When NFL Scouts Get It Wrong

by Bob Sparrow

NFL scout career path

Last week Sis gave a great history of the NFL Draft as well as some interesting sidebars.  As luck (not sure if it was good or bad luck) would have it, I was in Las Vegas last week during the festivities, although far enough from ‘The Strip’ to avoid most of the hoopla, but close enough to feel the vibe.

Suzanne mentioned the embarrassment of quarterback, Brady Quinn (or most likely the draft organizers) who was put in a very visible spot, thinking that he was going to be drafted in the first or second round, when in fact he wasn’t picked until round 22!  So, he surely entered the NFL with a chip on his shoulder.  Unfortunately, that chip was probably on his throwing shoulder as his NFL career was less that sterling.  He ‘played’ in the NFL for 7 years, was on 5 different teams, only played in 24 games in his total career, and had more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (12).  So, the NFL scouts got that one right.  But before you feel too sorry for Mr. Quinn, he currently works for Fox Sports as a football analyst at a salary of $715,000 a year and has a net worth of over $10 million.

Giovanni who?

But many times, in fact more than you’d think, the scouts get it wrong.  I say more than you think, because the process of hiring an employee in the NFL is very different from most businesses.  Employers, rather than looking at resumes that most likely have a few hyperboles in it, and having an hour-long interview with a potential hire, NFL scouts have several years of game films to look at, doctor reports, work outs at the NFL Combine and extended conversation with a potential employee’s last boss (college coach).  So, getting the draft wrong would seem highly unlikely, but it’s not.

The quintessential “NFL Draft Oops” was in the 2000 draft when Tom Brady, now arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, was picked in the 6th round, making him the 199th player selected – six other quarterbacks were drafted before him – you’re not alone if you don’t recognize any of their names, Spergon Wynn, Tee Martin, Chad Pennington, Chris Redman, Marc Bulger and Giovanni Carmazzi.  I’m not making these names up!!

NFL’s biggest flop

Other notable ‘Oops’ are Shannon Sharp, drafted 192nd in the 1990 draft, who became an All Pro tight end and was ultimately inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.  Joining him in the Hall was Joe Montana, drafted 82nd in the 1979 draft and lead the 49ers to four Super Bowls.

The scouts get it wrong the other way as well.  Ryan Leaf, was the 2nd player picked in the 1998 draft behind Payton Manning.  In his NFL rookie year, Leaf threw 2 touchdowns and 15 interceptions; and that wasn’t the worst of it, he was a jerk who was despised by both his teammates and his coaches.  He played four uneventful seasons in the NFL and threw for 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.  But, apparently being a ’NFL Quarterback Bust’ is a career path to being a football analyst for a major network, as that’s what Leaf is doing now for ESPN.

I’m guessing that some of those scouts involved in the aforementioned draft picks are now working for Fox or ESPN . . . as janitors.  With the NFL draft now over, football season cannot be far off – can’t wait, especially for the colleges!  Go Utes!!!

The Scarlet Shirt

by Bob Sparrow

                               “The pang of it will always be in the heart”

                                                                                                                                                        Nathanial Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

 Red R     My travels last week were supposed to take me to Salt Lake City for, what I must say with all false modesty aside, an induction into the University of Utah Athletes Hall of Fame. OK, it wasn’t exactly me being inducted, it was the entire 1964 Liberty Bowl football team, of which I was a member. OK, I wasn’t actually a regular member – I was a ‘red shirt’ member.

     For those unfamiliar with the term ‘red shirt’, it is a college athlete, who is on the team, but does not suit up and play in games for the entire year in order to save his or her eligibility.  As a ‘red shirt’ quarterback, I ran the offense of our opponents that week, against our first team defense. I felt it was my job to give our defense confidence with my inept play – I apparently succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. “That was a feckless performance Sparrow”, the coaches would shout and I would beam with pride until I learned the definition of the word feckless.  The origin of the term ‘redshirt’ is sketchy at best, but my experience tells me that these non-playing athletes were so bloodied from getting beaten to a pulp in practice that their jerseys were red.

UofU

Picture Day – The only time I was allowed to wear a University of Utah uniform

   My red shirt never came off; I came to Utah from junior college and transferred after my redshirt year to play for George Siefert, who had taken his first head coaching job at Westminster College in Salt Lake; yes the same George Siefert who coached the San Francisco 49ers to two Super Bowl championships. The same George Siefert, who at a reunion was quoted as saying, “Yes, I coached Joe Montana and Steve Young, but Bob Sparrow was my first quarterback.” I approached him afterwards to thank him for the recognition and he said, “No, I didn’t say first quarterback I said worst quarterback.”  Oh.

     The Utah Liberty Bowl team was honored at half time of this year’s Utah-Fresno State game and at a banquet held the previous night – I imagined my ‘redshirt invitation’ to these events would look something like this . . .

 Dear Redshirt,

     The 1964 Liberty Bowl football team (and you) will be inducted into the University of Utah Athletes Hall of Fame. There will be a banquet Friday night at 8:00 p.m., could you please get there an hour early so you’ll have time to eat before hand and then serve and clear dishes for the regular team? We have sent commemorative blazers and rings to all the regular players, and have enclosed for you to wear that evening, a double extra large commemorative red shirt. As a special favor, we’re asking that you please plan on sticking around afterwards to help clean up.

expendable

The shirt says it all

     The team will be honored at half time of the game on Saturday; would you mind getting to the stadium a little early to wipe down the seats after you finish lining the field? Don’t forget to wear your redshirt to all events, as we don’t want anyone to confuse you with any of the regular team members.

    Maybe I was letting my imagination run a bit wild , but I was just trying to get something off my chest . . . and back – it’s that damn red shirt! Truth be known, I actually got a nice invitation and would have loved to attend, but had other commitments.  I actually had a good experience at Utah and a great experience at Westminster College, where I played football, wrote for the college newspaper and met my first wife . . . OK, two out of three’s not bad; I think she was just a red shirt anyway.

 

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