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The Life

April 23, 2002
First draft
ESPN The Magazine

Steve Spurrier or no Steve Spurrier, Iím going to need some time to recover from the NFL Draft.

It wasnít so much the 16 hours I spent on the couch watching the two-day event (you could put a coronerís chalk outline around the cushion imprint). No, the worst part was when I caught myself calling my wife a "great value pick." We got into an argument, and before I knew it I was yelling things such as, "Why canít you be more like Suzy Kolber?" and, "If you really loved me, youíd style your hair like Melís."

Only in America does the NFL Draft get more TV air time than the Democratic National Convention. The whole thing is ridiculous -- grown men sitting at tables wearing Time-Life operator headphones, awaiting instructions from the home office back in Green Bay, Cleveland, Seattle, etc. -- and I loved every nanosecond of it.

Where else can you see old videotape of former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and his cute little rat dog in the Dallas War Room? ("How Ďbout that Buttercup!") And someone needs to see if Ron Jaworskiís Starbucks intravenous tube has been flushed lately. The guy is a walking, talking double latte. Nobody, and I mean nobody, breaks down the Wide Three Technique better than Jaworski.

Of course, what Jaws really needed to do was slip a cup or two of java to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Did you see Tags during the first round? First of all he sauntered up to the podium, hand in slacks pocket, as if he were at the yacht club for a spinnakers seminar. Here it is, the NFLís day of days, and Tags sounds like heís a junior high principal announcing the cafeteria menu on the schoolís PA system. "And with the first pick, the Houston Texans select ... pinto beans."

Memo to NFL: Ditch the stiff, hire Billy Crystal for next yearís gig.

And then there was the cutaway to Redskins Park, where Washington owner Daniel Snyder loaded up Spurrier and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis on a helicopter for a quick fly-by and visit to a draft day rally at FedEx Field. Even Buttercup was speechless on that one.

Thing is, Spurrier didnít miss much. The Draft was moving at glacial speed, so he was able to mix with the locals, get back on Redskin One, and land at Nothingís-Happening-Here Central with time to spare for the teamís first pick.

This was Spurrierís first draft -- not counting the one in 1967, when the San Francisco 49ers took him in the opening round. He did what most coaches do (not counting the ride in the chopper), which is sit around, stare at the big board and wait for takeout.

The Daniel was -- whatís the right word? -- engaged in the draft process this time around. His money, his toy, his input, right? But Spurrier wasnít exactly Mr. Irrelevant.

Thereís a reason, actually a couple of them, why the Redskins took a quarterback with the 32nd overall pick. They couldnít move up to get Oregon QB Joey Harrington, who went to Detroit at No. 3, or wide receiver Donteí Stallworth, who went to New Orleans at No. 13. So The Daniel traded down twice from his original No. 18 spot and found Tulaneís Patrick Ramsey.

Ramseyís selection didnít come as a complete surprise. Spurrier saw him at the Senior Bowl. Saw him at the NFL Combine. Saw him on tape. With Spurrier, you either have it or you donít as a quarterback. Ramsey had it, or enough of it that The Daniel told the Redskins Time-Life operator back at Madison Square Garden to send the card in. A few moments later, Mr. Monotone himself, Tags, made the announcement.

Danny Wuerffel is the likely Redskins starting quarterback. But Wuerffel is familiar enough with The Ballcoach to know that depth charts donít mean much. If Ramsey can play, heíll play.

I ran into a former Redskin last Saturday morning, just an hour or so before the draft began. Heís with another team now, but was curious about Spurrier and the Redskinsí plans. Like most anyone who can read a roster, the holes were obvious: guard, defensive tackle, rush end. And in fact, the veteran player said last seasonís Redskins' offensive line was the best he had personally ever played with.

But now there were holes on the O-line, questions about Wuerffelís arm strength, and doubts about 2001 QB draftee Sage Rosenfels, who hasnít played a snap. I like Sage, but ..." said the former Redskin. You get his point.

So Snyder, Spurrier and the Redskinsí personnel people did the sensible thing: they drafted the strong-armed Ramsey and decided they could get some guards and defensive linemen June 2, when veteran free agents become available. Ramsey isnít very nimble -- but heís tough, bright and can make, in Spurrierís words, "all the throws." Sounds like a guy in St. Louis.

Who knows if this will work. It canít turn out any worse than 1994, when the Redskins drafted QB Heath Shuler in the first round. Shuler is selling commercial real estate in Knoxville. Newlywed Ramsey is in Ashburn, Va., watching game tape with Spurrier.

At his introductory news conference, they stuck Ramsey behind a podium at Redskins Park. Directly in front of him were the teamís three Super Bowl trophies from seasons past. Not too much pressure.

But The Daniel is big on those trophies. He wants another one, and soon. Thatís why he hired Spurrier, that's why he drafted Ramsey.

Now if he could just talk some sense into my wife.

Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at gene.wojciechowski@espnmag.com.



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