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Ex-GM Casserly tells of drowning out the draftniks


General manager Charley Casserly and the Texans owned the first pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

The good people of Houston wanted running back Reggie Bush. They were even hungrier for local hero Vince Young.

Casserly and the Texans did not comply, instead choosing pass rusher Mario Williams out of North Carolina State. As word leaked on the night before the draft that Williams was the pick, the outcry in Houston was fierce.

It's hard to argue with the choice today.

Now with NFL Network, Casserly remains a workhorse. Sitting a stone's throw away from the man, here in the NFL Media newsroom, you get a sense for his drive and attention to detail.

Casserly's desk is a flood of stuffed binders and notebooks dense with handwritten reports. He'll field 10 calls an hour, scouting players, sharing information, chatting with radio stations across the land, seamlessly shifting from talk of Ryan Tannehill to Jerel Worthy to the distant Joe Jacoby. 

This is the man, as GM of the Redskins, who fleeced Mike Ditka and the Saints out of their entire 1999 draft -- plus a first and third in 2000 -- simply to allow New Orleans to move up from No. 12 to No. 5 to select Ricky Williams. Washington still got their man, Champ Bailey, at No. 12.

On Thursday morning, I asked Casserly about the Mario Williams draft and how he went about dealing with the pressures of a public wanting someone else in a Texans uniform.

People in Houston were livid over the Williams pick. With all the talk about Bush and Young in the weeks leading up, did public opinion matter?

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It should have zero effect on how you pick. Because the ultimate thing is this: If you get it right, everybody is going to agree with you. If you get it wrong, everybody is going to say you're an idiot. So, whatever they say that first day isn't going to make any difference in the long run -- it's whether you get it right in the long run. So you have to be oblivious to it. You have to have confidence in your system, your research, your staff, that you're making the right decision. And then you make, and you can't worry about anyone else.

Was there internal pressure on you to go after someone other than Mario?

I give our owner credit there, Bob McNair, because he was under a lot of pressure. From inside the building. I think there was minority partners that didn't agree with it. Sponsors didn't agree with it. Fans didn't agree with it. And he never wavered. He said do what you think is the right decision for the football team. We didn't have that element in there, where we had an owner in the room saying, 'You know, boy, this would really help us now.' And if you have that, you got to ignore it anyway. Because ultimately you're paid to do a job and you've got to make the right choice.

As a GM, how did you drown the outside world? The hyper analysis?

I was aware of it ... but in reality, you probably hear one percent if you hear that much. Because here's what happens. You don't hear talk radio, because you're in the car for 15 minutes twice a day. Yes, I see what's in the newspaper, because I want to be aware of that, in case I have to answer any questions. I see no local television, because I'm working. I don't see any national television at all, because I never turn it on, because I'm working. I'm not here to watch television, I'm here to work, OK? So in all this stuff that's going on, you never really hear any of it. There's two worlds: There's the world here, and there's the world with the team, and it's like they could be on the moon and we could be on the earth and it's that far apart.

This doesn't sound like a 40-hour gig.

You're seven days a week. Normally, my schedule was, I'd come in about seven in the morning and leave about nine at night. Depending on the weekend, it might not be quite that long, but you'd be in. When I got home at night -- the last thing I was interested in was turning on the sports. You really don't watch television. I'd come home and I'd start reading clips at night, at the end of the day. And that's it.

Our talk unfolded at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. Late that night, I returned to the office to grab some papers. Casserly was still there, a single light burning over his desk, draft notes scattered everywhere. A man in love with his work, and serious about doing it right.


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