The worst team in the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns, exceeded last year’s horror show of finishing 1-15 by losing all sixteen games this season. Once again, their awful record entitles the Browns to pick first in the 2018 NFL Draft. That draft, a semi-socialist, semi-indentured servitude process that makes superbly athletic young males instant millionaires will begin on April 26th at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas.
The second pick will go to my beloved, New York Football Giants who earned this dubious distinction by self-destruction, winning only three games while losing thirteen. Along the way they embarrassed their franchise quarterback by benching him. This led to the firing of both their general manager and head coach who both pleaded: “I was only following orders.”
The owner-in-charge who initiated that benching ducked any responsibility. It’s good to be the owner.
Much will be speculated in the coming months about who my beloved Giants will select in the draft and how this will affect Eli Manning, the man whose benching caused the shit storm. (Full discloser; Mr. Manning is my quarterback of record so what’s good for Eli, is good for me.)
This will play out between now and April and I will report as needed. But, let me take you back to 1981, the last time my beloved Giants had the second pick in the NFL draft.
The Giants imploded in 1980; general manager, George Young, head coach, Ray Perkins and quarterback, Phil Simms, all in their second year together, finished 4-12 earning the second pick behind the New Orleans Saints.
There was absolutely no talk of replacing Young, Perkins or Simms despite the awful record. Wellington Mara, Young and Perkins all had a laser focus of who they wanted to pick in the draft: North Carolina’s unanimous All-American linebacker, Lawrence Taylor. The only force that stood between them and Taylor was Bum Phillips, general manager and head coach of the Saints. The smart money predicted Phillips would select George Rogers, the South Carolina running back and winner of the Heisman Trophy. But Phillips remained coy and the Giants brain trust feared the Saints would trade down.
Taylor’s ability and ferocity were not exactly trade secrets across other teams’ personnel scouts and selectors. Gil Brandt of Dallas noted that Taylor, “… was the best player available on our list.” Mike Hickey, the Jets personnel director called Taylor, “A linebacker freak. He’s too big to be that fast, too fast to be that big and too tough to be stopped easily, if at all.”
Dave Anderson of The New York Times covered the first day of the draft on Tuesday, April 28 held in the New York Sheraton. He reported that NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle, began: “New Orleans first up,” the commissioner said. When the commissioner announced that the Saints had chosen George Rogers…at the Giants table, Ed Croke (public relations director) tore up a card with Rogers name on it and handed another card to Jim Heffeman of the NFL office who hurried up to Pete Rozelle with it.
“The Giants,” the commissioner was saying now, “select North Carolina linebacker”…That’s all the draftniks had to hear. They knew that the only North Carolina linebacker who counted was Lawrence Taylor, 6 feet 3 inches, 242 pounds – “a one-man demolition crew,” according to the NFL profile sheets. The draftniks whooped in agreement. “That’s the first time in six years” a Giants historian grunted, “that they cheered.”
The man who quickly become known as LT was a New York Football Giant and would lead the team to its first playoff appearance in 17 years that season. The long nightmare was over.
Once the 1981 season ended Ray Perkins, who was stingy when it came to compliments, noted: “He’s a prototype outside linebacker in the National Football League. He’s an excellent blitzer, he’s an excellent tackler, he’s smart and he had a great impact on our football team. And I’ve already made this statement and I’ll make it again, that he’s the best young player I’ve seen at any position as a rookie.”
George Young best explained the force that LT brought to the game: “If you went to a ball game and had no idea who the best players were, and you just sat and watched the game, suddenly about five-minutes into the game you’ll be watching Lawrence Taylor.”
Big Blue should be so fortunate this year both in selecting their new head coach and what they do with their selection.