Canes' haters and Cowboys' lovers, brace yourselves. This look into the mirror isn't exactly pretty. When it comes to the NFL, "It's a Canes Thing," and the Cowboys clearly don't understand. This statement is half indictment and half plea.
The record will show there have been missed opportunities over the years, but as the Cowboys continue to build themselves back to prominence, it would be both plausible and prudent for the organization to turn to South Florida for some additional building materials. People are quick to point out statistics can be shaped and molded into anything you want them to say, but in this case, the numbers don't lie.
In fact, they stagger.
The Miami Hurricanes program has often been referred to as a football factory. Not unlike the Cowboys themselves, this institution has many detractors and a bevy of bodies who utterly despise its very existence. A factory is a setting which utilizes a common-bond labor force to produce new, vibrant material goods. If you know anything at all about the hard core, sweat shop on the University of Miami campus, you also know the factory workers are a tireless, tried and true union. Actually they're more of a brotherhood constructed of a bond capable of putting most adhesive companies out of business. It truly is a "Canes Thing," and here are some things all must understand.
The April 2007 Draft marked the 13th consecutive year that a Miami Hurricane was chosen in the first round of the annual selection process. This year three Canes were selected in the opening stanza. In 2004, there were six (19% of the entire first-round class) selected in the opening round. In 2003, four. 2002 produced five, and four were selected in the 2001 Draft. You get the picture. Since 1952, The Hurricanes program has had 60 players selected in round one, and 32 of those players have been produced from 1995 to present date. Miami's streak of 13 straight years with a first-round draft choice is unprecedented in football history.
Thirteen straight years since 1995, and where have the Cowboys been during this stretch? Missing the South Florida boat…that's where! For reference, 1995 was the Cowboys last world championship in which Barry Switzer navigated whose players? Say what you will, the core was assembled and developed under the coaching hand of Jimmy Johnson. And Jimmy was where before he arrived with the Jones party in 1989? Thought so. His arrival included a collegiate national championship ring courtesy of the 1987 Miami Hurricanes. This, a program he inherited from Howard Schnellenberger and completely took to another level. The Hurricane pipeline to Dallas, as meager as it was, completely dried up upon Johnson's departure from Valley Ranch. And by completely, it's noteworthy no Miami Hurricane has been drafted since Jimmy drove the Vette off the lot in 1994.
Is this purely coincidental or by design? Cowboys' fans, those who have removed the blinders, you best pray it's the former and not the latter. Prior to the Seattle visit in January, when was the last time the Cowboys made the NFL playoffs? When was the last time they actually won a post-season playoff contest? This in no way intimates the infusion of Miami Hurricanes automatically equates to playoff contention or a Canes draftee from 1995 to present date would have guided Dallas to the post season.
From being full of themselves to getting cute (actually blatantly stupid), the 2000 and 2001 NFL Drafts roll around, and where were the Cowboys? Certainly not in the game with two first-round picks jettisoned to Seattle for the services of Joey Galloway. Like the David LaFleur acquisition, how did this move turn out? In the meantime, those two years of first-round absence saw the likes of Bubba Franks, Reggie Wayne (can play a little), Santana Moss (came to know the Cowboys well), Damione Lewis and Dan Morgan emerge on the NFL scene courtesy of Coral Gables. From there, some might argue things actually got worse.
The former cuteness and ineptitude catapults the Cowboys into two straight years of top ten drafting where Roy Williams and Terence Newman were brought to Valley Ranch. No one can completely argue these selections, but at the very same time Mike Rumph, Ed Reed (the #24 selection in the Roy Williams Draft), Phillip Buchanon, Jeremy Shockey, Bryant McKinnie, William Joseph, Willis McGahee, Jerome McDougle and Andre Johnson all make their arrivals into the NFL.
The question which must be asked is "why?" Why is this football institution being overlooked? Folks, everything mentioned to this point have all revolved around first-round selections only. There has been no mention of Miami Hurricanes taken in rounds 2 thru 7, and yes, there have been plenty. At the very same moment the Cowboys were keying a collegiate player to specifically handle return duties, so were the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Bears' selection, regardless of round, and he was removed from their Draft board. The Bears' selection? Devin Hester. The Cowboys? Skyler Green (see Mike Fisher article on '06 Draft class). Which "targeted" return guy was in this year's Super Bowl?
So, what's the point? Simply this.
The Cowboys' fan, by and large, is an astute and loyal football supporter knowledgeable enough to know the NFL Draft is, at a minimum, an inexact science but more resembling a complete crap shoot. The fan should be acutely aware of the Parcells' 50% proposition. If an organization hits on 50% of their draft selections, they're what? Way ahead of the curve of NFL trends. Thus, producing this mind-numbing question, is a team more likely to hit on a first-round selection or someone drafted in the 4th thru 7th rounds? For the most part, first-round selections are usually difference-makers, foundational building blocks or over-the-top pieces to the puzzle. Not always (see inexact science and crap shoot references above), but the percentages bear out first-round hits equate to some type of organizational success.
So, if there is a collegiate institution out there which is supplying more first-round talent than any other Division I school, why isn't a NFL organization somehow plugged in? Puzzling, but a very well-founded question, and it's one that should be answered by the Cowboys' brass. On the surface, all appearances are logical, and it's supported by past history. Just where have the Cowboys been when it comes to Coral Gables and Miami Hurricanes football? Fellas, you actually have to leave South Beach to find the campus.
A parting note is simply this…now is the time! Now is the time to become South Florida-engaged. Why now, you ask?
Go back and revisit the Draft history of the last 13 years and then add two critical and vital elements to the overall mix.
Michael Irvin and Randy Shannon.
Both Canes, both Cowboys. Products of the system. Integral pieces of the Brotherhood. When it comes to that "Canes Thing," they truly and inherently understand. Why not build an organizational understanding of the program with the most effective pipeline second only to Alaska? If the NFL talent flows this generously through Coral Gables, why not tap the shoulders of your soon-to-be Hall of Fame wide receiver and the guy now patrolling the sidelines and entrusted with guiding the Hurricanes football program back to dominance? Could there be any better networking or referral sources than two of "your own?"
In case no one has noticed, ask yourself this question. When the words Miami Hurricane are mentioned, who is the first name or player that pops into your head? With whom do you most readily equate player and program? Argue all you want, but Michael Jerome Irvin, the beloved Playmaker, created the face of the Miami Hurricanes football institution. He remains the face of the program, and he embodies everything which is fundamentally right about the football factory. Everything!
The Ranch Report's own Mike Fisher (Michael's second choice, and Jerry's back-up to present Irvin in Canton) used to routinely have Michael Irvin on his Dallas radio shows. Routinely meaning any time either damn-well pleased, but it was always most interesting to catch an Irvin visit around NFL Draft time. Michael, as he clearly displayed on ESPN, is football savvy, and The Playmaker certainly knew his Draft material. Fish used to kid Michael all the time that if he had his way, the Cowboys would always take a Hurricane.
While funny and entertaining then, Fish told him he couldn't do that. Due to organizational needs and positions of players, of course it wasn't possible with every pick, but it certainly appears eyeing up a Hurricane in the first round isn't such a far-fetched venture, is it? The numbers and history sure bear it out. Point being, bias aside, Michael knows. Michael knows what being a Hurricane and coming through that program means. To say its NFL preparatory is a gross understatement.
The Good Lord and Editor willing, the next installment will attempt to bring the "why" to this football phenomenon. You now (or maybe always have) know it's happening and having a profound impact on the NFL landscape, but do you know the reasons why? Hopefully the additional insight into this magical (no, not Orlando) place called "The U" will provide perspective and backing for its contributions to the pro game.
Find Coral Gables. Find answers. For the record, Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell will solidify "The U" sending first-round selections to the NFL for the 14th consecutive year. Don't think so? Make sure you tune in next April. The numbers don't lie.