Kevin from Nashville asks a question I've heard a lot on radio shows and in the halls at the Scouting Combine: "How has Jay Cutler rocketed up the draft charts? Near the end of the NCAA season he was projected as a mid to late first-round pick. Now there has been talk that he could leapfrog Vince Young and go third overall to the Titans. How is it possible to move up so far so fast?''
Before I get to your other questions, let me answer this one. Cutler is a bright kid with a good arm, and he's a very quick study. He was running for his life a lot of the time at Vanderbilt and won only 11 games in four starting seasons. (Why am I telling you this, Kevin? You live there. You know.) But as scouts have started to digest his skills -- first at the Senior Bowl, then at the Scouting Combine -- they've found a kid who is a sponge, a good learner, athletic enough and able to play in several offenses. Don't discount the comfort factor coaches and coordinators have with a player. Remember, they'll have to sit with a kid for hours and hours a week, trying to turn a franchise around. Let's see what the next seven weeks bring, but I don't see Cutler getting past the Jets at No. 4.
BUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS AREN'T COMING BACK. From Brandon England of Boston: "You are absolutely right. I could care less about the labor negotiations. I'm a huge sports fan and I'm tired of hearing about labor strife. It happens each year in one sport or another. Next year, I believe it will be baseball's turn. Ugh, I hate it. What do you think Wellington Mara or Art Rooney would think of what is going on with the NFL owners now? It is too bad Mr. Mara passed on this year, because just maybe he could remind these greedy owners how the NFL's founding fathers sacrificed a little money for the betterment of the game.''
Well, that's a good thought, but he was doing that before he died and it didn't help very much. The bottom line is this: Dan Snyder and Bob McNair paid jillions more for their franchises than the longtime owners, and they have different financial pressures than the old-line owners. For instance, McNair has probably $60 million a year in debt service alone stemming from his purchase of the Texans. He needs to make a boatload more money to begin with, because he has financial obligations many owners don't have.
TWO SIDES TO THIS COIN, BRIAN. From Brian Gridley of Atlanta: "Peter, at least some of us fans do care about the current labor situation. If greedy owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder get their way on the revenue-sharing issue, then what happens to the teams in places like Green Bay, Minnesota, and Indianapolis? God help the NFL if it turns into major league baseball.''
Whoa, whoa, Brian. Hang on. Remember that 80 percent of all revenue teams take in is shared -- that's much more than baseball and it means there never will be a gap like the one between the Yankees and the Devil Rays. Think of it: The Washington Redskins would have a huge advantage over the Arizona Cardinals if the Skins took in $300 million and the Cards $160 million. But that's not nearly the gap between the Yanks, with a $200 million payroll, and the Rays, with a $30 million payroll. The NFL won't become like baseball, either, because of the salary cap. Look at the Redskins now. All of Snyder's money can't help them out of the salary-cap hole they're in.