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IT TAKES TWO TO TRADE
When the first five rounds of the NFL draft ended on Sunday, the new brain trust of the Chargers emerged frowning from their war room at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. General manager Bobby Beathard and aides Dick Daniels and Billy Devaney looked like California kids who had just had their skateboards ripped off. "Frustrating day," Devaney said. "We were offering our next year's one [the Chargers' 1991 first-round pick] around the league and getting no response. None."
"Teams were listening," Daniels said, "but they were holding, holding, holding—then folding."
Of the many surprises in the 55th NFL draft, one of the biggest was that Beathard, the Monty Hall of pro football, didn't deal away half of Mission Bay by sundown. Sunday was to have been the most frenzied day in draft history. With juniors available for the first time, the draft was very strong through the second and third rounds. So deep was the talent that the likes of Beathard were expected to wheel and deal, trading down for as many early-round picks as they could get their hands on.
It didn't happen. Which is why Beathard, Devaney and Daniels, who together traded up, down and sideways throughout the 1980s for the Redskins, were so disgusted. Beathard did land the player he liked more than any other, Southern Cal linebacker Junior Seau, with the fifth overall pick. But the Chargers, who didn't have a second-round selection and couldn't find a team to deal with them, had to wait 52 turns—until the 57th overall pick, early in the third round—before choosing again. After five rounds, Beathard had four players, but he would have liked to have had six or seven.
Although he got Seau, Beathard's thoughts on Sunday night were of Keith Sims, a guard from Iowa State, and Harold Green, a running back from South Carolina. Miami obtained Sims with the 39th pick (the 14th of the second round), after the Bengals took Green with the 38th pick. San Diego came close to striking a deal with Green Bay for the 19th overall choice, which Beathard would have used to take Sims, and with Dallas for the first pick of the second round.
"I almost got Dallas's second," says Beathard. "I could have had it, for a third and for next year's first. I was picturing Sims on our team. But I backed out. It was just too much. I never forget the guys we miss. I'll be following Keith Sims for his whole career, thinking about him and thinking how we missed him. My problem is I sometimes forget some of the good things that happen to us."
Beathard went on, trying to figure out what the rest of the league was trying to figure out. After the Steelers traded down four spots in the first round, no team made a deal for four rounds. That's like Wade Boggs going hitless for four months. There's always some maneuvering on draft day. "You really had to sweeten the pot to get anything done," says Beathard. "You had to overpay. I'm not sure why. Maybe there's more pressure to win now, and teams don't care about next year so much. Maybe this was just a great draft. All I know is that I've never seen a draft where next year's picks had so little value."
One player he wanted badly but didn't think he would be able to get, quarterback John Friesz of Idaho, was still available after the fifth round Sunday night. Beathard made sure he got Friesz by trading the Chargers' 1991 third-round pick to Dallas for the Cowboys' three 1990 sixth-round choices. That gave San Diego four picks in the sixth round on Monday.
Beathard hadn't given up yet.