Every year around this time, the glass looks half full for all 32 NFL teams. Whatever flaws existed at the end of last season are soon to be corrected, at least partially, by Thursday's draft.
Right now, talent evaluators -- both expert and novice -- are putting together their mock drafts, trying to divine how each team might put a little more punch into that glass. Anybody who thinks they can do this flawlessly, however, is the one worthy of being mocked.
Sometimes, a team's fate can be improved not by filling that glass, but by emptying it. It's called addition by subtraction, and every team could benefit from some. So, how 'bout we take a little break from projecting who should be drafted by which team and instead figure out which one person, place or thing each franchise wishes they'd never known.
It's not the NFL Draft, it's the NFL Un-Draft! Oh, look, the commissioner's making his way to podium right now ...
1. Carolina -- Rae Carruth
The 23rd overall pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, Rashard Anderson, was no prize (two seasons played, two seasons missed due to suspension for substance-abuse policy violations), but Carruth -- the 27th pick in the first round of the 1997 draft -- has alternated between jail and car trunks after being found guilty of conspiring to commit murder in 2001.
|Chris Schneider / Associated Press|
|After defeating the Patriots to open the 2009 season at 5-0, Josh McDaniels went 6-17 as Broncos coach.|
2. Denver -- Josh McDaniels
Before he even coached his first game, you could tell his gutting of the Broncos wouldn't turn out well, and it certainly seems the damage he did to the team will last longer than his inglorious 28-game tenure.
3. Buffalo -- Buffalo Bill mascot
Naming the team after Buffalo Bill, the man responsible for nearly rendering the American buffalo extinct, has done a splendid job of setting the tone for this less-than-proud franchise.
4. Cincinnati -- Every quarterback not named Carson Palmer drafted in the first round
The only good thing about the quartet of David Klingler, Akili Smith, Greg Cook and Jack Thompson is Thompson's nickname, "The Throwin' Samoan" ... and in our overly politically correct world, even that's not so good anymore.
5. Arizona -- Phoenix's reputation as a destination for old people
Sure, it's good for real estate and restaurants that serve dinner early, but the Cardinals have suffered through the final season or two of several elderly former All-Pros looking to stave off retirement. I'm looking at you, Emmitt Smith, Edge James, Dave Krieg and Boomer Esiason. Cards fans just wish they hadn't been forced to.
6. Cleveland -- Art Modell
He started his reign by firing Paul Brown, the man after whom the team was named; he ended his reign by firing the city of Cleveland. Give him credit: he was nothing if not thorough.
7. San Francisco -- Alex Smith
Some might say that the Niners would've been better off using the first overall pick in 2005 on Aaron Rodgers, the kid with a big-time arm and Bay Area roots ... but this has worked out great, too.
8. Tennessee -- Pacman Jones
It's tempting to go with Vince Young, who seems to be the main reason why Jeff Fisher is no longer coaching the team after 17 years, but when it comes down to it, three words say it all: "Making it rain!"
9. Dallas -- Barry Switzer
Close call going with Switzer over Dave Campo, who did for the (mostly) proud Cowboys franchise what Timothy Dalton did for the otherwise proud James Bond movie franchise (namely, he turned it into a punchline). Switzer gets the nod, though, for two reasons: One, if it weren't for his personal foul for bumping a ref in the 1994 NFC Championship Game against the Niners. Dallas might have pulled that game out and won its third straight Super Bowl. Two, he was a boob. Speaking of which ...
10. Houston -- Janet Jackson's bosom
I realize that neither Janet nor any of her lady parts are technically a part of the Texans' franchise, but it was on the field of Reliant Stadium, during Super Bowl XXXVIII, that the world was sent into a tizzy after she showed us her ... lady part.
11. Washington -- Dan Snyder
There are countless absurd free-agent deals, bad coaching hires, lawsuits against season-ticket holders, and just three winning seasons since he bought the team in 1999. Take a bow, Dan -- you've managed to jam five lifetimes' worth of ineptitude into a mere dozen years.
12. Minnesota -- Brett Favre
It was one thing for the Jets to get him; the Packers weren't their divisional archrival. I understand loyal Vikings fans are desperate for a winner, but not at the cost of their souls. Lucky for them, then, that Favre did in the 2009 NFC Championship Game what he almost always did in crucial moments of his big games: throw an interception.
13. Detroit -- Matt Millen
I don't have to explain this one, right?
14. St. Louis -- St. Louis
Sorry for any disrespect to the residents of the Gateway to the West -- any town best known for making beer is okay in my book -- but leaving the sun and natural grass of Southern California for a domed, AstroTurf field is the football equivalent of swapping a Budweiser for an O'Doul's. One silver lining for Los Angeles football fans: at least they didn't have to watch Lawrence Phillips.
15. Miami -- Mercury Morris
Let's make a deal, Dolphins fans: You get to keep the 17-0 season if you'll just strike Morris' name from the 1972 roster. I know I speak for the rest of the world in saying that hearing him prattle on when each season's last-remaining undefeated team goes down is one of the most annoying annual traditions in sports.
16. Jacksonville -- The aqua jerseys
Calling that color "teal" ain't fooling nobody, Jags. The Dolphins have earned the right to be the only football team wearing it, at least in the state of Florida. I know the NFL is a copycat league, but c'mon.
17. New England -- The 2011 pick from Oakland*
Almost everyone hailed the genius of Belichick and Co. when they dumped Richard Seymour on the supposedly naïve Raiders, but it says here the Patriots would've made the Super Bowl had Seymour been in the trenches against the Jets in their divisional-round matchup in January.
* And now that I've given the Raiders back their pick, it's only fair to let them Un-Draft someone. So let's go with every transaction they made between 2003 and 2010.
18. San Diego -- Norv Turner
He's done the impossible: He's made Chargers fans pine for Marty Schottenheimer's postseason coaching.
19. New York Giants -- Bob Gibson
No, not that Bob Gibson. I'm referring to the Bob Gibson who, in 1978, as the Giants' offensive coordinator, called a running play instead of just kneeling on it to run out the clock against the Eagles. Consider yourself off the hook, Joe Pisarcik. You just ran the play that was called (kinda like Rifleman in the final moments of Ampipe's near-upset of Walnut Hills in "All The Right Moves").
20. Tampa Bay -- Bo Jackson
Jackson repeatedly told the Buccaneers that he didn't want to play for them, but they went ahead and wasted the first overall pick of the 1986 draft, anyway. In other words, they ignored the Bo no's. (Sorry, I should Un-Draft that last sentence). At least the Bucs didn't have to feel like it was an indictment of their franchise. Bo just preferred to play baseball. Well, until he started playing for the Raiders the following season.
21. Kansas City -- Todd Blackledge
Undrafting for some teams is easy.
Why? Because it'll help legitimize the laughable contention that the Colts haven't won more Super Bowls because Manning has been forced to carry the team on his back throughout his career. As it currently stands, legions of Manning's apologists have to hope the rest of us ignore the fact that he's played with potential future Hall of Famers like Marvin Harrison, Edge James and Reggie Wayne. So either we Un-Draft all those players, or just concede that Manning tends to choke in games played in January and February.
23. Philadelphia -- Mike Mamula
Freddie Mitchell and Kenny Jackson both earned some consideration for Un-Drafting, and Donovan McNabb got a long look for puking on the field in the Super Bowl, but people still toss around Mamula's name as the benchmark for all other combine workout wonders.
|Russell Erxleben's illustrious college career at Texas earned him an unexpected selection in the first round of the 1979 draft.|
24. New Orleans -- Russell Erxleben
The good news was he kicked and punted. The bad news was he didn't do either particularly well. Worse news: The Saints wasted the 11th overall pick of the 1979 draft on him. On the bright side, he was a better football player than financial investor. He spent five years in the clink for securities fraud.
25. Seattle -- John Thompson
Rick Mirer, Dan McGwire and Brian Bosworth were each awfully worthy of Un-Drafting, but Thompson -- the team's general manager in 1977 -- overshadows them all for trading away the second overall spot in the 1977 draft to Dallas for their first-round and three second-round picks. Cowboys VP Gil Brandt turned that pick into Tony Dorsett. Thompson turned his picks into a cautionary tale about the virtues of quality over quantity. Why can't there be dopes like Thompson in my fantasy league?
26. Baltimore -- Brian Billick
Sure, they won the Super Bowl while he was the head coach, but Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens' dominant defense did so in spite of the all-time hideous offense that the alleged offensive-wizard Billick created. What's more, he developed exactly no above-average quarterbacks over the course of his overlong nine-year tenure. Which is odd for an alleged offensive wizard.
27. Atlanta -- Bobby Petrino
It probably seemed like a good idea hiring the guy who turned around a moribund Louisville program ... until he quit during his first season as the Falcons' head coach. Worse yet, he dumped his players like a bad boyfriend on "Sex and the City," leaving them a breakup note in the locker room.
28. New England -- Flying Elvis
Sometimes, there's no accounting for taste -- I, for instance, would opt for Bridget Moynahan over Gisele Bündchen -- but in this case, there can be no debate: Pat is empirically cooler than Elvis.
29. Chicago -- Any player wearing No. 8
Vince Evans wore it for six seasons, none of which included him throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions. Rex Grossman disgusted Bears fans for the majority of his half-dozen seasons in Chicago in spite of that 2006 run to the Super Bowl. Still, the gold standard for atrocities committed against Bear-kind by a player in the not-so-great No. 8 is Cade McNown, upon whom Chicago wasted the 12th overall draft pick in 1999. As abysmal as he was on the field, he behaved himself even worse off of it. First, he stole fellow first-round-quarterback-bust Tim Couch's Playmate girlfriend. Then, he committed a cardinal sin by stealing Hugh Hefner's Playmate of the Year ladyfriend. After all Hef's done for mankind? Have you no honor, sir?
The Giants are ashamed of the New Jersey affiliation, too, but at least the stadium bears their team name. Woody Johnson couldn't convince the Mara family to spell it "Jiants Stadium"?
|Dan Marino played college ball at Pitt, which some thought would make him a natural pick for the Steelers in 1983.|
31. Pittsburgh -- Mark Malone
If the Steelers hadn't used their first-round pick on Malone in 1980, they wouldn't have felt as secure at the quarterback position, which in turn may have led them to take a local kid named Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft.
32. Green Bay -- Vince Lombardi
Green Bay -- Tony Mandarich
There have been plenty of draft busts, but the Mandarich pick is especially egregious because of who the Pack missed out on as a result. Take a look at the first five picks of the 1989 draft:
1. Dallas: Troy Aikman
2. Green Bay: Mandarich
3. Detroit: Barry Sanders
4. Kansas City: Derrick Thomas
5. Atlanta: Deion Sanders
That's right: four Hall of Famers ... and Mandarich. Even worse, Green Bay will forever have to live with the shame of being outsmarted by the Lions. Ouch.
So there you have it. If nothing else, I hope we've learned that no one's perfect, including the more annoyingly vocal members of the perfect '72 Dolphins.
Here's hoping no team's ineptitude requires a revision of this before the 2012 NFL Draft.