NEW YORK -- Money matters. You have to know that went a long way toward determining who went first in the 2006 NFL Draft.
The Houston Texans opting for North Carolina State defensive end MarioWilliams over Southern Cal running back Reggie Bush clearly had as much to do with signability as it did with ability.
Sorry, but I found it hard to believe Texans owner Bob McNair when he stood before the media horde Saturday afternoon in the bowels of Radio City Music Hall and professed that Houston's controversial choice really came down to "offense versus defense.''
It's no crime to have picked Williams, who might be a game-changing pass rusher in the mode of Julius Peppers or Dwight Freeney for the next 10 years. But to claim that the financial aspect of the Bush-Williams debate was moot is a pile of that stuff they try not to step in down on the ranch in Texas.
I asked McNair on Saturday if football fans would view the team's choice in a financial light -- given that Houston general manager Charley Casserly had acknowledged this week that signability was a key factor -- and McNair's answer baffled me.
"They're mistaken,'' McNair said. "We could have signed either one of them. We made the same offer to both of them. That was really not an issue. The issue is that it is extremely important that these young players be in camp and be with a team early on. I wanted to make sure that we didn't run the risk of a holdout, and that's why I wanted to see if we could reach an agreement with the players before the draft.
"It was really offense versus defense, and we can debate that forever. But ultimately it will be decided on the playing field.''
Let me get this straight. Signability isn't an issue, but whatever happens, you wanted to avoid a holdout? Is there a semantic distinction there I'm missing? You can't really have it both ways on the topic, Bob.
Even Bush himself sounded as if he didn't completely buy McNair's "it wasn't about the money'' approach to the selection of Williams.
"At the end of the day, it's still a business,'' said Bush, when asked about his disappointment in not going No. 1 overall to Houston. "It's up to the teams. We have no control over this thing. It's up to the teams to choose who they feel is going to best suit their program.''
Or maybe their budget. I asked Bush if he thought his signability factor worked against him with Houston. His answer was diplomatic, but telling.
"I'm not sure,'' he said. "Only the Houston Texans can answer that. Obviously we were not just going to settle for anything. That's a part of negotiating. You try to get the best contract, especially when you're the No. 1 pick.''
The Texans definitely got the best contract for themselves with Williams. His six-year, $54 million deal is worth less than what Bush would have sought. But only time will tell us if they got the best player, too.