Inside the Cowboys' War Room

"It's pressure-filled," said Cowboys' VP of College and Pro Scouting Jeff Ireland about the draft day war room in a recent interview with

"The war room."

The phrase itself inspires different images to different people. But for NFL fans, it means one thing: the draft.

The war room is where decisions are made that will impact an organization for the next five to 10 years. One mistake, and a team may find itself scrambling to fill a void for the next three seasons.

Two mistakes that team may find itself rebuilding for the next five years.

Three mistakes can make you the laughing stock of the league.

"It's pressure-filled," said Cowboys' VP of College and Pro Scouting Jeff Ireland in a recent interview with "You know all the hay and hard work are in the barn. There's a ton of strategy involved, and you hope all the preparation allows the organization to have a 'leg up' on the competition."

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Inside the Cowboys' war room on draft day is nothing short of witnessing the culmination of years of hard work by the organization's scouts. Still, it's important to remember that most of the difficult decisions have already been made.

"Our strategy is discussed well in advance of the actual draft. Our draft board, or parts of it, is in place right now. We know the guys we like and will target. The entire preliminary board was set before the Combine, but guys are moving up and down the boards all the time.," said Ireland.

"It's a constant evaluation. We crosscheck by position, and every scout is responsible for particular positions. We're continually familiarizing the owner, Stephen and Parcells with players and our evaluations. By the time we get into April, the focus on 'how do they play' takes center stage. It gets married up with all the other elements of evaluation. Show time."

And what about the actual selection of a player? Do Cowboys' scouts, coaches and management usually agree that one particular player should picked over another when it comes to crunch time?

With so many people involved in such an important decision, it's not surprising to hear that rarely happens inside the war room.

"It's almost never a unanimous decision," said Ireland. "It's your job to push hard for a particular player. In all my years, there have been heated battles and feelings can get hurt, but you choose your battles and develop tough skin. You always discuss a player in direct relation to the team. How does he fit? How does he help us? Is he the best player at this time?"

Ireland also says it's important to play the waiting game when it comes to making a pick. In other words, expect the unexpected.

"We don't start talking about a particular player, or players, (on draft day) until we're five picks away from being on the clock," he said. "You can't allow yourself to fall in love with a guy in advance of your selection. Fifteen minutes before, you know your guy.

"In most cases it comes down to two guys. It's my job to bring in all the noted reminders. Many times we're going around the decision-making table asking, who do you want?"

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