In April of 2005, I was a part of my first ever NFL draft radio broadcast locally in Tampa. The broadcast took place at Raymond James Stadium as the Bucs had the 5th pick and were coming off a year when they went 5-11.
Questions surrounded the Bucs and then head coach Jon Gruden as to what the Bucs might end up doing with their 5th overall selection.
Would the Bucs draft the local star wide-out from Plant High School in Mike Williams?
Could the Bucs look to boost their offense with an explosive back in Carnell “Cadillac” Williams?
Are the Bucs in position to draft whichever quarterback the 49ers do not choose with the 1st pick in the draft?
See, the Bucs had just drafted a quarterback in the 3rd round of the 2003 NFL draft in Chris Simms, and already had Brian Griese as their starter, so fans around the Tampa Bay area were hesitant to make a bold selection and take a quarterback early. Sound familiar?
As the Bucs went on the clock, I asked the thousands of fans inside Raymond James Stadium whom they would like to see in a Bucs uniform.
I screamed out, “who wants Mike Williams?” Bucs fans let out a roar.
“Who wants Cadillac Williams,” I yelled louder. Bucs fans were not as loud, but still approving.
Then I asked the question that I was most looking forward to hearing the response.
“Who wants Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers?” This question received the loudest response, but unfortunately, the echo of boos could have been heard all the way in New York City.
Bucs fans were content. They wanted anyone except the player who would become the best player from that draft. Bucs fans wanted the team to get better, but they weren’t prepared to allow their team to make that bold selection that would have changed the franchise and its history moving forward.
Bucs fans wanted the safe pick as they typically do. For some reason, the favorite pick for Bucs fans heading into most drafts always seems to be the “safest” player on the board. These “safe” players are ok to draft sometimes, but sometimes a franchise has to take a leap of faith, sometimes a franchise has to make a bold move that has the potential to pay huge dividends.
Since Warren Sapp was selected in 1995, I can only think of one player (Aqib Talib) that the Bucs took a legitimate risk on in the 1st round of an NFL draft. While Aqib Talib was a pain in the ass, he is still considered one of the best cover corners playing today. It’s all risk and reward.
Under Tony Dungy, the Bucs took few risks in the NFL draft. From Regan Upshaw to Marcus Jones to Warrick Dunn to Reidel Anthony to Kenyatta Walker to my buddy Booger McFarland. All of these players contributed to the Bucs in making the franchise championship caliber, but, to my recollection, all of these players were considered “safe” picks at the time.
The “safe” picks continued under Jon Gruden as well. Michael Clayton, Cadillac Williams, and Davin Joseph were all considered that “safe” type of player.
When I think of “safe” picks in the NFL draft, I think of a player that might not have the ceiling as other players, but he has a less chance of being an overall bust as well.
I believe it is the willingness to make bold selections when bold selections are needed that prevents certain teams from being regulars in drafting in the top 10 of an NFL draft.
This year’s draft possesses one of the most intriguing and polarizing figures to come out of college in quite some time. The talk that has begun by some Bucs fans about their dislike for Johnny Manziel is already starting to remind me of one of the darkest days in Bucs history. It’s starting to remind me of the 2005 draft when Bucs fans wanted nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers.
There will be plenty discussed and written by me in regards to Johnny Manziel over the next few months leading up to May’s draft, and rightfully so. Manziel is a special player who did special things in college. He’s a quarterback who can make every throw from the pocket, but also gives you the athleticism to break out of the pocket, keep his eyes down the field, and make big plays. Manziel’s leadership and love for the game was on display every Saturday if anyone cared to watch.
While Manziel’s size and character will be heavily scrutinized over the next few months as his only flaws, perhaps Bucs fans could try to keep an open mind to drafting a player who has the potential to ignite an entire franchise and fan base all by himself.
Peyton Manning (neck), Tom Brady (knee), Aaron Rodgers (shoulder/concussions), Drew Brees (shoulder), Ben Roethlisberger (multiple), and Sam Bradford (multiple) are just a few of the starting “pocket” quarterbacks who have dealt with major injuries in their career. While you’re all worried about the potential of Johnny Manziel getting injured in the NFL, perhaps you should take a moment to think about the payoff he could give you if he remains healthy. Injuries happen to everyone that plays football. Get over it! If you are worried about injuries, you should probably not want to draft any player because they will all get injured at some point.
As for Manziel’s lack of character and immaturity, I’m just glad twitter wasn’t around when I was 19. Manziel is doing what most college student-athletes do. He’s just doing it at a bigger level with more celebrities because he is already a rock star. While you’re focused on his partying, which has NEVER affected his play on the field, I’ll point out his charity work HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.
While passing on Aaron Rodgers enters my mind every time I think of the Buccaneers never finding a true elite quarterback in their history, I know that taking a quarterback early in any draft is a bold move. Unless you’re willing as an organization to make that bold pick early in a draft, you might find yourself drafting in the top 10 again very soon.
While every person with an opinion about college and pro football will throw out their predictions about Manziel, I’ll flat out tell you that I have no idea how Manziel will fare in the NFL and neither do any of those analysts. Then again, I don’t know how Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, or any other quarterback ever drafted will or would fare in the NFL after being drafted. The uncertainty is what makes the NFL draft so intriguing. Some of you might be scared of the unknown, which is why you lean towards the “safe” picks, but I’m ready for a change. I’m ready for the Bucs as a complete organization to make the bold move and bring a quarterback with limitless potential to our team. I’m ready for that kind of excitement.
Ask yourself this question: Would you rather go after a player like Johnny Manziel and him never live up to expectations or settle on a “safe” pick who becomes an average player and watch Johnny Manziel become a franchise quarterback for another franchise.
Risk vs. Reward
I’m not sure about you, but I’m tired of seeing other franchises get what I want.
It’s time to make that bold move.