Posted: 11:31 am Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
By Post Staff
When the Miami Dolphins had the No. 1 pick in 2008, they spent considerable resources scouting the draft’s top three quarterbacks, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne.
They looked at their college resumes; physical attributes; arm strength; leadership; and character.
But one other measureable made Henne the most desirable pick.
“Not quite as expensive,” Bill Parcells, the team’s former executive vice president of football operations, said Tuesday night in his 90-minute ESPN special.
He’s not kidding. A look back at the previous four No. 1 overall picks shows the Dolphins cut themselves a serious bargain when they drafted Jake Long with the first pick and took Henne 57th overall in the second round.
2007: JaMarcus Russell: 6 years, $68 million max value, $31.5 million guaranteed
2008: Jake Long: 5 years, $57.5 million, $30 million guaranteed
Matt Ryan (No. 3): 6 years, $72 million, $34.75 million guaranteed
Joe Flacco (No. 19): 5 years, $30 million, $8.75 million guar.
Chad Henne (No. 57): 4 years, $3.5 million, $1.4 million guar.
2009: Matt Stafford: 6 years, $78 million max value, $41.7 million guaranteed.
2010: Sam Bradford: 6 years, $78 million, $50 million guaranteed
In an unprecedented move, Long actually took less money – both overall and guaranteed – than the previous year’s No. 1 pick, JaMarcus Russell. And in another unprecedented move, Long took less money than Ryan, who went No. 3 overall to Atlanta. To counter, Long took one fewer year on his contract, getting him to free agency and another potentially big payday a year earlier. Long was also still able to get more guaranteed money per year ($6 million) than did Russell ($5.25), but less than Stafford ($6.95).
Getting bargains with Long and Henne was no accident.
“Took maybe the sure thing, a position of less margin for error, left tackle,” said Parcells, who talked more on Tuesday night (90 minutes) than he did in three years with the Dolphins. “This is a dynamic that existed. This is why we have labor problems, all this guaranteed money. It’s devastation for the team. The teams are trying to run out of those early picks, and no one wants them.”
Parcells said the “draft record on tackle is a lot better than it is with other positions.” And the pressures of drafting a quarterback in the first round can be too great.
“Guys that are picked at the top of the draft – ‘Well, if they’re paying him this much money, they’ve got to play him,’” Parcells said. “You’re gonna have to give the guy a chance, and you’re gonna have to live with the result. And if it’s no good, probably someone else is gonna get to live with the next result, and it probably won’t be you.”
Parcells said most quarterbacks need some “red-shirt” time before taking over an offense and can benefit from being a middle- or late-round prospect.
“If you’d ask Tom Brady or Joe Montana, that didn’t get taken quite as high, that was a real asset for those players,” Parcells said. “No one was pounding on the table, ‘Let’s see Brady, let’s see Brady.’ … Best illustration: Aaron Rodgers. Championship quarterback now. Three years red-shirt, ready to rock. Now his future’s unlimited.”
Ironically, Parcells and the Dolphins still created similar pressures for Henne, even after drafting him in the second round and paying him a fraction of what the first-round quarterbacks make. They still anointed Henne as the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback and threw him to the wolves, to use Parcells’ term, early in his second season after Chad Pennington was injured.
Perhaps they wanted him to “red-shirt” another year, but didn’t have that luxury once Pennington went down. Now Henne is 13-14 in two seasons as a starter, and has fans begging for the team to draft his replacement.
Other things we learned from the Parcells special:
* Classic Parcells: He kinda, sorta takes the blame for the Pat White pick in 2009, but lets you know that it wasn’t really his pick. “Well, that was my mistake. Or our mistake. My mistake, I would say primarily, because I was the one charged with it eventually.”
* As for why they took an undersized, inaccurate quarterback in the second round: “We were caught up in this Wildcat, and it had been successful for us. It had won a division for us. And now we see a guy that looks like he has attributes that are gonna enable us to expand that a little bit and be a little bit more of a threat. So we kinda got caught up in that. The young man was a high producer in college, he was a most valuable player in four bowl games, he led his school to an inordinate number of wins, he had almost all of (the criteria).”
“It’s our mistake. We violated a principle, and when you violate principles, invariably, it leaps up and bites you, and that’s what happens.”
* Parcells said the Wildcat formation, which was wildly successful in 2008, somewhat successful in 2009 and not at all successful in 2010, “was a novelty that was successful for a period of time.”
* Host Mike Tirico asked Parcells about some of the intangible qualities that can define a quarterback’s success. Parcells’ answer: “He’s being booed, he threw 3-4 interceptoins, he got his nose broken, the fans are booing him, the press is on his butt, the coaches are looking at him sideways, the players are looking at him sideways, and now it’s Wednesday, he was the reason you lost last week, and he’s got to get back in that huddle and prove he can lead the team. And until you see that, you’re never gonna know.”
Sound like the things a certain young quarterback in Miami is going through?
* After not speaking for three years, and leading an ultra-secretive organization, Parcells essentially spilled his guts about his draft philosophies and organizational structure, which I’m sure Jeff Ireland appreciated:
– With a first-round pick, Parcells targets players “who can impact the game quickly,” which he identifies as pressure defensive players (DEs and OLBs), cornerbacks and offensive skill players.
– Parcells’ player grading system, which he said he didn’t use “at my previous stop,” is based on a number grade and a letter grade. The number grade goes from 2.0 (reject player) to 9.0 (instant Pro Bowler). Only one player in history has received a 9.0: running back Billy Sims. A first-rounder usually has a grade of 7.0 and higher.
Then Parcells assigns an attribute to the letters A through K. Some examples:
A: Dominant impact player
C: Undersized impact player
E: Non-competitive player
F: Lacks speed
K: Redeeming quality
– The organization assigns its scouts to six regions – three east of the Mississippi, three west. The director of college scouting is responsible for personally scouting the top 120 or so players. And the team employs two cross-checkers, one in the east, one in the west.
* In Parcells’ mind, running backs are rated almost solely on college production and fumbles. “They’re not worth it if they fumble.” Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones, who has been linked to the Dolphins a lot in the past couple of weeks, had 17 fumbles in three college seasons. Parcells really likes Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams, Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas and Illinois’ Mikel LeShoure, all given second-round grades. Mark Ingram is his only first-round running back.
* Parcells loves Cam Newton, has him rated as a high first-rounder. Of Newton’s comeback win at Alabama last year, when he led Auburn to victory despite trailing 27-3 on the road, “I don’t think there’s 3-4 guys in history who could’ve done what he did that day.”
* How Parcells ranks the quarterbacks: 1st: Newton, Blaine Gabbert; 2nd: Ryan Mallett; Christian Ponder, Jake locker; 3rd: Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick; 4th: Ricky Stanzi
* Parcells said Dalton doesn’t have prototypical size, and Mallett isn’t elusive and has durability issues (was injured for his last two spring practices at Arkansas)
* Rates Mike Pouncey as the only first-round center. His highest-ranked guards are Danny Watkins and Stephen Wisniewski in the 2nd round.
* Rates Nate Solder as a high first-round offensive tackle, with Tyron Smith and Anthony Castonzo also in the first round. Rates Jah Reid and Derrek Sherrod as second rounders, and has Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi rated all the way down as a third-round tackle, with Marcus Cannon and Anthony Franklin.
* Says inside linebackers, particularly third-down coverage guys who double as special teamers, can be found in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft (like A.J. Edds, the Dolphins’ fourth-rounder in 2010). He really likes Oregon’s Casey Matthews for this position.
* Parcells calls tiny players, like Darren Sproles, Jacquizz Rodgers, Wayne Chrebet and Troy Brown, “Mascot players.” “He looks like the team mascot. The fans love him. It’s hard to cut him,” Parcells said.
* Parcells’ sleepers: Purdue DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Southern Arkansas nose tackle Cedric Thornton, Fort Valley State WR Ricardo Lockette.
* On his draft board, Parcells had 6 DEs, 4 NT/DTs and 3 OLBs with first-round grades, by far the strength of the draft. Parcells also said that 52% of all draft picks from the past 10 years have come from 27 schools.
* Overall, the 90-minute special was a bit much. Parcells certainly is one of the game’s legendary figures, but his resume seems a bit underwhelming: 19 seasons, 172 victories (9.05 per year), 11 playoff victories, two Super Bowls. He hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1991, has won one playoff game since 1996, and eight of his 11 playoff victories came in his three Super Bowl seasons: 1986, 1990 and 1996. He had three playoff victories in his other 16 seasons. And the Dolphins have struggled with 7-9 finishes in each of his final two seasons in charge of the roster.
It’s also tough to take Parcells’ axioms and philosophies to heart when he so readily violated his principles to draft Pat White. And when he admits that Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, considered perhaps the best left tackle of all time, was left completely off his team’s draft board in 1980 because of medical flags.