The Dallas Morning News has an interesting feature on Gil Brandt, the longtime Cowboys scouting director who now works for the NFL as an at-large draft guru.
At 73, Brandt is still hard at work doing what he did best in his three decades drafting for the Cowboys â€“ fertilizing relationships. Brandt introduced the computer to the draft process. He was a trendsetter in selecting “the best available” athletes such as sprinter Bob Hayes, Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright and basketball player Cornell Green.
His legacy, however, will be as a people person. He knows everyone. He traffics in talk. He lives for the human contact he believes will give him the ultimate edge. Always has. Always will.
“Everywhere I went, he knew the coaches, their wives and their children’s names,” says Mack Brown, the Texas coach who counts 10 stops on his coaching resume since 1973. “He sent anniversary and birthday cards on Cowboys stationery. He turned most into Cowboys fans.” Even when Brown didn’t have a single pro prospect on his Tulane roster, Brandt made sure to visit the school’s campus. “Coaches don’t forget something like that,” Brown says.
Brandt worked for the Cowboys from their birth in 1960 until Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989 and, in a little more than two months, rid the organization of its management team. First to be fired was coach Tom Landry. Then president Tex Schramm resigned. Brandt, whose once-unrivaled player procurement skill had begun to tarnish, was fired a week after the draft.
As he cleaned out his office, Brandt told The Associated Press that Jones “is in way over his head.” These days, Brandt says, there are no hard feelings. He is grateful to have spent almost 30 years with the Cowboys, he says, and it was Jones’ prerogative to hire new faces. Of course, Jones has emerged as one of the NFL’s most powerful owners. In some ways, the NFL’s top in-house draft expert still works for his old boss.
Brandt drifted for several years after leaving the Cowboys. He gave speeches. He consulted. He started a coach-search placement firm he still runs with Joe Dean, the former LSU athletic director. When the NFL launched its Web site around the time of the 1995 draft, there was an immediate need for expert analysis. “We had to have someone with instant credibility,” says Greg Aiello, NFL vice president of public relations who graduated to the league office from the Cowboys. “I said, ‘I have somebody who would be perfect for the job.’ No one disagreed.”
Officially, Brandt’s title is “senior analyst” at NFL.com. The man who once assessed football talent for America’s Team has emerged as the primary talent scout for America. On the weekend of last year’s draft, 6 million visitors found his work online.
This year, the numbers have been even more staggering. After the NFL’s predraft combine in Indianapolis, 13.3 million unique users surfed the site in March. Brandt’s draft analysis was a top draw, according to Mark Zimmerman, his boss at NFL.com.
Brandt’s days and nights are spent collecting and disseminating heights, weights, “40″ times, bench-press reps and even telephone numbers. He knows them all and is willing to share most. Everyone in the media business has Brandt’s phone number. He is knowledgeable. He is credible. And he returns phone calls.
While personnel people for the NFL’s 32 teams are often loathe to share information, Brandt loves to do it. Newspapers in 40 cities â€“ from The New York Times to USA Today to the University of Wisconsin student publication â€“ have cited or quoted Brandt in the last three months. Brandt estimates he has appeared on a similar number of radio talk shows. “He’s morphed from a gumshoe-type scout to a multimedia personality and authority with credibility,” says Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King. “It’s true that Gil works for the league, and that can call into question if he is cheerleading, but if you listen carefully, he will tell you where a certain player is flawed. … I always feel I’m getting it straight when I talk to Gil.”
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