft on Sirius XM, if the Broncos pick a quarterback.
Due diligence is one thing. Stupidity is another. John Fox and Dennis Allen are changing to a 4-3 defense. They need new, impact players who fit their scheme.
Dareus is a perfect fit. Xanders says Miller, “jumps off the film.” They wouldn’t hesitate to team Peterson at corner with Champ Bailey. And Peterson would aid their anemic return game. A quarterback at No. 2? Now that’s funny.
"I don’t think there’s a quarterback in this draft who can step in and play right away." — Bills head coach Chan Gailey
Is that his way of telling the world they will pass on Newton if he’s there? I think Gailey, who has maximized athletic quarterbacks ranging from Kordell Stewart to Tyler Thigpen to Ray Lucas, would jump at the opportunity to get Newton.
But Gailey likes Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starter for this season. I believe in the Bills’ best-case scenario, Newton goes to the Panthers, Buffalo gets Miller if Denver doesn’t pick him and then trades back into the first round for Christian Ponder, who becomes Gailey’s pet project.
"We certainly like versatile offensive linemen" — Giants general manager Jerry Reese
The very reserved and studious Reese actually gave some insight and spoke the truth here. And Anthony Castonzo and Mike Pouncey most certainly fit the bill and could represent excellent value and a major need for the Giants.
They both look the part of future Giants. But what happens if these cats are gone?
Could the Giants be in the running back business in the first round with Mark Ingram? Reese told us Brandon Jacobs will be on the team, but his productivity has dropped off while his mouth continues to run. Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent.
"I’m sorry Adam. I’d rather not comment on specific players" — Seahawks general manager John Schneider
I really like Schneider. He’s a talented young executive who is very proactive and loves to make moves. But I think he would’ve commented if maybe I asked about a player who wasn’t in his backyard. Let me give you some context here.
This was off of a direct question about Jake Locker.
Locker was coached last season by Steve Sarkisian, who used to work for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. The Seahawks know everything, the clutch play, the low completion percentages and everything in between, that is on Locker’s resume.
I think Locker interests Schneider. They should think quarterback with Matt Hasselbeck’s age and murky contract status and Charlie Whitehurst being, well, Charlie Whitehurst.
I also think the Seahawks have major needs at every level of defense and they need help on the offensive line. Seattle could draft at almost every position, which is why the interview with Schneider left me convinced the Seahawks are a prime candidate to trade down.
"Five or six quarterbacks will go in the first round" — Bucs general manager Mark Dominik
These words were uttered by Dominik a few weeks ago. I rolled my eyes and chuckled. I thought it had smoke screen and wishful thinking written all over it. Tampa Bay has a franchise quarterback, Josh Freeman, and needs to address the defensive line, praying that medical concerns about Da’Quan Bowers send him tumbling to 20.
But there is some truth here on the quarterback. And the comments sent shock waves throughout league circles.
I personally think only three quarterbacks should go in the first round. But with the draft happening before free agency, I predict Newton, Gabbert, Locker, Ponder, Ryan Mallett and Andy Dalton will be picked in Round 1. Desperate times call for desperate measures in the strange NFL world we live in.
"I’m not going to tell you if I met with Ryan Mallett!!" — Vikings general manager Rick Spielman
He said it with a chuckle. And he later said some nice things about Mallett. Liar alert! And Spielman didn’t even try to hide it. Much appreciated it. I’ve never starred in a “CSI,” but I think Mallett is on the radar, but not with the 12th overall pick. The Vikings have needs on defense and should draft an end if they stay at 12. It truly sounded like Spielman wanted to trade down, acquire more picks and get a Round 1 quarterback that better fit the “value” on his board.