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Monday, April 21, 2003
Updated: April 22, 12:13 PM ET
There's always one person in charge
By Greg Garber

There is, almost invariably, a moment.

The head coach -- a defensive coordinator at heart -- likes the linebacker. The personnel guy is thinking more along the area of offensive line. Two tantalizing specimens have surprisingly presented themselves in the middle of the third round and their respective ratings are almost identical. Who do you take?

Draft room stories
Check out Greg Garber's look at what goes on in NFL draft rooms:
  • Inside the draft room
  • Working the room
  • In or out? Who's in the room
  • Who's in charge?
  • The Best Draft Ever?
  • His Worst Nightmare
  • The War Room
  • All eyes in the war room swing to the man in charge.

    "You try to be the judge," said Rich McKay, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager. "You try to take the emotion out of it. You're trying to make a decision in the best interest of the franchise. For today, tomorrow, for next year. When you make short-term decisions, you make bad decisions. Believe me, I've made them."

    In Tampa, the Bucs, as it were, stop with McKay.

    Every NFL team has a final authority. In this age of exalted head coaches, perhaps a dozen or so exert that kind of power. Mike Holmgren of Seattle, Bill Parcells in Dallas, Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher, Butch Davis of Cleveland and Atlanta's Dan Reeves are a few examples.

    For the Broncos, Mike Shanahan makes the decisions. Historically, he has been a firm believer in drafting for value -- even when it doesn't seem to make much sense.

    Denver already had Terrell Davis on the roster when it made Georgia running back Olandis Gary their fourth-round pick in 1999 (No. 127 overall). When Davis got hurt four games into the season, Gary ran for 1,159 yards. The next year it was Utah running back Mike Anderson in the sixth round (No. 189 overall). All Anderson did was carry 297 times for 1,487 yards and 15 touchdowns. Last year, when the Broncos came up in the second round, Miami running back Clinton Portis was still on the board. Denver used its No. 51 pick for Portis, who carried 273 times for 1,508 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    Now that Davis, who ran for 6,417 yards in his first four seasons, is about to retire and Gary is out of the picture, it will be Anderson (now a fullback) and Portis in the Broncos' backfield. By standing firm and following the draft board, Shanahan proved you can't have too much of a good thing.

    Even when a head coach doesn't have the final say, he is intimately involved in the process.

    "There is a misnomer that somehow teams with GMs like myself or the late John Butler don't involve the head coach," Colts president Bill Polian said. "The coach is involved since the day the season begins. I'm looking out the window right now and Tony (Dungy) is going through his coaching sessions. The minute he's off the field, I'm in his office. He's involved."

    Greg Garber is an senior writer.