GREAT NEWS! Very happy about hearing this from the horses mouth.
By Mike Celizic
updated 7:18 p.m. MT, Mon., Feb. 25, 2008
Just when you thought there’s nothing left that could possibly surprise you, you hear this from Dallas: Jerry Jones isn’t willing to trade up to get Darren McFadden in the Cowboys backfield.
If this is true — and the Dallas Morning News quotes him as saying as much — it’s proof that the NFL is finally getting the message that the worst decision a team can make is to take a running back at the top of the draft.
This is not meant to be a shot at McFadden or running backs. There’s still nothing more exciting in football than watching a great back faking behemoths out of their knickers and running over anybody who dares to get in their way.
McFadden appears to be a fine specimen of the breed, a man with blazing speed and terrific elusiveness. Jones has particular reason to covet McFadden: they share the same alma mater, Arkansas.
A couple of months ago, the speculation was that Jones, who is losing running back Julius Jones to free agency, would consider trading his other back, Marion Barber to the Dolphins for the top pick in the draft so he could take McFadden.
It was a hideous idea and has been for pretty much forever. Barber is a terrific back, and the Cowboys got him in the fourth round. Re-signing him will still be cheaper than paying McFadden the going rate for the top overall pick in the draft. Dallas will still need a back-up for Barber, but there are plenty of running backs to choose from, and history says you don’t need a Heisman Trophy finalist to win the Super Bowl.
There are some other issues with McFadden. He’s been involved in a couple of nightclub scuffles, he’s named in a paternity suit and, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, he’s expecting two more children by two different women. There’s no crime in having children, but none of this speaks for McFadden’s self-discipline — or judgment. He hasn’t heard of a condom?
Or is he just imitating famous unwed father Tom Brady?
It doesn’t really matter. Neither McFadden nor any other running back is worth the top pick. Yes, you will find a Tony Dorsett or a Jim Brown and win a title with him once in a generation, but most great backs taken at the top of the draft — O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, and Barry Sanders to name a few — don’t win championships. They don’t even get to the championship game.
But two years ago, there were the Saints as excited as kids at Christmas when the Texans took Mario Williams, leaving them with Heisman hero Reggie Bush. For a year, it looked as if it might have been a great move, but not any more. Williams had a great season last year and Bush was a non-factor.
Even Adrian Peterson, the prize running back of last year’s draft, didn’t get the Vikings into the playoffs despite all his gaudy statistics. Plus, he got hurt. He wasn’t hurt badly, but enough to miss playing time.
Twenty years ago, there would have been a stampede to the top of the draft to get McFadden, and ten years ago, there might not have been a stampede, but several G.M.s would have been willing to arm wrestle for the right to draft him.
Today, the mock drafts have him going no higher than fourth — to the Raiders — and most likely sixth to the Jets, behind several defensive and offensive linemen and Boston college quarterback Matt Ryan.
That seems about right, although if I were a Jets fan, I wouldn’t object to seeing more defensive help before a running back, even one as talented as McFadden.
It goes against every football instinct to say that, but the longer I watch the game, the less in love I am with super backs. Just last September, the New York Giants went into the season wondering how they could possibly cope without their all-everything back Tiki Barber, who had retired after the 2006 season. Brandon Jacobs wasn’t anywhere near as productive as Barber, and all the Giants did was beat the undefeated Patriots and win their third Super Bowl. The one thing you could say about Jacobs was that he was more talented than the back the Giants won their second Super Bowl behind — a superannuated O.J. Anderson.
McFadden will probably have a great rookie season for some team, and he’ll sell a lot of jerseys and excite the fans, but he’s not going to win a championship, and the odds are he’ll be hurt and on his way out of the league at about the same time the guys taken around him are settling into the primes of their careers.
That’s just the way it is. What makes this year unusual, is that the people who make the draft picks are finally starting to realize that.