Bush-mania, Packers get creative, Shanahan exhales
Posted: Monday May 1, 2006 12:00AM; Updated: Monday May 1, 2006 11:39AM
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
METAIRIE, La. -- What stuck out to me on draft weekend 2006, while hanging with the Saints:
This place loves Reggie Bush. Just loves him. Read my SI story when it hits your mailboxes and the newsstands, but the evidence is everywhere, including something I just heard from Merril Hoge, who knows what he's talking about: "He will be the best running back in the NFL, and he will be the most electrifying player in the league, in less than a year.'' Sheesh. Easy, big fella. But the excitement around the team this weekend ... I haven't seen the likes of it on a draft weekend in I-don't-know-how-long.
Green Bay's second round, and what it led to, was one of the most interesting things I saw this weekend. Green Bay GM Ted Thompson told me Sunday night that he didn't set out to make five trades between the 36th and 109th picks, that it just happened that way.
"It was different, because every time a team called it seemed the way we had our board set up, we either had a player we thought would be there if we moved down a few spots or that there were a few players pretty close in value.''
In essence, Green Bay traded the 36th pick and a player who most likely was never going to play for them again, Javon Walker, and kept trading down, three more times. In the end, the Packers had added two second-round picks, a third-, a fourth- and two sixth-rounders.
They traded the 36th pick to New England for the 52nd and 75th. They traded Walker to Denver for the 37th pick. Then the gamble came. Green Bay wanted a tackle from Boise State named Daryn Colledge,who was one of the best little factoids of this draft. He's from North Pole, Alaska, which is 140 miles northeast of Anchorage, 140 miles west of the Yukon Territories, and, according to Mapquest.com, is a 41-hour drive north from Seattle. (And, according to Weather.com, is supposed to have a wind-chill factor of 22 degrees Fahrenheit at dawn today.)
Thompson thought the Packers could trade down from 36 and still get him. So they got the two picks from New England, then turned the 37th pick from the Walker deal and their 139th pick into three picks from Atlanta, one of which was turned into two more picks from St. Louis, one of which was turned into two picks from Philadelphia. The bounty: Colledge at 43, wideout Greg Jennings at 52, center Jason Spitz at 75, wideout Will Blackmon at 115, quarterback Ingle Martin at 148, defensive tackle Johnny Jolly at 183, free safety Tyrone Culver at 185. "I believe this team needed to add core players for the future, and I think we're better today than we were at the start of the weekend,'' Thompson said.
They'd better be, or he might not be employed there in 2008.
I like what the Jets did. Quite a bit. I'm not sold on D'Brickashaw Ferguson as the next Walter Jones; I don't think he mauls people quite the same as a dominating tackle. But he'll be good. The center they got, Nick Mangold, was loved league-wide. Loved. Physical tone-setter type of guy. People who know quarterbacks thought Oregon's Kellen Clemens, the second-round passer they got, has a chance to be a long-term starter; if so, getting him at 49 was a steal, obviously. And I may be overrating Brad Smith, the Missouri quarterback who will be an NFL slash guy (receiver/runner/special-teamer/occasional thrower, sort of a latter-day Ray Lucas, or maybe a poor man's Antwaan Randle El), but getting him at 103 was good value. There was a ton of pressure on new GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini, but they acquitted themselves well.
Drew Brees is really, really happy about what the Saints did. He sounds like what you'd expect -- which is to say, a man on a mission. When I spoke to him, I heard the same optimistic and grateful tone of voice that he's always had, and it's clear he thinks there's no question he'll be the Saints' quarterback when they go marching in to Cleveland for the season-opener on Sept. 10.
Brees completely tore his right labrum, and partially tore his rotator cuff last season. He'd be a Dolphin today if the injury hadn't been quite so severe, because head coach Nick Saban absolutely loves Brees the person and Brees the healthy quarterback. Saban just didn't know if he could trust him to be whole after the injury. But now Brees is throwing, and he's playing golf -- shot a disappointing 80 on Saturday -- and he thinks he'll be ready to go by training camp.
And what does he think of the pick of Bush? "It's awesome,'' he said from his home in San Diego. "How blessed am I? I played with LaDainian Tomlinson for five years, and now I'm playing with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. I felt LaDainian kind of changed the position with how versatile and dominant he was at running back. Now I think Reggie could make the position even more dynamic. There is no way I won't be ready for the season. Take that back -- maybe there's one half of a half of a percentage point, because I want to keep myself motivated.''
The Mike Shanahan-Jay Cutler marriage is going to be one of those 15-year unions. I said to Shanahan on Sunday night, "If Cutler's right when he says he hasn't talked to you guys for two months, how in the world did you end up taking him with the 11th pick in the draft?'' Shanahan laughed.
"The first time I talked to him was yesterday, after the pick, and we met here today," Shanahan said from Denver. "I studied him and watched him and looked at the draft board and didn't say very much to anyone. I said, 'I'm just going to shut up and hope it works out.' I've been in this thing long enough. You don't give anyone your hand. Don't give anyone an idea, or it's out very quickly. Keep it to yourself.
"I did call [Tennessee Titans coach] Jeff Fisher, who I'm very close to, and I know Jeff to a T, and I just said to him, 'Give me Cutler's good points and bad points.' And he said, 'Mike, there are no bad points.' Jeff knows football players. And I thought, if I could get up there around 11, I'm going to try to get him. When I really got to thinking about it, I asked myself, 'How often am I ever going to have the chance to do something like this again, to get a guy like this?' Maybe never."
But, I said to Shanahan, "You have never spoken to the man. How can you pick a guy who is a total stranger?"
"Well, you watch his interviews on tape, and you feel you know the guy," Shanahan said. "You pick up the phone and talk to him or his agent, and all of a sudden it's going to get out, and I just couldn't risk that."
I also wondered, as does all of Colorado, about the psyche of Jake Plummer after the move.
"Haven't talked to him yet," said Shanahan. "The draft just ended. We'll talk. But if you're a guy who's afraid of competition, you're not made of the right stuff. A guy's got to compete and win the job."
And one final note from Shanahan about Laurence Maroney. "I loved him," Shanahan said. "I think the Patriots got a steal. An absolute steal. I think he's going to be the best back in the league."
Let's see. What else? There's plenty more in this column, but please log back in tomorrow because I'm going to write about the single most outrageous thing in the United States today.