After thirty-four years in the scouting profession, I always envisioned that I would find myself today having lunch on the veranda overlooking the 18th green at one of the many private golf courses in Sarasota, Florida, all the while contemplating my position as an executive player personnel consultant with an NFL club.
Well, it has become apparent some three years removed from the game that many of these owners have either misplaced my phone number or maybe they just thought I would be insulted accepting a quarter of a million dollar consultant fee for my efforts. I just know I shouldn't have changed my e-mail address when I left the Rams!
The job is certainly no picnic as it would require me to attend the Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine, view tape from my condo on the top fifty players in the country and finally journey to the club city on the Wednesday prior to the draft; talk about heavy lifting!
Well since the call did not arrive, I thought I would graciously offer my services pro-bono to the Ford family for the second time. In regard to my first service to the Ford family, a few years back I saw fit to purchase a Ford Escape which I might add has performed quite admirably.
All right, my next contribution to the Ford family legacy is just a tad more far reaching and perhaps I should provide the readers with some background before attacking the next Lions related problem.
Although he has held an executive position for six years, newly named Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew clearly should not be held responsible for the decisions made by the most inept front office in the history of professional football. Sure he was a part of the process, but the ultimate decision point squarely in the direction of one Matt "About Three Million per Win" Millen, one of America's most successful failures.
For some strange reason, the league as a whole, have done a very poor job of vetting and ultimately choosing general managers. Routinely these positions have been filled by sports writers, television analysts, college administrators, equipment managers, astronauts, recruiting coordinators and most recently accountants. It's no wonder teams have done such a poor job with critical early selections.
A former Florida State product, Mayhew was not only an excellent role player, who combined athletic ability, savvy and competitiveness, but he was also an extremely intelligent person. All of these qualities are essential for an individuals' ultimate success at the GM position, but there is one quality that I have not mentioned that I believe to be the single most important quality one can have and that is "practical experience in the area of player development."
In my years as a professional scout, I have never actually been with a club that made the first selection (we sure as hell were close a number of times), but the pressure these clubs face are certainly not for the faint of heart or inexperienced, so for that reason I will take much of the heat off Martin and help him make the absolute correct decision.
Most of the media pundits and draftniks have pointed to the drafting of Georgia quarterback Mathew Stafford and it would on paper look like a very sound decision. Let's take a quick look at his strong points.
The Quarterback position is without question the most important position on the football field.
Stafford, the big Texan, is one of the most impressive players physically I have seen in recent years. He has broad shoulders, big hands, long arms and has proven to be very resilient.
He's intelligent and showed adequate mobility in the pocket and more pocket presence than I had originally expected (didn't take a lot of sacks or hold the ball).
His arm is so strong, the camera man had a difficult time keeping the football in the picture screen!
Sounds like a slam dunk, wouldn't you say? Well not so fast Mr. Mayhew, I think we need to discuss some area's that I found somewhat troubling.
I'm not a particularly big stat guy, but his 51 to 33 touchdown to interception ratio was not particularly impressive.
He's very pedestrian as a runner with just average body quickness.
He relies on his arm and I didn't think he was particularly quick minded, instinctive football player.
His mechanics were disappointing, particularly when one considers this player is in a first rate program and has received outstanding coaching over the past three year's.
I was very disappointed in his throwing accuracy and throwing touch (really sprayed the football around).
Like I said, he has as a tremendous arm, but release and ability to re-load was not particularly good.
He appeared to have some tunnel vision and forced far too many balls into some very tight windows.
He's got everything you look for physically, but he is in my opinion very much a thrower rather than a passer. I liken him to a big hard throwing pitcher, who after four seasons in professional ball is still toiling in class "A" ball.
Look Martin, your football team lost 16 games last season and given the speed of the professional game, the complexities of the defenses, the Lions lack of a cohesive running game and the player's mechanical deficiencies, I believe this young man will be seriously over matched and ultimately shatter this young players overall confidence. Based on what I've seen, at this stage of his development, the game may well be too fast for him and he would have been better served if he returned for his senior season.
You are going to need a veteran quarterback to lend some stability to your young football club. Daunte Culpepper is certainly not your long term answer at the position, but I believe he gives the Lions the best chance to win in 2009. He has a great deal of experience and remember one other thing, before being injured in 2005; he was as productive a quarterback as there was in the game. Hell, his 2004 passing numbers were as anyone who has ever played this game (548-379-69.2-4,717- 39-11). You literally signed him off his street last season and although his timing and conditioning were not up to standard, he actually got you very close in two of his starts.
That being said Martin I'm now going to give you the name of the best player I saw during the 2008 college season. Barring injury, he going to play a dozen years, will fill a critical need position, will start about the time he arrives at baggage claim at Detroit Metro Airport. His name is Eugene "The Blocking Machine" Monroe from the University of Virginia.
I've seen some good ones over the years Martin; people like Willie Roaf, Chris Samuels, Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Tra Thomas and maybe the best I've ever seen play this game, the great Orlando Pace and I'm telling you today, Monroe has a real chance of being mentioned in the same breathe as all of them.
He's got a great proto-type body (high knotted calves, long arms, big hands, wide hips, bubble and a very defined upper torso), he's extremely bright, strong, explosive on contact, finishes people inline, can get to the second level and adjust in space. He gets great fits, plays on his feet and sustains. Martin, on pass protection, his sets and footwork were outstanding. Handled both speed and power rushes equally well. He was very aware on stunts and alert on his blitz pick-ups.
"Martin, we move # 76 Backus to the left guard position, put Eugene at the left tackle position and I promise you we will not only reduce the number of sacks, but we will also run the football significantly better. Martin, your team has got to get bigger, particularly on the defensive side of the football. Miami and Atlanta proved you really don't have to be particularly good to turn things around and qualify for the playoffs. It's not going to happen over night, but I think the Lions are getting there."
Depending on what the coaching staff thinks of Stanton, we think QB and tight end in rounds two and three and concentrate on defense the rest of the way. I've got to tell you signing cornerbacks Henry and Buchanon were excellent free agent upgrades.
If you guys don't mind, I'm going to take you up on the offer and hang around for a day or two after the draft to watch the Tigers-Yankees series, I'm a big fan of Jim Leyland.
Before I leave Martin, I just want to say you've done a great job thus far and have got this club moving in the right direction. Oh and one more thing, I said I would do this pro-bono, but please extend my heartfelt thanks to the Ford family again for that beautiful silver and blue Mustang convertible! I've got a 9:00 AM tee time on Thursday and plan to show it off to all of my buddies down at the club. Have a great summer and I'll see you in training camp.