Is it possible that Steve Spurrier will just have to have one of those players that will be gone after the first half dozen picks and that Dan Snyder would put together a proposal, sell it to another team, and move up into one of those coveted half dozen slots? Could an opportunity the Redskins just couldn't pass up fall into their laps? If we've learned anything from Snyder's Redskins it's that you should never say never. Over the coming week, Warpath Insiders wonders, "What if?")
The gasps from those attending were immediate and Mel Kiper was so shocked that you could actually see several dozen strands out of place on his coiffed hair. Before Kiper could fix his mane, ESPN ran a few seconds of Terrell Suggs highlights on the air before someone in the control booth realized that the pick was Leftwich and punched the button to the right player's segment.
It was supposed to be a slam dunk that Arizona would select defensive end Suggs, the single-season NCAA sack record holder who, as an Arizona State Sun Devil, played his home games in the same stadium that the Cards call home.
Suggs' agent, however, was making strong suggestions that his client wasn't going to settle for being paid like the sixth overall pick. The agent's logic was that since most draft boards had Suggs rated as one of the top three players available that he should be paid like a top three pick. The ever-frugal Cardinals, with a long history of long training camp holdouts by top draft picks, decided to take a player to replace departed QB Jake Plummer instead of the hometown hero.
All of a sudden the equally cash-strapped Vikings were on the board with Suggs, by far the best player available, staring at them on their draft board. Just when they were starting to contemplate how big a signing bonus Suggs would be looking for, the phone rang. On the other end was Dan Snyder with an offer to send Washington's 2003 second-round pick, their 2004 first-rounder, and cornerback Fred Smoot to the Vikings for the pick that was now on the clock. Minnesota head coach Mike Tice thought about it for a moment, and said he'd need a third-round pick, too. How about next year's fourth, countered Snyder. Not wanted to repeat the previous year's embarrassment when the clock ran out before they selected in the first round, the Viking brain trust quickly agreed to the deal.
The words announcing the trade and the Redskins' selection of Suggs had barely left the commissioner's lips and Snyder's private jet was fully fueled and a flight plan for Phoenix was in the process of being filed. Before the first round had staggered to an end at 6:45 Eastern time, the limo that the Redskins had sent for their newest member was pulling up to the gate at the general aviation terminal at the Phoenix Airport. Suggs got out, slug his overnight bag over his shoulder, and boarded the jet.
"We got us a good one here," said Steve Spurrier at the 10:00 AM press conference at Redskins Park. "He'll work with Bruce and Reagan Upshaw. Maybe we'll move Renaldo Wynn inside, don't know yet. We'll start sorting that out at minicamp next week."
"When you have an opportunity to obtain a player with his talent, you have to move to take it," said Snyder. With a sharp edge to his voice, he added, "I would suggest that, in the future those of you in the media who are going to take shots at this organization for not including an upgrade of the defense in our master plan wait until that plan has been fully executed before criticizing us."
"Besides," Snyder added with a sly grin on his face, "the Jets wanted Suggs and were about to pull the trigger on a deal to take him right after Minnesota's pick. I guess Bradshaw's spin machine will be cranking up again there in New Jersey."
Snyder also admitted that, since they didn't think they would have a chance to draft him, the Redskins hadn't interviewed Suggs at the combines or paid much attention to his workout numbers.
Sharply dressed in a stylish dark suit tailored to his 6-4, 262-pound frame, Suggs strode up to the podium and posed with Spurrier and Snyder holding up a burgundy jersey sporting number 96. Even if the NFL did permit defensive ends to wear number 48, his number at Arizona State, the Redskins would have been reluctant to hand it out in deference to the recently-departed Stephen Davis. Suggs decided to double up his old number and go with 96.
The prize rookie, who won't turn 22 until midseason, looked over the assembled media mass with a mix of puzzlement and delight.
"I'm delighted have a chance to be a part of the Redskins tradition," said Suggs. He brushed aside questions about the rumors concerning his potential contract demands, saying, "Mr. Snyder has a reputation for being more than fair when it comes to paying his players. I'm sure we'll be able to come to a deal."
When asked about learning from Bruce Smith, Suggs tone turned nearly reverent. "I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I intend to take full advantage of it."
All defensive coordinator George Edwards could do was stand there and smile.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins from A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. For details about this unique book, which chronicles all 925 games the Redskins played from 1937 through 2001, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com