The annual post-draft analysis of analyses
By Homer J.
“Can’t Act. Can’t Sing. Slightly Balding. Can Dance a Little.”
That’s how the guy who gave Fred Astaire his Hollywood screen test rated the greatest hoofer of all time. The debut performance of Debussy’s timeless “Clair de Lune” was described as “ugly to the ears,” by the most respected Parisian critic of the time.
When George Gershwin’s beloved “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered at Aeolian Hall in New York in 1924, New York Tribune reviewer Lawrence Gilman was less than overwhelmed. “How trite, feeble and conventional the tunes are; how sentimental and vapid the harmonic treatment, under its disguise of fussy and futile counterpoint! … Weep over the lifelessness of the melody and harmony, so derivative, so stale, so inexpressive!”
“Fiddler on the Roof” was described as “nothing special” by the Variety stringer who reviewed its off-Broadway opening.
And Rex Reed and most of the other jerks who review movies panned the greatest movie of all time, “A Christmas Story.” (They just hated producer Bob Clark, because he did those Porky’s movies and Reed would never know what to do with a Red Ryder BB gun, anyway).
But my favorite review of all time was Vito Stellino’s review of the Pittsburgh Steelers 1974 draft in the Post-Gazette:
“The Steelers seem to have come out of the first five rounds of the draft appreciably strengthened at wide receiver but nowhere else. They didn’t get a tight end. They didn’t get a punter. They didn’t get an offensive tackle who might’ve shored up what could well become a weakness. What they did get was Swann, who seems to be a sure-pop to help; Lambert, who figures to be the No. 5 linebacker if he pans out; and three question marks.”
Guess he didn’t think much of that Stallworth kid or that 5th round pick out of Wisconsin, Webster.
You never know. Great picks can meet with awful misfortune, like Gabe Rivera or the Penguins’ Michel Briere. A tragic car crash ended Rivera’s career. Another ended Briere’s life. So many other seemingly great choices have met with career ending injuries.
Often a great quarterback choice ends up with a terrible team, and is beset by injuries because the team can’t protect him. Other good quarterbacks – guys like Matt Cassell – have the luxury of sitting on the bench and developing behind great quarterbacks….and they become great value when they are either plugged in to sub for the injured star or traded away for a first or second round draft pick.
And sometimes, guys who look good in college turn out to be great when the hit the pros. Yep, you really can “coach ’em up.” And guys in the locker room play a big part in attitude adjustment.
The Steelers didn’t get their punter in the 1974 draft, but they actually did get a tight end named Randy Grossman who today is the proud owner of four Super Bowl rings.
The NFL Player Selection Meeting (draft) is sort of like Christmas, are we are all like Ralphie – waiting to see if we got our Red Ryder BB gun or that shutdown corner we’ve been asking Santa to bring. We love it. It’s fun, and it’s fun to see what the other kids got. But I never forget Vito Stellino’s instant analysis of the greatest draft ever. And, remember, Vito was a helluva football writer.
Let that be a warning to all of us as we try to make sense of this year’s picks, as surprising as they are.
When I read and hear the pronouncements of all the “experts” on the blogs and on NFLTV and ESPN, I recall the wisdom of the revered ABC News economics correspondent, Dan Cordtz. Every so often, Dan would come in to do radio reports on the latest jobless figures or factory output numbers. Really boring stuff, but sometimes very important. He would do a 30-second report, giving the numbers and a brief explanation. Then we were required to do an informal QnA, where he would explain the figures in layman’s language.
Invariably, my question to Dan would be, “what’s it all mean, Dan?” And invariably, the bald-headed, moustachioed sage would do a countdown and give the same answer, “Three, two, one,…..It don’t mean shit.”
When I first posted this piece back in 2011, I referred to Dan as “the late, great Dan Cordtz and ended it by saying, “Dan’s gone now, but his answer still stands with so much of the post-draft analysis.” Much to my surprise and delight, Dan personally corrected me with an e-mail response that my report of his death was premature.
Dan was last reported alive and well at age 91 and living in Florida. And Homer, thus chastened, reminds everyone that it is dangerous to assume anything and that – in the final analysis – all those draft report cards still don’t mean shit.
Thanks so much to Homer for this reminder to all of us to hold our fire—and, for that matter, our over-the-top enthusiasm—for guys who have never played a snap of NFL football, even in OTAs. Time will reveal all. Mel Kiper and his ilk get paid to sound like they knows what he’s talking about, but it shouldn’t fool us into thinking they know any better than anyone else how any particular player is going to develop….