Sunday, April 29, 2007

Took the boat out today for the first time and had a splendid day. Until we ran out of gas, that is (yes, I was in charge of the gasoline). Thank God for trolling motors, even if it was an arduous trek back to the dock. My wife caught all the fish - I snapped a fishing pole in half and am severely sun burnt.

I barely made it back in time for Al's bracelet tourney. Yes, I'm sitting and folding there right now while doing some reading.

But for now, in honour of the NFL draft, allow me to blog the draft, Cincinnati Bungals style.

Fine column by Paul Daugherty:


Bengals doing less with less
Adding personnel staff would cost dollars, but make sense

On Draft Day, the Bengals have what everyone else has: a board of names crammed with more information on each potential draftee than the CIA has on Castro. They can tell you how long it takes Darrelle Revis to run 40 yards, what Aaron Ross leaps vertically (tall buildings in a single bound!) and whether Michael Griffin prefers Skippy or Jif.

They have all the data and most of the intangibles. What they don't have is enough eyes, ears and opinions. They lack numbers. This hurts them more in the pro personnel area than it will today. But it hurts today, too. Yet Mike Brown likes his personnel department the way it's always been. Little.

He has his brother Pete, the team's vice president of player personnel, who watches more video than Ebert. Pete Brown is an unsung hero of the organization, sort of a Rain Man of scouting detail. He seems to know everything.

Mike has scouts: his son Paul, the director of football operations; Jim Lippincott; Greg Seamon; and Duke Tobin, a sharp talent spotter who sleeps less than a 12-ounce cup of Starbucks. Mike has two consultants: Bill Tobin, Duke's father, well-connected and wired into the football-rich South, most notably the Southeastern Conference; and John Cooper, the former Ohio State and Arizona State coach, equally entrenched in the college game. And that's it.

That's the problem.

It's not impossible to fix. It just takes a little money. Uh-oh.

In Baltimore, the Ravens have what they call the 20/20 Club. It's for ambitious, aspiring football savants, who'd rather break down game tape than have a life.

They're a group of scouts in their early 20s, hired for the poverty wage of about $20,000.

The 20/20s do grunt work, but they're also trained in what could be called the Ravens Way. They watch film. They're in personnel meetings. They're schooled in what the Ravens want in a player. It's not necessarily what you can measure, time or read on a stat sheet.

They're offered the carrot of upward mobility. Hence, the Ravens have a continuity in the personnel department that assures they get the kind of players that "fit (their) scheme, temperament, (and) persona" as national scout Joe Horvitz put it in an interview with the Washington Post. "We are grading specifically for the Ravens."

Baltimore also declines to pay the two scouting services used by all but six NFL teams, including the Bengals. The Ravens can hire two scouts for the $100,000 they save from not paying a service. "It forces us to become more reliant on ourselves, not on somebody else's word of mouth," Horvitz explained.

It's no coincidence the Ravens have the best draft record in the NFL since 1999. Forty-six of the 62 players (74.2 percent) taken by the Ravens since '99 were on a league roster at the start of last season. Twenty-twenty vision, you might say.

Teams have been doing this for a while. More than 25 years ago, the Baltimore Colts hired a kid straight out of Wesleyan, a Little Ivy League school in New England. He was the original 20/20. They paid him $25 a week and put him up in a local hotel. He broke down game film and occasionally slept on a desk at Memorial Stadium.

When he asked after a year for a raise and a company car, Colts GM Joe Thomas turned him down, so he moved on. The kid was Bill Belichick. He's done OK since.

Belichick has his own young grunts now in New England. He had a kid named Eric Mangini, reprising the role of Bill Belichick, circa 1980. Mangini coaches the Jets now. And so on.

These are people who can tell Belichick 10 minutes after a veteran from another team is released the reason he was let go, if he'd fit as a Patriot or if he'd be a waste of time. This is how the Steelers found an unhappy, supposed malcontent running back in St. Louis and turned him into a Super Bowl running back and likely Hall of Famer.

If he could land a diamond from the rough like Jerome Bettis, might Mike Brown kick in a couple hundred thousand a year for young, smart scouts?

We can dream. Meantime, expect business as always from the Bengals. Nothing spent, nothing gained.


Last, but truly not least, a huge congratulations to CJ over at UpForPoker for moving all in. Well played, Sir.

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