(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access Ernie Accorsi’s comments on media pressure, fast-forward to 24:00 of the following attachment:https://www.spreaker.com/user/fullpresscoverage/eyetest-ep46)
The NFL draft is Thursday, which means there’s still plenty of time for media outlets to speculate on trades, reshuffle mock drafts, poke holes in prospects and move players up, down and sideways on their draft boards.
In fact, that’s already begun, with reports that Atlanta could move star receiver Julio Jones … there could be a stampede of teams trading down … Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith could fall out of the top 10 … and New England – surprise, surprise – may make a bold draft-day move.
But how much attention do NFL teams actually pay to those reports? That’s the question we posed to former GM Ernie Accorsi on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com, and he should know. He drafted John Elway in 1983, maneuvered to take Bernie Kosar in the 1985 supplemental draft and traded for Eli Manning in 2004.
This draft, however, is rife with mystery, mostly because of how the COVID pandemic altered the face of college football in 2020. Nevertheless, there is no mystery at the top, with quarterbacks taken, in order, by Jacksonville, the Jets and San Francisco at 1, 2 and 3.
But then what? Well, then it’s a guessing game, and everyone is guessing where Atlanta goes at the fourth spot. We read those reports. But do GMs? And if they do, what impact can they have?
“They are a factor,” said Accorsi. “There’s no question about it. And they do affect some decisions.”
But how much? Ah, that’s where the plot thickens.
“That’s an interesting question,” said Accorsi. “because I was just discussing that with one of my former colleagues in the league this week. Quarterbacks play sooner now, and they all say, ‘Well, they train better in college.’ I don’t know about that. But I can tell you they do throw the ball more. My opinion is that there are a lot of quarterbacks who start the season as rookies because teams bend to media pressure.
“You’re going to laugh at this, but when I first came in the league in 1970 the clock was ticking on our quarterback situation in Baltimore because the word in the organization was (that): ‘It takes five years … we better get somebody.’ And we never got anybody until John (Unitas) was traded, and we got Bert Jones the next year (1973). Played him too soon, by the way, that first year.
“If you ever talked to Sonny Jurgensen, he started as a rookie in ’57, struggled, played a little in ’58 and the Eagles traded for (Norm) Van Brocklin in ’59. They win the championship in ’60. I asked Jurgensen one time how upset he was that they did that and made the trade. He said, ‘Let me tell you something, if they don’t make that trade I’m out of the league. I’m never in the Hall of Fame. He taught me how to play quarterback.’ My point was: We weren’t all wrong in those days. Maybe not five years, but we wanted to give a time.
“I always said this: I was in the draft room in Cleveland where the scouts in that room were a part of five straight playoffs, four divisional championships, three championship games. I was in the draft room in New York where, for the most part – there were some changes -- they had four Super Bowl rings. I’m going to listen to them, OK? Those are the people that are going to influence me. You’ve got to block the rest of it out. The media doesn’t always agree, so who you gonna listen to? You just have to block it out.”
That doesn’t mean Accorsi paid no attention to reports. He did. He read the papers, and he listened to radio and TV broadcasts. But he didn’t let them govern his decisions. He listened to persons he trusted, then acted from there – with the 2004 draft-day trade for Manning an example.
The Giants had him at the top of their board. Unfortunately, so did San Diego. And the Chargers drafted first. So, with the fourth overall pick, Accorsi tried to work out a trade that he didn’t consummate until the Chargers drafted Eli, and he was on the clock -- ready to pick the next best quarterback on the Giants’ board.
It was Ben Roethlisberger. The Giants had his name written on a card, ready to submit for an announcement when San Diego telephoned.
“I was aware of what was going on,” Accorsi said of media reports. “I thought it was important to know. I cared about the fans, and I wanted to know what they were reading. And I did. I’d hear people (say), ‘I never read the papers.’ Well, you should read the papers. You better know what’s going on.
“I didn’t have time to listen to all the talk shows, but people told me what they were saying. I wanted to know. And I went on them. I talked to everybody.”
Including the Chargers. In the end, that’s not all that mattered. But it’s what mattered most.