Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Historical Mock NFL "Drafts" Based Entirely On Arbitrary Criteria

A memory: When I was in elementary school, I had a pair of classmates, twin brothers, whose uncle was a broadcaster at ESPN (not named Berman). For some reason, this fortunate familial connection gave them permission to skip class and hang out in the school library, watching a live broadcast of the NFL draft. I'm not sure why they were allowed to do this--I believe they were assigned some sort of menial task that involved recording names in a semi-official "book" of some kind, for purposes unknown--but the result was that I assigned an import to the draft far earlier than most people did. Are there children all across this nation who are skipping school to watch men in suits call out names? I asked myself. It felt like a mystical occult, and I wanted in. Whereas now, it just seems ridiculous.

That said, if I were permitted to pull a Desmond Hume and climb through assorted temporal wormholes in order to draft one player from each franchise, then launch a Bill and Ted-style mission to save the world, these are the men I would choose*:

1. St. Louis Rams
Rosey Grier, DL. Because he is the only All-Pro performer who attended my alma mater, practiced needlepoint, hosted a weekly television show, appeared on The Man From U.N.C.L.E and CHiPs, served as a guest voice on The Simpsons, and crippled the assassin of a major political figure. In fact, I could make a case that Rosey Grier has had the most interesting life of any NFL player in history.

2. Detroit Lions
Eric Hipple, QB. Because I distinctly remember the sight and sound of Hipple being sacked repeatedly, then getting up and coming back for more. Every Thanksgiving, we ate turkey and bickered amongst ourselves, and Eric Hipple would scrape his elbows to shreds on the Silverdome's razor-blade turf.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
John McKay, coach. Because once, when asked what he thought of his team's execution, McKay replied, "I'm in favor of it."

4. Washington Redskins
Joe Washington, RB. Because when I was nine years old, every time I watched Joe Washington, it looked like someone had let loose an extremely fast, extremely diminutive teenager from a Pop Warner league. Also, I used to believe that Joe Washington had some direct affiliation with the history of the Washington franchise, and perhaps even with the history of the city itself. I often wondered the same thing about Jim Brown. These sorts of things seemed too odd to be mere coincidence.

5. Kansas City Chiefs
Barry Word, RB. Because how has a prominent hip-hop artist not co-opted this name?

6. Seattle Seahawks
Kelly Stouffer, QB. Because he is the only quarterback who could make me actively crave lasagna.

7. Cleveland Browns
Tim Couch, QB. Because many years ago, I wrote an extremely long article essentially declaring that Couch would save the Browns' franchise. I went down to Kentucky for a weekend to see him, and I remember he threw one of the most beautiful touchdown passes I'd ever seen, a 50-yard rainbow over the outstretched arms of a defender, and I drank the Kool-Aid, and then I left town before anyone could call me out for it.

8. Oakland Raiders
Ted Hendricks, DE. Because his nickname is one of the five best in the modern history of sports. As far as I can tell (from a cursory Google search), storks do not, in fact, have issues with bipolarity, but thanks to Hendricks, I will never really trust them, especially when I see them in Irish pubs.

9. Buffalo Bills
Phil Villapiano, LB. Because he's a perfectly nice guy (I interviewed him for this story), but his football card was frustratingly omnipresent. I swear, for one brief moment in my life, I had nineteen of these.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Keenan McCardell or Jimmy Smith, WR. Because at some point, you would have thought we might have realized the Jacksonville receivers tend to be undervalued fantasy commodities. Yet we still do it.

11. Denver Broncos
Craig Morton, QB. Because he is the first quarterback I remember explicitly liking due to his failures. Every time I watch the highlights of Super Bowl XII, I want to offer him a hug.

12. Miami Dolphins
Garo Yepremian, K. Because he grew up in Cyprus, burning olive pits to stay warm, and then he threw that ridiculous flubbed pass in the Super Bowl, and in so doing inspired an entire generation of kicker caricatures, including the most memorable character on this terrible show.

13. San Francisco 49ers
Tom Rathman, FB. Because he was a fullback who caught passes. What a weird and kinky fetish that was.

15. New York Giants
Frank Gifford, ATH. Because this is still the weirdest and most discomfiting great book I've ever read.

16. Tennessee Titans
Dan Pastorini, QB. Because in my nine-year old consciousness, his name bore a vague resemblance to "pepperoni." Also, as an adult, I now know that he posed for Playgirl, married a Playmate and once starred in a movie called Weed: The Florida Connection, which, if you have to possess a copy of, please contact me immediately.

17. Carolina Panthers
Kerry Collins, QB. Because I am one of the few people on this earth who can say I hung out with him one evening in college, and I was, in fact, far more drunk than he was.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers
Bubby Brister, QB. Because I remember those halcyon days when the great controversy in Pittsburgh was whether to start Brister or Mark Malone. In that context, rampant sexual harassment doesn't sound so bad, does it?

19. Atlanta Falcons
Billy "Whiteshoes" Johnson, KR. Because I cannot remember, not once, watching Johnson play live, but he seems inordinately famous to me, especially for someone who scored six touchdowns in his entire career.

20. Houston Texans
I refuse to acknowledge the Texans as a franchise.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
Ken Anderson, QB. Because in 1982, Ken Anderson completed 70.6 percent of his passes, which, at the time, seemed utterly absurd, but is the exact number Drew Brees managed in 2009. (Also: Why is Brian Griese on this list?)

22. New England Patriots
Mosi Tatupu, RB. Mosi Tatupu! Mosi Tatupu!

23. Green Bay Packers
Lynn Dickey, QB. Another of those late '70s/early '80s signal-callers who seemed to take a constant pounding, yet was actually pretty good for a couple of years. The disco-era Matt Schaub.

24. Philadelphia Eagles
Harold Carmichael, WR. Because he was nine feet tall and caught passes. What more reason do you need?

25. Baltimore Ravens
Bam Morris, RB. Because his appearance in Weed 2: The Texas Connection was not as well-received as Pastorini's.

26. Arizona Cardinals

Stump Mitchell, RB. Because I know of only one other person named Stump, and it would seem both share almost the exact same level of fame. 

27. Dallas Cowboys
Phil Elliott, WR.

28. San Diego Chargers
Charlie Joiner, WR. Because he always seemed better than Kellen Winslow, even though I know he wasn't.

29. NY Jets
Wesley Walker, WR. Because this remains one of the more fun games I've ever watched.

30. Minnesota Vikings
Tim Tebow, QB. Because the law declares he must be in here somewhere. Or everywhere.

31. Indianapolis Colts
Art Donovan, T. Because he's the reason I fell in love with NFL Films, and NFL Films is one of the primary reasons I exist in my present form. I used to go to bed dreaming that Steve Sabol was my father.

32. New Orleans Saints
Fred Weary, DB. Because it's time for this conceit to end.

*I have taken some minor liberties with the draft order, just to upset Todd McShay.

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