Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys To Draft Best Players Rather than Pet Cats

Some excellent news from Mac Engel of the FWST:

Bill Parcells was a cat guy. He had a big, fat pet cat at his house. And he had his pet cats at Valley Ranch, too. Especially in April.

“Pet cats” is a Parcellsism; they were the prospects whom a coach or scout adored. They are often so fond of such prospects they try to make sure their “pet cat” is drafted, regardless what the scouting consensus is.

And every coach, general manager or scout has a pet cat; 2004 second-round flop Jacob Rogers was a Parcells’ pet cat. Former quarterback Quincy Carter was a Jerry Jones pet cat.

Now Jones, the owner, is playing the part of animal control, and is trying to get rid of the felines around Cowboys headquarters.

“There won’t be that potential lobbying that you might have gotten that might have influenced that draft board that really you shouldn’t do,” Jones said. “You should put your highest-rated player by the guys that spend 100 percent of the time out here.

“I think this is going to be the purest scout-evaluation [draft] from the December grade.”

Praise be, if true. It’s simply silly to have amateurs make the call on draft day. If you don’t trust your scouts, fire ‘em. Otherwise, let ‘em do their job.

A coach may want a certain type of player — big linebackers, tall receivers, a player who fits a scheme — and he might lobby a scout to take a player who fits that role. So much so they “reach” for that player and take him a round or two earlier than he should be selected.

Glancing at those four previous drafts, Parcells’ fingerprints are all over — Bobby Carpenter, Marion Barber, Rob Petitti, Anthony Fasano, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Stephen Peterman to name a few.

“But you can’t manufacture these players; they all can’t fit the blueprint,” Ireland said. “It happens on every staff. You don’t want guys falling in love with players or need positions. Those are the traps; people start believing we need a receiver, and a fifth-rounder becomes a third-rounder.

Now, it seems perfectly reasonable to me for coaches and scouts to be on the same page as to the type of player that the coach is looking for the fit his style of play. Jimmy Johnson wanted top notch speed and athleticism at every position and was willing to sacrifice size and power to get it; Bill Parcells was the opposite. Both men won Super Bowls with their approaches, although Parcells didn’t do it with Dallas and Johnson didn’t do it with the Dolphins.

That said, your board is your board. If there isn’t, say, a linebacker that fits your scheme ranked near the top of your board when it’s time to pick, you don’t take a linebacker. Reaching to take a 5th round player in the 3rd round so seldom pays off that it’s simply a wasted pick. Far better to take the proverbial “best available athlete” (within the parameters of how a given team’s scheme defines that) at a position of lesser need than to take suboptimal talent at a “need” position. Doing that tends to leave the need unmet.

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