SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The NFL can wait. Osama bin Laden is dead.
Amazing sitting here in the early hours of this morning, after hearing President Obama announce the death of al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden, the man we've been trying to find for almost 10 years, ever since the plot to fly planes into buildings changed our way of life on Sept. 11, 2001. Ten years. And what an eerie end. While the world was following the Royal Wedding in England on Friday, Obama was giving the orders to have Navy Seals swoop into the bin Laden compound and take out bin Laden at all costs. The attack, on Sunday, took 44 minutes from start to finish, CNN reported, and ended with the Seals carrying bin Laden's body out with them.
It was fascinating to be up all night and to see and feel the upshot of it. Reporter Jim Forman of KING5-TV in Seattle was on a Delta flight with TV and Internet and sent this tweet at 11:18 p.m.: "9/11 widow on my flight. In tears. Comforted by entire cabin. Life altering event to see.'' College campuses and city streets erupted in celebration; a photo from Penn State showed thousands in downtown State College. The front page of this morning's Chicago Sun-Times floated around Twitter, a close-up of bin Laden's face, with the word "DEAD'' across the bottom.
Smarter people than I will write today about what it means. I don't have anything deep on that, other than this: We kept our word. We said we were going after bin Laden and wouldn't stop until we found him. It took a decade, but we did it, and I'm so proud of the men and women who have done their part to defend our country and find bin Laden.
It's really been a remarkable 10 years, years that changed our lives. I don't just mean by how much of a pain air travel's become either. I mean, and not to be corny, we've gained (I think) more of an appreciation for living in this country. I was living in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001, 15 miles from Ground Zero, when the first Twin Tower went down. I got in the car and sped to the New Jersey Blood Center in West Orange, 10 minutes from my house. There was a line a city-block long winding out of the building already to give blood that, alas, was never needed. Talk about getting goose bumps.
A few days later, my daughter Mary Beth, a sophomore on the Montclair High field hockey team, and I went in search of American flag patches to put on all frosh, JV and varsity field hockey jerseys. None in Jersey. But we found a dank, tiny sewing shop in Chinatown, in Manhattan, and picked up 150 flags patches for the uniforms. On the way back to the car, for no reason and for every reason, Mary Beth said, "I love America.'' Talk about getting goose bumps.
Mayor Giuliani was asking citizens to please support the restaurants of the city, because people were afraid to come into the city, fearful of another attack. So my wife and I organized a party of 16 to come into the city 10 days after the attack for dinner at Carmine's in midtown. At the table next to us were 15 Buffalo firefighters, all taking vacation time to work at Ground Zero. When they rose to leave -- they paid for nothing that night -- one person at our table started clapping. Then we all did. Then we stood. Then the entire restaurant stood, clapping and whistling and slapping the firefighters on the back. A few of them dabbed at their eyes. Talk about getting goose bumps.
In 2005, on my training-camp trip through the Midwest, I met Mike McGuire, the Army first sergeant, at a baseball game in St. Louis. We just happened to be sitting next to each other, struck up a conversation, and I learned he was home on leave from finding and disarming improvised explosive devices in Iraq. Whoa.
"Aren't you scared?'' I asked.
He said he tried not to think of that. He had 30 men to be mother-hen to in his platoon. Amazing guy. We watched the game, marveled at Pujols, exchanged contact information, and said goodbye. Two days later, I opened the paper and read about 14 Marines dying in an IED explosion in Iraq. I called McGuire and asked about the 14 dead Marines; when he reads things like that, is he scared for his safety?
"Mostly I read about how it happened and try to learn something about how to stop it,'' he said. "If I think about the victims, well, that doesn't help me do my job.''
Goose bumps, again.
In 2008, I accompanied a USO group of players to Afghanistan. I'll never forget flying from Kyrgyzstan, north of the country, over the northeastern area of Afghanistan into Kabul. Seventy, eighty, a hundred miles of mountainous, treacherous, untouched, snowy terrain. On and on we flew. "Do you think Osama's down there, somewhere, hiding?'' I wondered. One of the pilots said he might be, so they had to keep looking. And then meeting the Army Ranger snipers late one night in some barracks in Kandahar, staying up very late hearing the story of their most recent sortie. When Mike Rucker and Luis Castillo went back to their room, they lay in their bunks and talked excitedly about the night.
"The way they're excited to talk to us is the way we're excited to talk to them,'' said Rucker. "I wish I could do what they're doing, but I can't. I'm like a fan around those guys.''
"You see how intrigued they were by us?'' said Castillo. "How cool is that? The way they talk about being in a gunfight and just doing their jobs without panicking ... amazing.''
"If I didn't play football, I always knew the military was an option,'' said Rucker. "Now I know how much I would have loved it. Ask the guys on my team -- every time they do a flyover before the game, you can see how emotional I get.''
"Priceless,'' Castillo said in the dark, before drifting off to sleep. "That was a priceless night.''
It's been a decade none of us will forget. This morning doesn't bring a happy ending, exactly. It brings some new world that we can't be sure of yet, because clearly al Qaeda will be furious over bin Laden's death and we'll have to deal with renewed threats. But we did what we said we'd do, and that's always a good thing. I hope the families of the 9/11 victims in Manhattan and elsewhere have a better day today than they've had in years.
In case you missed it, there's been a draft ...
I've got a great story for you to lead the draft weekend column:
When Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan was taking a tour through his new business home -- the New Orleans Saints practice facility in Metairie, La. --on Saturday, his cell phone rang.
"Hi,'' said the voice on the other end. "Jordan? This is the Cleveland Browns ... '' The call was for some biographical information.
"Uh, yeah, this is Cameron Jordan,'' he said. "But the Saints already picked me.''
There was an awkward pause, and Cameron Jordan said: "I think you mean Jordan Cameron, you're looking for Jordan Cameron. That's not me.''
Cameron Jordan, the 24th pick in the draft, then hung up the phone. The Browns actually picked the right person -- USC tight end Jordan Cameron and had phoned him to tell him the good news -- and this was the call back to get biographical information from him.
Well, they do have something in common: They're both from the Pac-10.
Crazy weekend. Let's get on with it.
Five observations to start
• I really like what Detroit did. In adding the best front-seven playmaker in college football (defensive tackle Nick Fairley) and two pieces to make Matthew Stafford's job easier -- a smurfy wideout with quick-strike ability, Boise State's Titus Young, and running back Mikel Leshoure -- Detroit not only got better, but also got three players who should have an impact their team on opening day. Which is going to be tough, obviously, in this current labor environment, because training camp could be very short, or nonexistent. And to get Fairley 13th and Young 44th and Leshoure 57th, when all could have gone significantly higher ... I mean, that's what I call a good omen for a franchise that needs one.
When I called Lions coach Jim Schwartz Saturday, he was already figuring what to do with his rotation at defensive tackle. With Ndamukong Suh (the 2010 defensive rookie of the year), Fairley and incumbent run-stuffer Corey Williams, Schwartz had visions of an unstoppable rotation dancing in his head. "It's tough to play defensive tackle,'' he said. "It's the only position in football where you're getting hit every single play, and maybe by more than one 300-pound guy. We're just going to try to rotate 'em in there and divide the snaps. If there's 65 defensive snaps a game, that means there's 130 defensive-tackle snaps -- so maybe 43 apiece for the three of 'em. That would be fine with me. Ndamukong played about 950 snaps last year, and it wouldn't be a bad idea, to keep him fresh, to play less.''
Forty-three snaps a game is 688 for the season. What'll be interesting, and very hard for offenses to stop, will be a diet of Suh and Fairley over the guards on passing downs. Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler already have visions of third-down dumpoffs to the hot receiver dancing in their heads. Detroit's going to be a tough defense to play on third down -- and quite possible on every down.
• I'm getting a little tired of New England saving for a rainy day. A couple of disclaimers: No one works the draft and manages the draft like Bill Belichick. And a year ago, I was screaming for the Patriots to make a big deal and trade for Anquan Boldin. They scored 32 points a game without Boldin; so much for my sense of urgency at receiver.
But with their treasure trove of draft choices -- three in the top 33 when no other team had more than one, and five in the top 75 -- they had to upgrade a deficient pass-rush, and didn't do it. (Great stat from John Clayton of ESPN: When New England sent five rushers or more last season, opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 103.2. That was third-worst in the league. I'm amazed any team was worse than that, really. That's just awful. And New England allowed a 47-percent third-down conversion rate, which is not a winning defensive number. Not close.) The Patriots got cute. They set themselves up for the future, when they'll control the 2012 draft again with two first-round picks and two second-rounders. This is a draft New England needed to add pass-rush pieces, not just one. And they got none.
They passed on two good rush prospects -- Pitt's Jabaal Sheard and Arizona's Brooks Reed, who went 37 and 42 to Cleveland and Houston, respectively. New England got a good tackle at 17, Nate Solder, and you can't knock them for dealing the 28th pick to New Orleans for the Saints' first-rounder next year plus the 56th pick in this draft, which they used on Cal running back Shane Vereen. But at 33, with Sheard and Reed in play, Belichick took cornerback Ras-I Dowling of Virginia, continuing a borderline myopic trend with corners. Check out the recent activity with New England and cornerbacks in the draft and free agency:
New England's leading outside pass-rusher last year, Tully Banta-Cain, had five sacks last year. Not good enough.
• In Cleveland, GM Tom Heckert didn't try to outthink himself. Nine out of 10 general managers in the league would have done what Heckert did in moving down 21 spots in the first round for five picks combined in the first four rounds of this and next year's draft. That allowed the Browns to take a defensive tackle for a weak line (Baylor's Phil Taylor), a big receiver (Greg Little of UNC) for a weak position group, and the most interesting fullback in the draft, the versatile Owen Marecic from Stanford. And Heckert used his own second-rounder for an edge rusher, Sheard. And the Browns are now one of two teams with two first-rounders next year.
The debate for the Browns -- and it wasn't much of one, really -- was whether they should take a very good receiving prospect (Julio Jones) or take five prime picks to re-shape the roster in the 4-3 defensive image and West Coast offensive image of the Mike Holmgren regime. So it wasn't hard to work out the details of the deal with Atlanta. "Everyone here was excited about the ability to add multiple players with high picks,'' Heckert said. "We have holes to fill, like all teams do, and where we're at as a franchise, we need players. Lots of players. Atlanta was in a different place than we were were.''
I broke the trade down Friday morning but the one other point to make is the Falcons are getting old at some skill positions: tight end Tony Gonzalez is 35, running back Michael Turner and wideout Roddy White both 29. Where the Falcons will pick with Matt Ryan at quarterback is not high enough to get a premier talent like Jones -- if you believe he's a premier talent, which the Falcons surely do.
• No relief in sight for Kevin Kolb. You've got to hand it to Kolb, who is being held hostage by the labor proceedings: He's still a team guy. When the Eagles picked guard Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the first round, coach Andy Reid looked down at his cell phone and saw a text message from Kolb, who knows Watkins: "You just got us a great player and person,'' the message read. (Reid also got a good text from Michael Vick.)
Point is, Kolb doesn't want to be in Philadelphia; he wants to have a chance to get a starting job somewhere else, and Reid has promised to try to make a deal if it benefits the Eagles. He already has an offer of a first-round pick in the 2012 draft from an unknown team. The window for the 2011 league year opened and closed quickly last week; players like Kolb, who want to be traded, and free agents who want to hit the market have to wait for the league year to open before moving. That could happen this week if the Eighth Circuit forces the NFL to open doors and end the lockout.
Asked how he stands with Kolb right now, Reid said: "We stand with Kevin in an Eagles uniform. We love Kevin. He's one of the great team guys we've had here. We had an idea who was interested in him entering the draft, and now we'll have to go back and look at it when they tell us we can make moves.''
Kolb's market closed in a few needy places over the weekend; you can't imagine the Titans, Jaguars, Vikings, Niners or Bengals dealing for a veteran quarterback after picking one a rookie QB in the top 36 picks. And Washington is likely not going to be interested in Kolb. That doesn't leave many teams. Arizona, Miami, Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo appear to be the only options in a thinning market.
• Seattle's playing defense. On ESPN and in an interview with me Saturday night, analyst Trent Dilfer, the former Seattle quarterback, was highly critical of how the Seahawks are doing business. Dilfer said Seattle should have capitalized by now on the momentum of the playoff win over New Orleans and re-signed good friend Matt Hasselbeck, likely to leave in free agency. And he said he thinks the Seahawks over-drafted -- meaning they picked players too high -- several players, including first-round pick James Carpenter, a tackle from Alabama projected by many to be a second-rounder. Seattle chose him 25th overall. "Part of my heart lies in Seattle, and I have great respect for them,'' Dilfer said, "but I think the Seahawks had a very poor week.''
On Sunday night, GM John Schneider defended his scouts and his picks to me. "That was disappointing to hear, coming from a quality guy like Trent,'' said Schneider. "I have to tell you, I'm totally excited about our draft. So are our scouts, who've spent 11 months working and getting ready for this weekend, and quite honestly, we did what we wanted to do in this draft. As far as James Carpenter goes, we know Pittsburgh liked him, and we know Green Bay liked him, and then Buffalo at the top of the second round. We had Carpenter rated higher than [Wisconsin tackle] Gabe Carimi, based on his versatility. We think he can play four positions on the line. He's a legitimate left tackle who we expect to start at right tackle.'' The guard Seattle took in the third round, Wisconsin's John Moffitt, is a likely starter at right guard.
The one thing Seattle didn't do is get a quarterback; I've got a feeling the 'Hawks have a specific player in mind to go after once the league year opens. I asked a personnel man I respect a lot what he thought of Dilfer's criticism, and about Seattle's draft. "We weren't as high on Carpenter as they were, but he's a solid guy,'' the personnel man said. "I like Moffitt. Any lineman from Wisconsin usually can step in and play. And we were very interested in the receiver they took from Georgia, [Kris] Durham. Their draft was fine. Here's the thing about drafts: No one really knows. You've just got to let them play.''
Story of the Weekend.
His is just a name in the small type, like the other 253 draftees.
Round7, overall pick 223: RB Shane Bannon, Yale.
"But it's amazing,'' said Shane Bannon's agent, Joe Linta. "This kid wasn't even on the map 30 days ago.''
Well, 40, to be fair. No one knew who he was until a small-college pro day, in a workout facility in tiny Tolland, Conn., was wedged into the NFL schedule, early in the morning on March 23, before the regularly scheduled UConn event that day.
Bannon is 6-2 and 265 pounds. He never carried the ball last year in a game, and he had 13 catches. He got picked by the Chiefs in the seventh round Saturday night because he's a great blocker and can be a tempo-setter on special teams. "He would kill people,'' said Ross Tucker, my buddy and a broadcaster who did an Ivy League game of the week last year for the YES Network. "But I had no idea he was a prospect. Shane Bannon got drafted? I never figured that.''
Credit Linta, who also got the lightly regarded Tucker a pro tryout with the Redskins after his Princeton career, a tryout that led to a seven-year NFL career. Pro GMs like Scott Pioli of the Chiefs respect Linta more than many agents because he's a former coach, and because he's brought them solid prospects before.
"He really helped me,'' said Bannon, who will graduate from Yale later this month. "I'm not your classic football prospect. I didn't even play football until my sophomore year in high school, and then, I never dreamed of this as a possibility.'' Then Linta saw some tape of Bannon, thought he should be in an NFL camp as a special-teamer and blocking back, and began spreading the word. "I was going to work like a crazy man to spread the word on him once I saw the film,'' Linta said.
He got Bannon in front of some NFL teams -- New England, Seattle, Kansas City, Chicago. Five others came to his pro day. And when he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash, suddenly he wasn't just a lumbering lug. He was a prospect. "I felt if I worked hard and Joe did what he does well, I might have a chance," said Bannon. "At the end of the year, no one knew who I was. I went from being completely unknown to, in the last month, being on a few teams' radar.''
Said Pioli: "I've done a lot of business with Joe. The scouting system is far from perfect. We miss guys sometimes. It's an inexact science. That's where Joe can help sometimes. He knows players.''
So now the lone Ivy Leaguer to hear his name called over the weekend in the draft has a shot. Underdogs everywhere will be watching.
Now a word about draft grades.
I have nothing against my peers grading drafts. It's harmless fun. Like mock drafts, grading drafts has become a spring tradition that fills space and, I suppose, generates good talk show fodder. There's a difference in the two, though. When you do a mock draft, you're predicting who each team is going to pick ... presumably based on some knowledge you've gleaned though some people you know in different organizations. But when you grade a draft, at least when I graded drafts in the past, I always felt I wasn't qualified in any way to do so, because I just didn't know the players beyond the top ones well at all.
I looked back Sunday night to the 2006 draft, and the grades handed out in the days after the draft. I always considered two writers to be the best, and the toughest, at this: our own Paul Zimmerman and Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. And after the 2006 draft, Dr. Z and Goose gave A grades to Arizona, praising the drafting of Matt Leinart, Deuce Lutui, Gabe Watson and Leonard Pope. It's five years later. Leinart was a disaster, Pope barely passable for three seasons, Watson a part-time starter. The only player sure to be on the Cards now, five seasons later, is starting guard Lutui.
Gosselin spends three months learning these players and getting the scoop on 300 of them every winter and spring. He's the best. I just don't think it's very easy, or very logical, to grade teams before players have had their first practice with their new teams.
In my column Tuesday ...
I'd hope to write longer today, but with the events of Sunday night, and with my Sports Illustrated assignment this week on the draft, I had to hold some stuff I'd hoped to address. Log on Tuesday to SI.com to read:
1. What I found on my time with the 49ers over the weekend, including observations on the early days of the Baalke-Harbaugh marriage and what I make of the Colin Kaepernick pick.
2. Cincinnati nailing it for once in the draft.
3. Gabe Feldman, the Tulane Law School sports/law expert, on the near future of the scourge of all of our lives, the legal brawl between players and owners.
4. The unfortunate draft case of Mark Herzlich.
5. The findings of the Dave Duerson brain study, to be announced later today in Boston.
6. Your email, of course.
Thanks for understanding on a wild weekend.
"We'll let him compete with the other quarterbacks on the team -- Crompton, Hoyer and Brady, and we'll see how it goes.''-- New England coach Bill Belichick, to NFL Network, on third-round pick Ryan Mallett, after off-field issues caused the troubled Arkansas quarterback to sink like a lead weight. How positively, democratically Belichickian, lumping a three-time Super Bowl winner in with Brian Hoyer and Jonathan Crompton, neither of whom has started an NFL game.
"He's a great quarterback, but when I play against him, he's going down.''-- First-round defensive tackle Phil Taylor of the Browns, on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner.
"Get ready to play. We'll put you on the other team's best. You ready for that? I know you are. You're part of the Ravens' defense now."-- Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, on the phone with Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith after the Ravens made him their first-round pick Thursday night, according to Ravens PR czar Kevin Byrne.
"Right now, Charlie's all we got.''-- Seattle coach Pete Carroll, to NFL Network, on his starting quarterback. With Matt Hasselbeck and J.P. Losman free agents, Charlie Whitehurst is the only quarterback on the Seattle roster.
"We are petitioning the NFL to let Sam wear number five, so he can be Sam Acho Cinco.''-- Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, after drafting linebacker Sam Acho in the fourth round Saturday.
"I'm told I can't find one person who thought the linebacker [Michigan's Jonas Mouton] we took in the second round ... wasn't a fifth- or sixth-round guy. Well, I've found one guy. Me. He's a second-rounder here."-- San Diego general manager A.J. Smith, to Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union Tribune.
One thing about A.J. Smith: He's a confident man.
"This is the first time all weekend I haven't been booed.''-- Commissioner Roger Goodell, walking on-stage at Radio City Music Hall Saturday morning to hold a town hall forum with some fans before the third day of the draft began.
The draft-pick value chart, used by teams leaguewide, is at times valuable, at times maddening. The chart shows the Browns getting a slight advantage (but not a major one, as many draft analysts have said) in the 5-for-1 deal with Atlanta that netted the Falcons Julio Jones Thursday. (More about that in my Sports Illustrated draft report this week.)
Where the chart misses the mark, I believe, is for teams wanting to get great depth out of a draft. Take Washington's handling of the draft, which I thought was very good for what the Redskins wanted. At the NFL meetings a month ago, Mike Shanahan said, "We need starting players, a few of them, and we need a lot of depth.'' So when they started trading down, beginning with the 10th overall pick to number 16 with Jacksonville in the first round, I knew what they were doing. Washington started the draft with eight picks. It finished with 12. Here's how it ended up fleshing out, via the draft-pick-value chart, once the matching picks canceled each other out:
The Redskins traded the chance to get a quarterback (Blaine Gabbert went 10), but they didn't love any of the quarterbacks enough to commit long-term to them. For that 10th pick, they got defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (16), Miami wideout Leonard Hankerson (79), Nebraska running back Roy Helu (105), SMU wideout Aldrick Robinson (178) and Florida guard Maurice Hurt (217).
Will it work out? I don't know. Shanahan, I believe, didn't like the quarterbacks in this draft much more if at all than Rex Grossman and John Beck, who should be his top two guys at the start of the season -- unless the Redskins sign a veteran to compete for the job with them.
1. Well-publicized one: The 28th pick in the 1987 NFL Draft was Mark Ingram. The 28th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft was Mark Ingram. Father and son. Wide receiver and running back.
2. Christian Ponder enrolled at Florida State in 2006, earned his bachelor's in Finance in 2008, earned his master's at FSU in 2009, and played his redshirt senior season having earned his bachelor's and master's in four academic years.
3. New Browns fullback Owen Marecic was coached by Clay Matthews -- longtime Browns linebacker, dad of The Other Clay Matthews -- growing up in California.
4. Terrific factoid from Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com: Ten years ago, Bengals owner Mike Brown wanted to take Drew Brees with the fourth pick in the first round, but the Bengals were still smarting from the first-round disaster that was Akili Smith two years earlier. So they didn't pick him in the first round. But as the round dragged on, Brees went unpicked. Had he been there at pick number 36, Cincinnati likely would have taken him. But Brees got drafted by the Chargers on the first pick of round two. The Bengals, with the 36th pick, instead chose Chad Johnson, receiver, Oregon State ... And now you know the rest of the story.
Flew through Milwaukee to San Francisco the other day, had some time to kill, and so I re-entered security after getting a bite to eat. On my way through security, at the end of the X-ray zone where travelers gather belongings, there was a sign.
I asked one of the TSA guys about the sign. "Interesting word,'' I said. "Ever hear of it before this?''
"No,'' the guy said. "I went to the bookstore and looked in the biggest dictionary I could find, and it wasn't there. But they tell me it's a word.''
I went to dictionary.com and looked. No "recombobulation.'' I went to merriam-webster.com. No "recombobulation;'' the website said, "The word you have entered isn't in the dictionary.'' Now, I did find "discombobulate,'' which means "to confuse or disconcert.'' But no "recombobulate.''
But as I sit here and recombobulate about it, I suppose it means "area where you get your crap together after getting half-stripped and then going through X-ray.''
One more travel note. On the plane to San Francisco (every seat occupied, but since when is that different from every other flight these days), the 4-year-old behind me kept kicking the seat. I took it for a half hour or so, then turned around and asked the dad if he could get the boy to stop. The dad said: "Yeah, I tried, but if you tell him not to do it, I know him -- he'll keep doing it.''
I would say, "I weep for the future,'' but that would be a bit of an overreaction.
"I have been told that I can't play football before. We all know what happened with that. #neverquit''--@MarkHerzlich, undrafted Boston College linebacker and cancer survivor Mark Herzlich, after going through three frustrating days of not being picked by the NFL. He sent this one hour after the end of the seventh round.
And how about this Tweet from Herzlich Saturday night: "Today sucked for me but everyone needs to pray for all the people in Alabama. They need us more than ever right now.''
"Crowd chanting "USA! USA!'' here at #Mets-#Phillies.''--@KenDavidoff, Newsday baseball writer Ken Davidoff, at 11:03 p.m. Sunday, when the news of Osama bin Laden's death spread at Citizens Bank Park.
"Eyes glued to CNN Bin Laden Dead.''--@wilfork75, New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, digesting the news at home late Sunday night.
"The Navy Seals get an A for their draft.''--@mrnejman, at 1:58 this morning. And that will be the only draft grade that counts for anything today.
1. I think in the Most Ridiculously Unimportant Note of the Week, I bring you how I did in my mock draft. (I don't dare, do I?) I dare. And it's not very good.
After hitting on nine two years ago and eight last year, the week-earlier magazine deadline impacted my competency. (I'm sure that wasn't the only thing that did). I hit on 28 of 32 in the round, which is nothing to brag about, and seven in the correct slot: Cam Newton (1), Julio Jones (6), Tyron Smith (9), Ryan Kerrigan (16), Danny Watkins (23), Jimmy Smith (26), Muhammad Wilkerson (30) ... with an asterisk: Smith went 27th when the team picking 26th, Baltimore, had the trade snafu with Chicago and didn't get the card in on time. It seems fair to count it. Of the seven in the correct slot, only five were by the correct team. Jones at 6, I had Cleveland taking, for instance, and he went to Atlanta.
2. I think Trent Dilfer, at ESPN, and Mike Lombardi, at NFL Network, earned their dough over the weekend. Dilfer has become a lightning rod of sorts, a smart football person who can talk about more than quarterback play and isn't afraid to ruffle feathers. He said Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder "melted'' at times in big situations, said Andy Dalton was the best quarterback in this draft, and had a harsh assessment of Seattle for reaching in the draft. "Listen,'' Dilfer said, "I pray I'm wrong. I hope he [Ponder] rubs it in my face. He's a great kid. But my concern with him is his ceiling is very low. At best, I think he can be Chad Pennington.''
As for Lombardi, very good work by him, especially on the news around the time the Patriots were on the board with the 73rd pick, when he said the Pats were going to draft Ryan Mallett.
I called Lombardi Sunday to ask him about one of the best scoops of the weekend -- maybe the best -- and about the suggestion on Twitter from Boston Globe football writer Greg Bedard that Lombardi may have been used by Bill Belichick to see if the Pats could have smoked out a better deal by a team interested in trading up for Mallett. Tweeted Bedard: "Almost positive Patriots leaked the Mallett pick to NFL Net to see if anyone would say, 'Oh crap,' and overpay to trade up.''
New England took running back Stevan Ridley with the 73rd pick, then Mallett with the 74th. Asked whether there was a chance he could have been used, Lombardi said: "Completely fictional. The Patriots, I'm not speaking for 'em. They wouldn't have brought Mallett in for a visit if they didn't have any interest. It's completely inaccurate. The Patriots were seriously interested in Mallett, and I don't think I was used by them. Not at all.''
Lombardi, of course, wouldn't have had to have been told of New England's plan, if indeed there was one, and I have no evidence this is true. It's odd, though, for an organization as famously zipped-up as New England to have a story that big slip out.
3. I think of all the guys in the Green Room at the draft, Blaine Gabbert was the only one who looked like he was auditioning for "Mad Men.'' Thin tie, silver tie clip, matinee good looks, well-coiffed 'do. He'd need shorter hair, though.
4. I think I agree with the Ravens: The Bears should have done the right thing after they admittedly messed up the first-round trade with Baltimore Thursday night and should have handed Baltimore the pick it deserved. You know the story, I'm sure.
Baltimore agreed to trade the 26th pick in the first round to Chicago for the 29th pick and the Bears' fourth-round pick. With two minutes left in the Ravens' 10-minute selection period at 26, GM Ozzie Newsome called NFL personnel czar Joel Bussert at the league draft headquarters and informed him of the terms of the trade. Under league rules, the Bears were obligated to do the same.
Newsome was told by a Bear front-office man the deal had been called in, but with the clock winding down, he asked Bussert about it, and Bussert said he'd gotten no such call. Newsome asked again, the Bears said again they'd called, and then the clock ran out on the pick. Kansas City rushed up its pick, Jonathan Baldwin the receiver, and the Ravens told their rep in New York to turn in the pick for Smith. When the Bears realized they hadn't called, GM Jerry Angelo apologized for the mix up. Chicago kept its pick and got the player it wanted -- tackle Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin.
The Ravens were hugely ticked off. Owner Steve Bisciotti told Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun: "I'm disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys [the club owners]. It is in my opinion a deviation from their great legacy. They concluded that their heartfelt and admirable apology was sufficient for our loss. All of us at the Ravens strongly disagree.'' As do I.
The right thing would have been to give Baltimore something -- either the fourth-round pick or some pick to make up for what turned out to be a broken promise. The NFL ruled because the Bears never informed the league of the deal, it wasn't official. I like Jerry Angelo a lot. Always have. But this is dead wrong, and it's a terrible message to send to fans and people who follow the league.
5. I think, to address the situation many of you brought up on Twitter since the Ravens-Bears trade dust up, the Ravens-Vikings draft-trade story of 2003 is not quite the same. Similar, but know the story before you say this is the Karma God getting even with Ozzie Newsome.
In 2003, Minnesota had the seventh pick in the draft, Jacksonville eight, Carolina nine and Baltimore 10. When Minnesota was on the clock, Jacksonville and Baltimore both were trying to trade up to number seven, and both to acquire the same player -- Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich. Baltimore thought it had a deal for Leftwich and attempted to call the league to report the deal. The Ravens called several times and couldn't get through.
In the meantime, Jacksonville had a lesser offer on the table to move up one spot, but Minnesota told the Jags it was making a deal with Baltimore. When the Vikings' time expired and the deal wasn't able to be consummated because it wasn't reported to the league officials in time, Jacksonville rushed the pick of Leftwich up to the NFL table at the draft. So the Jags jumped Minnesota and picked Leftwich.
At the same time, Carolina saw the confusion and submitted its pick of tackle Jordan Gross. Minnesota then turned in the card for the player it wanted, defensive tackle Kevin Williams. And Baltimore picked Terrell Suggs at 10. After this year, the league put in two additional phone lines, so when trades needed to be reported near deadline, someone would always be able to get through.
6. I think, not to beat the Bears up too much over this, it seems pretty ironic that one of the networks (forget which one) kept showing sportsmanship commercials on the draft coverage over the weekend. Did you see? In a youth basketball game, a kid hits the ball out of bounds, but the ref doesn't see it and awards the ball to the other team. The kid tells his coach he touched the ball, and goes to tell the ref, and the coach tells the kid he's doing the right thing. Which he was. And then the NFL Draft comes back on. You know, where there's a good example of the wrong thing, the unsportsmanlike thing, being done.
7. think I'd like to clarify something from the column last week, a quote from Green Bay GM Ted Thompson in which he said the draft experts "don't know anything.'' Thompson called me Saturday to explain what happened. The quote is accurate, but he didn't intend it to be about those in the national media (Mike Mayock, for instance) who study players for a job. He said he was referring to all the fans who become draftniks at this time of year. "I have tremendous respect for the guys who really study it,'' Thompson told me. Consider the situation clarified.
8. I think we're in for a long football exhale. My advice to you if the lockout bores you to tears: Don't let it. Don't pay attention. Don't read about it. Trust me: I'll tell you when to care about the legalities.
9. I think this is my cold water thrown on the weekend's festivities. It's a letter from a follower of this column, Arnauld Chatainier, from Toulouse, France. He writes: "Bon jour Peter! The first-round day was a SAD day for me. After 20 years of passion for the game, 12 spent in pads in a country with less than 5,000 registered players, I finally realized that NFL football was not a sport anymore but a business. 'Big deal,' you would say ... and you'd be right. But after watching JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Cam Newton and a bunch of untested QB getting drafted within 12 slots, the idea finally occurred to me: After a 2-14 season, those picks are made to keep your stands full, not to turn around your franchise.
"For every Sam Bradford-Home Run QB, there are 12 players who will implode. Reggie Bush was drafted to revive a devastated fan base after Hurricane Katrina, not to be an every-down back, which was obvious even for me, a poor French MMQB, with poor football IQ. Vince Young was drafted to make the cover of a video game and sell tons of jerseys, not to be a perennial Pro Bowler. Don't criticize the guaranteed money spent for first-round draftees: That $50 million is not for winning. This is the money an owner has to spend to keep his stadium full.
"On the 29th of April, 2011, I finally gave up the idea that Pro Football was a sport. With so many red flags, Cam Newton was not drafted to win, he was drafted to sell T-shirts. I'm sad, because I lost my innocence.''
Thanks, Arnauld. Well done. You have quite a few fans over here nodding in agreement. One of them would be film maven Greg Cosell, who I think just might offer a job at his right hand to watch film and say things like, "There shouldn't be a single quarterback in the top 20 players in this draft.''
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Just when my meager NBA knowledge convinced me Oklahoma City was going to waltz into the NBA Finals, the Memphis Grizzlies come along.
b. Dwyane Wade doesn't look like he wants to cede the first star on his team to LeBron.
c. Sharks-Canucks Western finals? Call it the East Coast DVR Series.
d. OK, sue me. I thought the Royal Wedding was cute. There's nothing wrong with the occasional royal occasion.
e. I love it when a team like the Indians comes out of nowhere to shock baseball. There's one or two every year.
f. If there's one or two every year, King, why is it never the Buccos?
g. Baseball Stat of the Week I: Chipper Jones has more career hits (2,517) and RBI (1,512) than Mickey Mantle (2,415 and 1,509) ... in 113 fewer games. Now something like that shocks me.
h. Could it be because the Mick had far more sleepwalking day-after-night games than Larry Jones has had?
i. Great respect for the hardworking 49er corps of beat writers. They're smart and skeptical.
j. Good to meet all of you at Comcast Bay Area. For those keeping score at home, Raider voice and sports show host Greg Papa and Bob? Not brothers. Had a good time on "Chronicle Live'' with Greg the night before the draft, in studio.
k. Has there been a baseball market with more dissimilar stadiums than San Francisco and Oakland?
l. Baseball Stat of the Week II: Bobby Jenks, making $6 million this year, has allowed 20 base runners in his last four-and-two-thirds innings.
m. Saw one of the strangest at-bats Saturday night. Dustin Pedroia up. Runners on first and second. Fouled off a bunt attempt. Fouled off another bunt attempt. Ball. Foul. Ball. Line drive down the right-field line, lands three inches foul. Line drive down the left field line; hits a foot foul. Foul. Ball. Ball. Walk.
n. Missed The Office finale. Will catch up this week.
o. Next time you personally implode my rotisserie team, Matt Harrison, could you give me a little warning?
p. Coffeenerdness: I've got to get weaned off the six espresso shots a day. That's going to be my job starting this week, when sanity returns to my coffee intake.
q. Beernerdness: Thank you, Marriott Santa Clara, for having such high-quality beer on tap at midnight Thursday as I finished my Friday morning SI.com column on the first-night wrap of the draft. My choice: Fat Tire Amber Ale. Wish the bartender had given it a head, but a tasty way to end the night.
r. Mike McGuire checks in, a few hours before the death of bin Laden was reported. Great to hear from our favorite Army first sergeant from his deployment in Afghanistan, and knowing him, he's up and around today, and he and his men are exulting in the news about the al Qaeda leader.
McGuire's email from Sunday was accompanied by a monthly newsletter with photos and updates on what his unit is doing on the ground: "As you will read in our monthly letter to friends and family, all is going well. Looking forward to some R&R in July, I think we may go to Rome. Not sure. Maybe just save the money? Decisions, decisions.
"Did you enjoy the draft, I saw the first round live here. Kind of surprised at how some things shook out. Atlanta made out big (in my opinion). Mallett really fell farther than I thought, he must have something in the closet or concerns because he has the big time arm. I am thinking he will be a star. Eventually.
"One army note, my son-in-law won the all-Europe and Army MEDAC/DENTAC soldier of the year, pretty big deal. He also got promoted to Sergeant E-5. And the biggest: My daughter Emily is having a baby. Hope all is going well and enjoying the summer coming? What's up with your SOX? Cardinals really looking good now, bats are hot, defense is hot, they are looking awesome right now, back-to-back dramatic wins. Wow! I like it. I hope you like the letter. Take care, Mike.''
All sounds well, Mike. Stay safe.