This is what the most interesting trade in the NFL since Eric Dickerson to the Colts in 1987 came down to:
From Washington's perspective, Mike Shanahan looked at Donovan McNabb and saw John Elway. In 1995, Shanahan took the Denver coaching job and inherited a quarterback who couldn't win the big one, who'd gotten stale, who'd lost the faith of the locals in Denver to deliver a Super Bowl. Elway, then 35, went on to play four years for Shanahan and win two Super Bowls. In 2010, Shanahan takes the Washington coaching job and deals for a quarterback who couldn't win the big one, who'd gotten stale, who'd lost the faith of the locals in Philadelphia to deliver a Super Bowl. McNabb is 33. He wants to play at least four more years.
From Philadelphia's perspective, and I've written this a hundred times, Andy Reid looked at his team and saw Groundhog Day. Highly competitive every year, falling short every year, usually with some painful offensive futility involved. The vomitous, time-wasting drive at the end of the Super Bowl five years ago, the no-touchdowns-in-the-first-21-possessions frustration in the final two games against Dallas last season. And Reid has a capable young drone, Kevin Kolb, a player whose release, demeanor and progress in three years intrigues him.
I like the trade for both teams. I like Reid trusting himself enough and having enough guts, as Bill Belichick did with Drew Bledsoe nine years ago, to trade McNabb to a division rival. Since the Super Bowl loss to New England, Philadelphia is eight games over .500 in all games, and Reid saw the team hitting a wall. When a coach sees a team getting stale, he has to change, and Reid has done that with the release or trade of nine current or former starters between ages 27 and 33 since the end of the season.
I like Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen knowing they probably couldn't get the college quarterback of their dreams, Sam Bradford, in trade with St. Louis -- and going out and getting a 2010-ready passer who will upgrade their team drastically at the most important position on the field. I'll be surprised if Washington isn't at least four wins better this year, a .500 team.
McNabb should be thankful and supremely motivated. Reid always said through this that he'd do right for McNabb, his first draft choice with the Eagles when he became coach in 1999, and he did. Reid told me last night -- and I believe him -- that he was sure McNabb would have played wherever he was traded, and the fact that he reportedly wouldn't have gone to Oakland and signed a long-term deal there "had nothing to do with this trade.'' But when you trade a quarterback to a team you'll play twice a year, the trading team is thinking: This guy can't hurt us. We know everything about him, and we know we're better turning the page without him.
Those are my initial reactions. Let's dig deeper to see how the impact of the Easter Night shocker will be felt throughout the league.
• St. Louis. The Rams no longer will be tempted by any team, except perhaps Cleveland (five picks in the top 100), about moving up to get the number one pick. I've always doubted Cleveland would seriously consider moving from seven to one in the first round to get Sam Bradford. "Too many holes to fill,'' Mike Holmgren says, and he's right. If you're a Rams fan, start watching Bradford highlights. I'd be surprised if he's not your pick at number one on April 22.
• Elsewhere at the top of the draft. Washington is left with one pick in the top 100 now (number four overall), and you can be sure it'll be on the market during draft week. Allen knows he has multiple offensive line holes to fill, so teams wanting to rise in the round to have a chance at tackles Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga (San Francisco? Seattle? Buffalo?) might be able to do business with the 'Skins at four ... Detroit (two) now loses a possible trade-down partner, but Seattle (six) will be hearing from Allen about a swap.
• Jason Campbell trade partners. I don't think he's worth much -- maybe a fifth-round pick -- but if, say, the Bills or Raiders want to add him to their mix, I'm sure they can have him. Washington would be happy to go forward with Rex Grossman as McNabb's backup if they could get a draft pick for Campbell, who I never believed was any part of Shanahan's long-term plans.
• The NFC East. I'd be worried about the Redskins right now. You've got Shanahan, kicked to the curb by Pat Bowlen a year ago. You've got McNabb, traded to, of all places, an arch-rival. Shanahan's marriages with talented quarterbacks have mostly worked. Elway, certainly. Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler.
I'd be worried about the Eagles too, because Kolb may be the kind of quarterback for Reid that Aaron Rodgers is for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay. No one knew what to expect out of Rodgers except McCarthy, and Rodgers has been aces, obviously. No one's seen Kolb in practice every day except Reid and his staff.
When I talked with Reid last night, he was legitimately excited about the prospect of seeing Kolb in the line of fire. He said to me what he said in his press conference: "Kevin's a young and up-and-coming player that everybody in our building has a tremendous amount of confidence in."
• Albert Haynesworth's psyche. Profootballtalk.com reported this morning that Haynesworth, last year's bonus-baby prize in free-agency, was offered to the Eagles as part of the McNabb deal. There's already a chasm between Haynesworth and this coaching staff because he's not working out in the Redskins' offseason program (don't you think the least he could do, making $12-million a year, is work out with his mates in the program the team wants him in?), and you can be sure this news will percolate with him all offseason. It ought to be a pleasant summer camp between Haynesworth and Shanahan.
• NFL rivalries. The best before Sunday night (current, not necessarily historical) were Patriots-Colts, Packers-Vikings, Ravens-Steelers, Jets-Patriots. The Eagles-Giants, Eagles-Cowboys, Cowboys-Giants rotated in intensity. Now the Eagles and Redskins will go into that top group for the next three or four years. If I'm Howard Katz, the NFL schedule-maker who has a major headache putting this season's slate together, I'm going back to my drawing board this morning on Philly-Washington to make sure at least one of those two meetings is a national prime-time game.
• The Eagle experiment. The last time I saw a playoff team re-tool so drastically over a short period was probably San Francisco in the eighties, when Bill Walsh drafted another wave of great players to replace the Montana-Lott crowd. I'm not putting the Eagles on the Niners' level , but look at the men they've jettisoned in three months:
• Oakland, Seattle, Buffalo, Cleveland, San Francisco. These are the teams with shaky veteran quarterback situations (either in talent, age or injury risk), and each has to look at this trade and say, "If McNabb has a great second career in Washington, we blew it by not trading for him.'' I understand part of this is a risk because McNabb may not sign a long-term contract. But you trade for him, then you prove to him you'll do the right things to contend, and then you work to sign him to be your man for the next five years.
• Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy ... and maybe Dan LeFevour and John Skelton. I said a couple of weeks ago that the Eagles had sent offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback coach James Urban to Fordham to scout mid-round prospect Skelton at his Pro Day. I have heard the Eagles will now focus on Tebow and are likely to join the parade of teams working him out and spending time with him. With seven picks in the first four rounds, Philadelphia has the ammo to go get the developmental quarterback Reid always likes to have on his roster. So don't think they won't be in play for one of these players.
Some offseason, huh? I'd like to know when it starts.
Donte Stallworth, the 29-year-old wide receiver signed by the Ravens in February, spoke to SI.com on Thursday and told me his side of the harrowing vehicular homicide story in which he drove drunk and his car struck and killed 59-year-old Miami crane operator Mario Reyes. It's a harrowing story.
A night that will live in infamy.
When the cell phone rang in his Miami condo around 2 a.m. on March 14, 2009, Stallworth had been asleep for five hours. He'd worked out hard the previous day, a Friday, and gone to bed early, planning to sleep through the night and fly to Cleveland that Saturday evening. Monday was the start of offseason workouts for the Browns, and Stallworth planned to show new coach Eric Mangini he was set to be a stalwart receiver and team leader after having signed a rich extension with the team.
Stallworth has thought about the phone call often -- during his 24 days in a Miami jail, during his long days of house arrest, during workouts, during everything.
"If I could change one thing?'' he said to me. "I wouldn't have gotten out of bed at 2 in the morning. The main thing I've learned through this is that everything you do, every decision you make, leads to subsequent actions and reactions, no matter how minute those decisions might seem at the time.''
But he did get up, and he drove from Miami into Miami Beach to attend a friend's birthday gathering at a nightclub, LIV, at the swank Fontainebleau Hotel. He arrived about 3. He bought a bottle of liquor for his friend's table, and had a couple of shots out of the bottle. Then, Stallworth said, he went to the bar, met some women and did a couple of shots with them. "Four shots total,'' he told me. After that, the party adjourned to his friend's hotel room upstairs.
I asked Stallworth about smoking marijuana that night, and he said he didn't. But he said he had smoked pot on a short vacation trip the previous weekend.
Some time after 5, Stallworth left the Fontainebleau and drove home. "There have been times if I felt I was incapable of driving I'd call a friend of mine, even at 2, 3, 4 in the morning, and I'd leave my car wherever I was,'' Stallworth said. "But on this night, I felt fine, so I drove home.''
He was back in bed about 5:45, but he slept only a short time. About 6:45, he woke up hungry. Because he was leaving for Cleveland that day, he said he'd cleaned out his refrigerator and had nothing to eat in the house. So he got back in his car, a Bentley, and drove toward the MacArthur Causeway, a six-lane, half-mile-long highway from downtown Miami to Miami Beach with several 24-hour restaurants. It was still mostly dark in the morning; sunrise on this day was 7:31 a.m., with Daylight Savings Time having gone into effect the previous weekend.
As Stallworth neared Miami Beach in moderately heavy morning traffic, he was in the far left lane of the three east-bound lanes of traffic. Coming suddenly from his far right, he said he noticed a shadow of a figure running across the right lane. He flicked his lights at the running figure twice and in a split-second had a decision to make -- slam on his brakes and risk a chain-reaction collision; swerve hard to the left into the concrete median; swerve right, which would take him into the path of the runner; or gently hit his brakes and hope the runner stopped. Even with the suddenness of the figure running across the road, he figured the runner would stop rather than try to beat a vehicle that wouldn't be able to stop suddenly enough to avoid a collision.
"Obviously, I wasn't expecting him to cross all the lanes,'' Stallworth said. "By the time I saw him, I thought I had time to gently apply my brakes and hope he'd just stop [in the road while Stallworth's car passed]. I couldn't turn left, because I'd go right into the concrete barrier. I thought maybe he'd see me and figure he should just stop and wait 'til I went by.''
The man didn't stop. Reyes, coming off a night shift for a construction company and running for a bus on the other side of the highway, thudded into the passenger side of Stallworth's Bentley.
"But he didn't die from the impact,'' Stallworth said, somberly. "His feet got run over by my tires, and he fell, and his head hit the concrete.''
Stallworth stopped in the left lane, put on his emergency flashers and reached into the back seat for his cell phone. While he looked out the back window and saw Reyes lying in the road, he dialed 911 and eventually figured out where to tell the operator to send help. He thought he'd be able to look down at the figure in the road when he walked back to the scene, but he couldn't look. By that time, a police officer was there, radioing for help.
"Shock was the first emotion,'' Stallworth said. "I drive that causeway all the time. I never see people running across it.''
When the police began questioning him, Stallworth answered everything. "I waived my Miranda rights,'' he said, meaning the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during police questioning. "I just wanted to be 100 percent cooperative. It didn't hit me that I might be in some trouble until they gave me the field sobriety test.''
Stallworth's blood-alcohol content was .126. The Florida limit for driving while impaired is .08, so Stallworth was above the legal limit by 50 percent. He insists he did not feel impaired the night of the accident, and there's no certainty the accident would have been avoided had he been within the legal limit. But once he tested 50 percent over the limit, it was clear the combination of events would be linked, rightfully, in the eyes of the police.
From there, life unraveled. He pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter in June and reached a settlement with the Reyes family; I've heard Stallworth paid the family at least $3 million. In addition, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail, two years of "community control'' confinement, eight years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service. ("Community control'' is less harsh than house arrest, which would have meant 24-hour-a-day electronic monitoring. Community control is more a strict probation; Stallworth is not allowed to drive for at least four more years, but he can leave home for work, church, medical, legal and community service activities, and for any approved activities by his probation officer.)
The 30-day sentence was reduced to 24 days for a couple of technical reasons.
Commissioner Roger Goodell added to that punishment by suspending Stallworth for the 2009 season. "[The commissioner] told me how much I hurt the [NFL] shield,'' Stallworth said. "But he also said it wasn't the end of the world.''
Immediately, there was intense criticism of Stallworth's sentence, for obvious reasons. He had driven drunk and caused a fatality with his car, and been given only 24 days? It seemed outrageous.
But there were mitigating factors, the biggest of which was that Reyes was trying to cross a well-traveled, six-lane road in poor light, and not using a crosswalk.
"I understood why people were angry about the sentence,'' said Stallworth. "I understand human psychology; I majored in psychology at Tennessee. Everyone wants every story to be black and white, but sometime they're not. It was an intricate case. People hear 'alcohol' and they hear 'deceased' and they tie the two together. But this case just wasn't that easy. I can tell you from being in the middle of it, the police did extensive investigation into the case, and they had no reason to let me off easy.''
Stallworth said he thinks about Reyes' 15-year-old daughter, Daniela, often, as well as the family. "One of the things on my mind has been that she's able to finish whatever schooling she needs and take care of all their bills,'' he said. "But I still realize that doesn't bring him back. It's something I still think about every day, and I always will.''
He served his time -- in solitary confinement mostly -- at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, hard by Miami International Airport. He read, mostly, and wrote in a journal. He read the 9/11 Commission Report and a spiritual novel about a man who meets God (The Shack) and a book about Albert Einstein's thoughts about the planet (The World As I See It) and his Bible. He had correspondence from Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel, his old bosses in Cleveland; from Steve Spagnuolo, who he'd known in Philadelphia. Chad Ochocinco ("I still laugh when I hear him called that,'' Stallworth said) visited, as did his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, his mom, his brother, attorney David Cornwell and a good friend from Cleveland, former Browns communications director Amy Palcic.
"They don't give you a schedule in there,'' he said. "When the lights go off, they go off. But I wanted to make sure this was not a period of despondency for me. I wanted to learn from it, and read and write. I also met a lot of guys in there who were great to me. They've written me since. I never had a high level of anxiety in there, and a lot of the guys basically told me, You don't want to be in here; go live life.''
When he got out and began to train again, he knew he wanted to play in 2010 if Goodell would allow it. Late in the 2009 season, the commissioner met Stallworth at a Dolphins game and told him how much the league loved success stories and comeback stories, but Stallworth couldn't afford even one slip. Goodell told him to do meaningful community service, and be an advocate for the right conduct.
He always figured one team would give him a chance. He just didn't know which one. With nothing to do after jail other than his community service projects, Stallworth worked out harder than he had in years, and when he went to work out for the Ravens in February, he ran the fastest 40 time they'd clocked at their new training facility -- under 4.4 seconds. He told coach John Harbaugh he was disappointed in his career -- he's never had a 1,000-yard season, nor exceeded 70 catches, despite being the 13th pick in the 2002 draft -- and would be determined to be the kind of success story Goodell wanted.
So let's say he is. Let's say Stallworth has a good season. Part of the work is going to be wearing blinders and earplugs.
"What are you going to do,'' I asked, "when people start yelling from the stands, 'Killer! Murderer!' You know it's going to happen.''
"I won't let it get to me,'' he said. "For some reason, I've always been heckled. I know it'll be different now. If anything, when I hear it, it'll make me want to do better. And if I let something like that get to me, I'd be doing my team a disservice. I know it's coming, but I'm not worried about it.''
So now his future is up to him. He can't drink, he can't go out 'til all hours anymore, he has to whittle down those hours of community service, and he has to prove he can fulfill the potential that accompanied his selection as the 13th pick in the draft in 2002. He's now permitted to have contact with the family, though he hasn't yet. (Stallworth's lawyer, Christopher Lyons, said Sunday by e-mail: "While the criminal and civil matters were pending, I informed him that he could have no direct contact with the Reyes family, although from day one he wanted to tell them how sorry he was for their loss and for his part in that. I, on many occasions, did express that sentiment to the Reyes family through their attorneys and was told on numerous occasions how much they appreciated Donte' reaching out to them.'')
In many ways, Stallworth's incredibly lucky. After making a decision that could have ruined his life -- drinking and driving and killing a man -- Stallworth stopped his car, admitted to everything, threw himself on the mercy of the court, tried to make reparations with the family as well as he could (luckily, he was a millionaire athlete who could make such reparations), served his limited time humbly, and set out to work to try to live his privileged life again. Was the sentence fair? Maybe not, but this is not a clean case either.
Last thing: A text message arrived to Stallworth's phone on the day of the accident. It read, "A lot of people know the kind of person you are. You're a good person.''
Tom Brady, his quarterback in 2007.
Now he'll have a chance to prove that. A lot of people will be watching.
The Pats, Eagles, Rams have the draft-weekend edge. Analyzing the draft, and which team has the biggest edge, is difficult this year because there isn't one team with a dominant edge. But here are the teams I believe have the best draft value as of this morning. Keep in mind that trades will happen, surely, to affect the numbers:
• New England. The Pats lead all teams with 12 picks, but that number is misleading because five of those picks are seventh-rounders (between the 229th and 250th overall picks). The good part of the Patriots' early haul is that they'll get great value out of the four picks in the guts of the first two rounds (23rd, 44th, 47th and 53rd). The bad part: They go 66 slots without a pick after number 53. Of course, Bill Belichick and personnel man Nick Caserio could make several deals affecting that order, and this might be the year to move up to take a power player at a position of major need, like tight end, wide receiver or pass-rusher.
The Patriots have one other power piece if there's something they want desperately on April 22 -- Oakland's first-round pick in the 2011 draft, thanks to the Richard Seymour trade. It's likely they won't touch that, but it's pretty comforting to know that, 17 days before the 2010 draft begins, you already have the most powerful position in next year's draft and one of the top ones in this year's as well.
• Philadelphia. With the McNabb deal, the Eagles now have seven picks in the first four rounds, two more than any other team in the league. You can be sure that the Eagles, with new GM Howie Roseman having watched Andy Reid and former GM Tom Heckert wheel and deal over the past few years, will be active on draft day. The ammo they have in the first four rounds (24, 37, 55, 70, 87, 105 and 121) will allow them to do one of the things Reid loves -- trade out of this year's draft to get a number one pick in next year's.
• St. Louis. With picks 1, 33, 65 and 99, the Rams are in position to be the power trader because they hold the first pick on every day of the three-day draft. If they move down in round one, they could get a king's ransom for the first pick. The first pick on day two will be sought after because teams will have so much time to re-set their boards Thursday night and Friday during the day. Such a scenario led to the Jets paying a big price last year to move up 11 spots to deal with Detroit for the first pick of day two to select Shonn Greene. The 99th pick will be the first choice of round four, the top pick of day three.
• Cleveland. The Browns got two roster pieces Friday, linebacker Chris Gocong and corner Sheldon Brown, without touching their five picks in the top 100 (7, 38, 71, 85, 92). They may be in position to take highly touted safety Eric Berry of Tennessee at number seven, and Berry would immediately upgrade a weak secondary. The Browns would also be in position, if they like one of the four top-rated quarterbacks, to move up from number 38 to nab him -- though when I spoke with Mike Holmgren at the owners meetings last month, he seemed intent on not paying a ransom for any one player.
• Tampa Bay and Kansas City. They're close to twins, except for the volume -- Tampa Bay has 11 picks and the Chiefs eight. The Bucs (3, 35, 42, 67 and 101) and Chiefs (5, 36, 51, 68, 102) have multiple holes and are intent on building through the draft.
I like Seattle (6, 14, 60) and San Francisco (13, 17, 49, 79) too, but I would have liked the Seahawks more if they'd stayed at 40 overall instead of trading down 20 spots in the second round in the Charlie Whitehurst trade.
How does the McNabb trade affect the Rams? Maybe not as much as you think.
In the last three days, I've talked at length to Rams GM Billy Devaney and Rams executive VP of football operations Kevin Demoff about their draft plans, and two points seem unshakeable. One: They have not been told by the owners desperately trying to sell the team, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, to go cheap in this draft or save money by trading down. And neither Rosenbloom nor Rodriguez have made any recommendations about what to do with the draft pick, in part because the Rams have spent much of the last year positioning themselves financially to do whatever it would take to sign their draft choices to market contracts. Two: The Rams won't be swayed by not being able to sign their pick before the draft if they decide that's the player they want.
All of that is likely much less important this morning, of course, with Washington being taken out of the mix for the top pick. But I pass it along because I wanted to contest the notion that the Rams will be motivated to save money in this draft more than they'll be motivated to get better.
I doubt any team will pony up the ransom it's going to take to get Bradford. The Rams need him too badly. They need him as a quarterback, and they need him as a franchise face, which they don't have right now. Interior linemen can't be your billboards. Interior linemen don't get stadiums built and franchises sold; quarterbacks do. That's what the Rams need. That's why, at the end of the day, I don't think the Rams would have traded the pick to Washington without the McNabb deal unless they found Jimmy Clausen just a smidge beneath Bradford in ability, leadership and presence.
"In San Diego, everything was taken away from me. There wasn't an emphasis on running the ball. My best fullback [Lorenzo Neal] was gone. The linemen were pass-blocking. We had a passing coach [Norv Turner].''
-- LaDainian Tomlinson, on the plummeting production that led to him being released by the Chargers on the eve of turning 31 this summer and to signing with the New York Jets as a backup to Shonn Greene.
You know I like Tomlinson a lot. And I respect him. But the following is what you say when you clearly aren't the player you once were: "I'm thrilled the Jets have taken a chance with me, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win. If I'm not the player who set all the touchdown records a few years ago, I know I'm still a good NFL running back, and I intend to prove that with the Jets this year.''
I don't remember Tomlinson throwing any ticker-tape parades for his blockers four years ago, or telling ESPN, "I owe half my success to Lorenzo Neal.'' To say it was the Chargers' fault that he's in decline ... and make no mistake, that's what Tomlinson is saying ... well, it's beneath the dignity and the greatness Tomlinson exhibited for so long.
"I don't care. I'm just excited to play football again. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it, no matter where I play.''
-- Sam Bradford, asked if he's concerned about going to play for a team like St. Louis, which has won only six games in the last three years.
"The word 'rebuilding' will never enter our vocabulary.''
-- Eagles GM Howie Roseman, to Eagles.com, two days before the Donovan McNabb trade and shortly after dealing linebacker Chris Gocong and cornerback Sheldon Brown, both 2009 starters, to Cleveland for fourth- and fifth-round draft choices, plus linebacker Alex Hall.
The trade is logical for both teams. Brown, 31, was unhappy with his contract and clearly not better than incumbents Ellis Hobbs and Joselio Hansen; the Eagles would be looking to upgrade at cornerback in the draft. Gocong was going to compete for the starting strongside linebacker job, but that was another spot Philadelphia was trying to upgrade.
In Cleveland, Brown immediately upgrades a weak position, where Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald were the starters Eric Mangini inherited a year ago. Mangini spent last year trying to get linebacker production from rookies like David Veikune and Marcus Benard, picking up Matt Roth on waivers from Miami, and last month signed veteran Scott Fujita in free agency from New Orleans. Gocong and Brown will compete for starting jobs; I believe Brown will start alongside Wright, while Gocong should start at an outside 'backer for the Browns. What Mangini is trying to do here is simple -- upgrade a marginal defense while not sacrificing the guts of a draft he spent all last season trying to buttress.
As we digest the McNabb trade, consider what happened the last time Washington coach Mike Shanahan took a 30-something quarterback under his wing and tried to win a Super Bowl with him. With John Elway, Shanahan actually won two.
For the record, Elway was 50-17 in four seasons with Shanahan.
The impact of this note is moot now that the Redskins have acquired McNabb, but I find it an interesting sign of an intelligent fan base. The Washington Post asked its readers last week if they favored the Redskins moving up in the draft to acquire the draft rights to Oklahoma quarterback Bradford.
In most cases, fans of teams without a certain quarterback of the future would jump at the chance to take a kid who is a legitimate franchise quarterback prospect. That's why the result of this poll surprised me. Post readers, 25,330 of them as of this weekend, were 57 percent against, 42 percent in favor. (Don't ask me why it doesn't add up to 100 percent; I'm just reading off the paper's Web site.)
Those are some mature readers who know their football, readers who are tired of an aging, leaky offensive line getting passer Jason Campbell chased all over the field. Not that GM Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan are going to pay attention to the poll, but it's interesting that a solid majority of a team's fans would rather have a tackle many of them have never heard of than a quarterback who might be a longtime Pro Bowler.
Part of the job that's always fun is going to new places. For me, a late-week trip to Indiana, Pa., about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to see a second-round draft prospect, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, yielded some interesting surprises.
1. IUP has an enrollment of 14,030. That makes it bigger than Duke and Butler, the Final Four finalists.
2. Indiana, a borough of 15,000, has two Starbucks.
3. Jimmy Stewart was born in Indiana, Pa. There is a Jimmy Stewart Film Festival in town every year.
4. Jim Nance was born in Indiana. He's the former Patriots running back whose claim to fame is he's the only back in American Football League history to rush for 1,400 yards in a season.
5. Indiana is the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.
I'm amazed that a college I thought had maybe 3,000 students is as big as it is.
"I could cook spaghetti in the time it takes for one of the CBS timeouts.''
-- simandel, Stewart Mandel, college basketball writer for Sports Illustrated, at 6:51 p.m. Saturday, during Michigan State-Butler.
What, just because a 40-minute basketball game (Saturday's first game began at 6:07 Eastern and finished at 8:29) took 142 minutes?
1. I think the best draft rumor at this point is that the Lions want out of the second spot. It's possible -- not likely, I stress, but possible -- that Detroit might jump out of the second pick and grab the best available offensive tackle wherever they land ... that is if it signs New Orleans restricted free-agent defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove before the draft. The Lions need a tackle of the future badly and coach Jim Schwartz thinks he can get the kind of knifing presence inside from Hargrove. Again, I'm not saying it's likely, but I believe it is an option for the Lions.
(UPDATE: Hargrove signed a $1.2 million offer sheet Monday to stay in New Orleans.)
2. I think if I were in Vegas, I'd put my money on the first five picks in the draft being Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Russell Okung and Bryan Bulaga. The McNabb deal takes Clausen out of the top five, most likely.
3. I think the hidden player in the Browns-Eagles deal Friday might just be a factor in Philadelphia. His name is Alex Hall, a seventh-round pick from St. Augustine (N.C.) College in 2008 by then-Cleveland GM Phil Savage.
Savage believes Hall got short-shrift by the Mangini coaching staff, and when Savage got hired by the Eagles as a scout, he got his brain picked by the Eagles staff, and here comes Hall.
I recall writing about the Browns' offseason in 2008, detailing how Cleveland found this kid from a nowhere football school. Here's what I wrote in an offseason team diary three days before the 2008 draft:
This was crazy. Instead of huddling with his gathered scouts in Berea and massaging the draft board, Savage hopped a 10 a.m. flight to Baltimore, rented a car, drove 24 miles to Prince George's Community College, set up four orange cones on a chewed-up open field, and shook hands with one of the most marginal prospects in the 2008 draft: St. Augustine (N.C.) College outside linebacker Alex Hall.
The draft was three days away, and here was Savage, looking at a player he might take in the seventh round, or try to sign as a longshot free-agent. Why? Because Savage trusts his scouts, and one of his pups on the staff, 25-year-old scout Bobby Vega, told him this was the one second-day guy of the linebackers he scouted who could make an impact this year and eventually -- possibly -- be the bookend pass-rusher to Kamerion Wimbley the Browns needed.
Savage had watched some tape and seen production and good speed (26 sacks in three small-college seasons), but now, before committing a precious pick to Hall, needed to see him. Savage placed a football at the end of the line of cones and asked Hall to run in S-curves through the cones and back. Hall ran through the cones, and without being told scooped up the ball in full stride and ran back. The athleticism stunned Savage. He didn't need to see anything else. Vega was right. Hall had a chance to fill a Cleveland void, and he might last 'til the seventh round.
Under coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, Hall had some modest success as a rookie -- three sacks -- but was a non-factor after the coaching change to Mangini. "He was productive a couple of years ago and didn't have much of an opportunity last year,'' said Philly GM Howie Roseman. Hall, at about 254 pounds, will be tried as a strongside linebacker for the Eagles, competing with Moise Fokou. Clearly, the Eagles have a need that Hall will have a chance to fill.
4. I think the Raiders now have to look at salvaging JaMarcus Russell and getting Bruce Gradkowski healthy enough to challenge him for the job in training camp, now that McNabb is out of the picture. I see Gradkowski winning the job in camp.
5. I think I believe Shaun Rogers. I think he didn't mean to have that loaded (licensed) gun in his carry-on when he went through airport security. A stupid mistake, if you ask me.
6. I think the interesting thing about Dallas cutting Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin for far cheaper alternatives (The Cowboys saved $13.1 million this year by firing the two vets) sort of flies in the face of everyone who said Jerry Jones would be one of the owners who pulls a George Steinbrenner and spends jillions to better his team. Unless Jones steals a couple of good restricted free agents for very big money, which I doubt, he's on the way to a smaller payroll in an uncapped year than he had in a capped one.
7. I think Willie Parker will work the hardest of three backs in Washington (Larry Johnson and Clinton Portis being the others), but that's not going to guarantee him the starting job under Mike Shanahan.
8. I think I'm laughing at everyone who thinks the Chargers are taking some precipitous drop in 2010. They're still three games better than any team in the AFC West. They have two very good picks in the draft (28 and 40), and they haven't lost a cornerstone player in free agency or trade. I don't consider Antonio Cromartie a cornerstone player anymore.
9. I think if the Seahawks have a chance, they'll be hard-pressed to pass on Bryan Bulaga. The GM, John Schneider, loves him.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Stole time in the last week for two of my top 20 movies of all time: The Princess Bride (I love Andre the Giant and Wallace Shawn, and Billy Crystal's love of the mutton, tomato and lettuce sandwich is a killer) and Parenthood (Mary Steenburgen's good from start to finish, as is Jason Robards).
b. Let me lend my incompetent picks for the baseball races: American League -- New York, Minnesota, Seattle; Tampa Bay the Wild Card. National League -- Atlanta, St. Louis, Colorado; Philadelphia the Wild Card. World Series: Tampa Bay over Atlanta.
c. MVPs? Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki. Cy Youngs? Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain. Rookies of the Year? Brian Matusz, Jason Heyward.
d. Don't kill me if you see me at Fenway. Just calling it the races the way I see them. I don't think the Red Sox have enough offense, and the bullpen may be weaker than the fans think. I still think it's absurd that Sox fans got sold a bill of goods on what a bad defensive player Jason Bay was last year. The team will miss that horrible glove this year, I can tell you that. David Ortiz-Adrian Beltre-J.D. Drew 5-6-7? I've got my doubts.
e. Coffeenerdness: The Starbucks close by the IUP campus in Indiana, Pa., is certainly a friendly, inviting place. But it would help to get the drinks right. Two for two wrong in a 20-hour visit.
f. This is the first year as a native Nutmegger that I have no interest in the women's basketball tournament. Usually I find time to root for the Huskies, and it's a shame that either they're way too good or the rivals are just too lousy. It'd be one thing if they were winning narrowly; but games have to be competitions. Average margin of victory this year (including Sunday night's win over Baylor): 35.6 points. Closest game this year: 12 points. Margins of first five games in this tournament: 46, 54, 38, 40, 20. Enough. Make the game competitive, somehow, and I'll be back.
g. If you have a copy of the Sunday New York Times -- or you can click on this link -- you'll see one of the cutest kids in recent history, and a cool story by sportscaster Dave Revsine on father-daughter bonding around the Chicago White Sox.
h. I'll take Duke tonight, regrettably. Who wouldn't love to see the Butler do it? Butler can win by playing great defense beyond the three-point line, but I just don't think the Bulldogs can do it and stay out of foul trouble for 40 minutes.