Coach's Corner

Unlike most of you, I chose to bypass the annual Husky spring game and stayed home to watch the NFL Draft. The "Spring Fling" featuring the football scrimmage plus softball, crew, and baseball all rolled into one is certainly a fan friendly experience but the crowd and traffic scared me away.

I'll go in this week and watch it on video and then draw my own conclusions as to the progress of the Huskies.

My reaction to the ESPN draft extravaganza drained me so much that I'm sure I'll return to the Fling next spring. Obviously, the draft was a huge disappointment for Huskies and their fans but you can't say I didn't warn you. One of my first columns for started with the lines, " This April's coming NFL draft will come and go without any Husky being taken on the first day. There is even a chance that no Husky will be taken at all".

I was sorry to be correct, but then again, it probably explains why this last year's team went 7-6. There were not any ‘first day of the draft' guys on the team, and to even get drafted, you need to have had a pretty good senior year. Most of the seniors didn't do that.

I did see a lot of Huskies on the first day of the draft. Unfortunately, they were all on other player's highlight films. Seems like every time Carson Palmer threw a touchdown it was against the Huskies. It also seemed like Terrell Suggs sacked the Dawgs like the Vandals did Rome. He did register four of his NCAA record 24 sacks against the Huskies, but I didn't need to be reminded of it so repeatedly.

I actually took notes during the show that never seemed to end, only to be convinced that the professionals guess just as much as we did on who is "going to be" a great player. For all the money they spend on scouting and research it was amazing how a team like Minnesota could not be ready to pick when their turn came. This sparked a rush of picks to beat them that was positive in that it sped up the process by about an hour.

It also resulted in another local player falling into the Seahawk's lap. The Seattle franchise, for the second year in a row, took a Washington born and bred kid with their first pick. Last year it was a Husky and this year it was a Cougar.

Cornerback, Marcus Trufant, was snatched up quickly by the Hawks when the Vikings finally took defensive lineman Kevin Williams of Oklahoma State. Many believed that Williams was who the Hawks really wanted, because of the obvious need up front with their defensive line. Their draft day trade for a veteran player from the Saints solved that need. With Shawn Springs always in limbo, Trufant figures to fit nicely. If not next year, then certainly in the years to come.

Trufant represents to me another of my great recruiting mistakes. I really liked him in high school but couldn't get anyone else on the staff interested in him. I should have been more assertive.

He was not only a great all around football player, but also a great young man. Our alumni in Tacoma had him surrounded and it was obvious we had a chance to break the Cougar's stronghold on T-town. I even had my son working him during track meets as both he and Brent were state class jumpers. Now the Huskies eventually did break the Coug connection with the signing of Reggie Williams but for years the Cougars have owned Tacoma.

Yeah, the Huskies got the really good ones like Lawyer Malloy but the Cougars were particularly tough in Curtis High School. A lot of the times it was academically related issues that cost the Huskies players.

But with Trufant, it was just a flat out mistake on my part. I needed to sell him more to the rest of the staff. I wasn't successful.

An even bigger evaluation mistake was made on Jordan Gross, who we let go to Utah. Jordan was not only on our recruiting list but had attended our summer camp. He was the first offensive lineman taken in the draft.

Another obvious mistake in the same year was my not taking Nate Burleson of Seattle's O'Dea High School. His dad had played at Washington, and Nate and I had a solid connection. When we got fired, he slipped between the cracks and ended up at Nevada Reno with Chris Tormey, where he set the national record for receptions.

Nate went in the third round and always wanted to be a Husky. Again, my lack of assertiveness at the time was probably the reason. I was also recruiting Rein Long and really believe I had a shot there as well. I won't go into that one here.

Whatever, those kinds of things happen whenever you turn over a program and it certainly explains why it's difficult when you fire coaches. The program always loses a certain amount of continuity. You hope to help them become better coaches, rather than show them the door.

I am proud that the Seahawks are building their team with kids from our own state. It only helps their fan base and gives them a true hometown flavor. It is similar to the philosophy of always recruiting your own state first.

Speaking of locals, it sure looks like Rein Long of the Cougars and Onterrio Smith of the Ducks both made major mistakes coming out early for the draft. It probably cost both of them a lot of money, not to mention three or four rounds in the draft.

Why do kids always believe agents? And can anyone answer me as to why agents all have to have Pat Riley hairdos?

I couldn't believe the agent for Willis McGahee. He looked like he came right out of the Jerry McGuire movie. You could see the slime dripping from him. Still, he did get his kid taken in the first round in a heart-warming story of overcoming adversity.

Personally I think it was foolish that Willis didn't cash his 2.5 million insurance policy and go on with his life, but that's just one man's opinion.

The ESPN coverage had more experts and analysts than the Iraq war. They had no less than FIVE panels of gurus, all second-guessing. The lead group of Chris Berman, Chris Mortenson, Mel Kiper and Dennis Greene were by far the best and certainly entertaining because of their vast experience. Even Kiper has grown on me. He is wrong half of the time, but he just goes on to the next kid.

Kiper is to the NFL draft what Dick Vitale is to basketball. You're always wondering how they ever got on TV, but they do entertain. I mean, who can explain "Flock of Seagulls" during the MTV craze? Sometimes a unique haircut is all it takes, but I digress.

My least favorite group of "experts" was the trio of Mark Malone (ex-QB), Ron Jaworski (ex-QB), and Merril Hoge. These three stooges think the only players worth considering were the quarterbacks. "Jaws", as Jaworski is known, actually called Carson Palmer "Chris", and repeatedly called for Chris Simms to be drafted because "he" had him rated so high. That was the height of arrogance and is exactly why quarterbacks get the bad rap of being egocentric. Jaworski's constant reference to "I, me, my" as a source was the biggest ego trip of the day.

Put a whistle on someday Ron and then you can back up your exalted opinion rather than always being a wannabe coach.

Sure, quarterbacks are the most critical players to the success of a passing team, but Trent Dilfer showed that they could be regular guys and still win a championship. Remember, four QB's did go in the first round but 10 of the first 25 picks were defensive linemen.

I guess the coaches and general managers know what wins championships. DEFENSE

Another panel of Andrea "bug-eyes" Kramer with four players including Bill Romanoski showed that all players follow the draft and some (not Romanoski) make some good comments. I was amused when it was said that Romo really got up for the draft. I was left to wonder what substance it was that helped him do this. It amazes me how the drug guys get forgiven and become sports commentators.

Meanwhile gamblers are dirty rotten scoundrels and can't get into hall of fames. Go figure.

One of the numbers that jumped out to me was that nine of the first 32 players chosen came from the Pac-10 conference including two of the first four quarterbacks. Although there have been a number of Pac-10 QB busts in the draft, the fact remains that this conference is the dominating league in the country when it comes to turning out pro football players.

I found it interesting that one of the teams to be busted by a Pac-10 and Duck QB, Akili Smith, came right back and took Carson Palmer with the first pick. It left me wondering if the Chargers would turn over a new "leaf" and take Jason Gesser. I guess they learned their lesson as Gesser went undrafted and signed with the Titans as a free agent.

The first quarterback, first defensive end, first safety, and first linebacker to be drafted, all came from the Pac-10. Of course none of them were Huskies, but again, that was probably my fault.

Another interesting fact was 22 picks went by before the first running back was taken and that happened to be McGahee, who is still damaged goods. Looks like there are others still looking for a running back besides the Huskies.

Oh yeah, the Huskies. Forgot about them for a little while. No players drafted for the first time since 1948. Tell me it isn't so. But I promise you two will be drafted on the first day next year.

But I won't be watching. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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