Around this time almost twenty years ago, the Green Bay Packers possessed the second pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys, holding the rights to the #1 selection, chose a quarterback out of UCLA named Troy Aikman.
The ‘Boys #1 privileges came on the heels of a 3-13 season. New owner Jerry Jones had been handed the reins of America’s Team and promptly fired legendary coach Tom Landry. Aikman would go on to turn around the franchise during a Hall of Fame career that included six Pro Bowls, countless team and League records and three Super Bowl Rings (not to mention a Super Bowl, MVP, leader of one of the great sports “dynasties” blah, blah, blah).
The Pack chose next. They had their eyes locked in on a man who Sports Illustrated had featured on their cover the week prior to the draft and labeled the “Best Offensive Line Prospect Ever.” Tony Mandarich’s college resume should sound pretty familiar in the context of the recently-completed 2008 NFL Draft. Mandarich, a 6’6 315-pounder, was drooled over by most NFL personnel. He was a “can’t miss” who possessed that rare combination of speed, power and athleticism. If you’ve read Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side, this was the guy before the guys who were supposed to change the landscape and the position of left tackle in the NFL.
“He’s the best college football player I’ve ever seen… this kid is better than Anthony Munoz.”
— Tom Boisture, N.Y. Giants
“Maybe the fastest offensive tackle in history… and just maybe the best.”
— San Diego Chargers GM Steve Ortmayer
“He’s always working on his techniques, which are almost perfect anyway.”
— Dick Steinberg, New England Patriots
Mandarich attended Michigan St. where he was twice named Big Ten Lineman of the Year. His senior season brought consensus first-team All-American and Outland Trophy Finalist honors. Sound familiar? For those not drawing the parallel, Jake Long is listed at 6’7, 315. Long played collegiately at the University of Michigan. He took home the Big Ten Lineman of the Year distinction twice and nabbed first-team All-American Outland Tropy Finalist recognition as a senior. Will Long be the next Mandarich? Or will he be the next Jonathan Ogden?
The answer? Nobody knows…anything. The most telling word from that 1989 SI cover is “prospect.” Undoubtedly, the Incredible Bulk was one of the most promising offensive line prospects NFL scouts had ever seen. Nobody could or would have predicted his original cover would fall as an inset on an even more memorable cover shot entitled “The Incredible Bust.”
So, why is this all coming out today? Frankly, it’s been pent up from listening to, reading and watching weeks worth of experts who seem decidedly split on New York Jets first-round pick Vernon Gholston. Some call him a “coach killer” who is “inconsistent” and takes, not just plays but, “games off.” Others used phrases like “impact rusher” and the “best pure pass rusher in the 08 draft.” Well, after listening to countless analysis and ridiculously worrying about whether Gholston’s “fluidity in the hips” makes him an awful pick or whatever, I’ve decided I’m pretty much done paying any attention to anybody – even he of the fabulous pompadour.
Here’s what I know. Gholston played at Ohio St. He broke their all-time sack record. His measurables are off the chart. I’d like to think he will be OK. He may end up being terrible. I’m done wasting any sort of additional energy thinking about it. And for those losing sleep over who your favorite team may have selected and what some so-called expert is saying about them? Relax…think about Tony Mandarich…and remember that nobody knows nothing.
Plus, this is the same Jets team that drafted Kyle Brady, Ken O’Brien and Blair Thomas. What? Me? Worry?
Editor’s Note: Not to unnecessarily pile on, but a devoted Packers fan reminded me that the following players went 3-5 in the 1989 NFL Draft: Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders.
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About the Author: Cecilio's Scribe is the founder of The Legend of Cecilio Guante and a generally pessimistic fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. A fine NYC-based gentlemen who hones his marketing skills as his primary trade by day. Husband, chef, father of a newborn and after-hours blogger by night. Proud alum of the mighty Big Red of Cornell. University. Hot sauce devotee. Staunch protester of the continued wussifcation of American sports. Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick.