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My biggest draft-day blunder? Dissing Dan Marino

Posted: Friday April 15, 2005 4:39PM; Updated: Friday April 15, 2005 5:57PM
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Should the 49ers draft Auburn teammates Campbell (left) and Brown as a package deal?
Left: Al Tielemans/SI, Right: Gary Bogdon/SI

The draft comes charging through the rosy dawn and into our mailbag, as well it should because that's what I happen to be working on right now. And working ... working ... oh God, the work. All for a one-page mock draft in the magazine and a fluffed-out version on the Web site.

This is Hell Week. What I dread most happened this morning, the return call from a personnel director. And then there was another call coming through, and I just KNEW it was the one I'd been waiting for all day, so I had to cut it short with the guy on the phone, even though there was more information to be gleaned, and I jumped on the new call, only to hear .... "Now we can offer you the all-in-one Bermuda vacation package."

The Flaming Redhead tells me never to use profanity on the phone because everything can be traced now, and I would not like prison because the food is too starchy. But I didn't care ... I let that Bermuda guy know what he could do to his wife and her parents and various farm animals.

Phone rings again. "Hey, this is the dentist. What's going on?" Just what I need, the freakin dentist. "The NFL draft is what's going on," I say in my snippy way.

"The NFL draft? Hey this is Dennis, man. Dennis Green of the Cardinals." Oh, gulp.

Here's another one. I was trying to get information from the Eagles. I was waiting for a call back from Tom Heckert, their player personnel director, and in the meantime I left a message for their offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, whom I had gotten to know pretty well during Super Bowl week. Then I forgot about it and moved on to other teams.

Then the phone rang. "This is Castillo," the voice said. I figured someone was putting me on ... you know, pretending to be Luis Castillo, the Northwestern nose tackle who got busted for steroids. So I went along with it.

"So what's with you and the juice, Luis?" I said. Pause. "Is this Paul Zimmerman? This is Juan Castillo of the Eagles." OK, yeah, I weaseled out of it and we had a nice talk, but the Redhead happened to walk in, and she asked me afterward, "Why is all that sweat running down your face?"

OK, enough of these tales of herring do. Here are our baggies:

Mon ami Gilles of Paris -- et merci, Gilles, pour les bon mots (and just one other thing: the Redhead will be in Paris this October. Any suggestions?) -- has dusted off a question that hasn't been asked for a while: My biggest draft-day triumph and screwup. Triumph was nailing the Ricky Williams-to-New Orleans trade a week before it happened. The screwup greatly dwarfs it, and since I haven't repeated the story for a while -- at least two weeks -- I'll give it to you again.

I'm doing the 1983 draft for ESPN. Dan Marino is dropping to the low end of the first round. I had heard a personnel director, a very astute scout whom we all liked to quote (no, I won't give you his name), mention that Marino's mechanics were wrong. "He pushes the ball," he said.

So the Dolphins finally draft Marino, and at the anchor desk, poor old Polly Want a Cracker Zee, his head full of sawdust, repeats the quote about Marino pushing the ball ... he's a pusher, see. Well, ESPN still likes to show old footage of that statement. Marino asked people, "Who's that freakin' bald guy (crew cut, actually) on TV?" And for two years every time Don Shula saw me, he'd say, "Pusher, huh? Pusher. How do you like my pusher now, Mr. Expert? Damn experts ..." Finally I wrapped a handkerchief around a pencil, and the next time he saw me and launched into his shpiel, I waved it and said, "Surrender ... I surrender." So he quit doing it.

Chris of Kansas City suggests a paired entry for the 49ers at the top, involving two Auburns -- Ronnie Brown, the RB, and Jason Campbell, the QB. "Isn't there some comfort then for both players that will help them develop faster?" Chris says. Hell of a good idea. Could set a trend in the draft. In fact, I'd shoot for a rule that says if you take a player from a school, you have to follow it up with a selection of one of his teammates on the next pick. Thus, around Round 7 you'd be groping for a second Troy State or Middle Tennessee. Would sure make it a fun draft.

Eric of Vancouver wants to know why drafting a hotshot wideout is such a big deal. Because everyone goes in looking for another Jerry Rice, someone who could put a real exclamation point on the offense. Never mind that wideout is a position that has a low first-round success rate in the NFL. As the stripper said to the bishop, you've got to keep trying.