GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Draft picks or stars? Print
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Tuesday, 22 July 2008 10:54
NFL Headline News

 This time, the Washington Redskins' owner was far more than the fantasy fan he often seems to be. When Dan Snyder gave up two draft picks to Miami for defensive end Jason Taylor, he was filling a legitimate need, getting one of the NFL's best defensive ends after losing two players at that position on the first day of training camp.
Still, the two major deals that preceded the opening of most NFL camps - Jeremy Shockey from the Giants to the Saints being the other - reflect the personalities of the teams and the people that made them.
Snyder, going into his 10th season as the Redskins' owner, loves to accumulate stars, usually the aging or overrated kind.
The Giants and Bill Parcells at the Dolphins think team. New York demonstrated that last season when it used addition by subtraction (Tiki Barber's retirement) and got major contributions from six rookie draft picks to help win a Super Bowl
That's normally the way to go, although not always.
New Orleans is gambling on winning now after sliding to 7-9 last season following a run to their first NFC championship game in 2006. The Saints already had traded picks for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and gave up two more for a tight end who played in Sean Payton's system when he was offensive coordinator of the Giants in 2002 and whose acquisition probably makes them the NFC South favorites.
Cleveland is doing the same after surging from 4-12 to 10-6 last season, giving up high picks for defensive help.
Miami? Parcells knows the team he just took over will struggle to get close to .500 with or without Taylor. So he takes all the picks he can get, an approach that works better.
For the Giants and others, it's the legacy of the late George Young, the Giants' general manager from 1979-97. He gave Parcells his first head coaching job; hired Jerry Reese, now the team's GM, as a scout; and presided over a coaching staff that included Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin. All generally believe in the draft although Belichick, as he did last year, won't hesitate to trade for a Randy Moss and Wes Welker if he has the chance.
Young was a five-time NFL executive of the year - the award is now named for him - and his philosophy was ``team over star.'' Bill Polian, who built the Bills in the 1980s and '90s and today's Colts, often says he emulated Young: If you get a superstar (Lawrence Taylor for Young; Peyton Manning for Polian) so much the better, but keep filling in around them..
So the Giants' trade of the disgruntled Shockey for second- and fifth-round draft choices next year brought back memories of two deals before and during the 1986 draft. Young traded the rights to Gary Zimmerman, obtained in the USFL supplemental draft, to Minnesota for two second-round picks and then sent an unhappy two-time all-Pro, cornerback Mark Haynes, to Denver for two more second-rounders.
With those four choices - presumably with input from Parcells and Belichick, his coach and defensive coordinator - the Giants got three players who were important parts of teams that won Super Bowls after the 1986 and 1990 seasons: cornerback Mark Collins; defensive lineman Erik Howard and linebacker Pepper Johnson.
The other teams did fine, too. Zimmerman, who didn't want to play in New York, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next weekend, and Haynes was a good player in Denver, although not as good as in New York.
Young always looked ahead. Belichick has done the same kind of thing in New England, letting go for various reasons the likes of Lawyer Milloy, Drew Bledsoe, Deion Branch, David Givens and Asante Samuel. He doesn't acknowledge Young as a mentor because they disliked each other in New York.
Shockey's ability will be missed, but the Giants decided he would be a distraction for assorted reasons: his dislike for Coughlin's system, which used him as a blocker more than he liked; his desire to renegotiate a contract he renegotiated in 2005; and his on-field disgust whenever Eli Manning missed him or threw elsewhere.
It's also been noted that Manning's emergence from inconsistency began the game after Shockey was lost for the season with a broken ankle and rookie Kevin Boss was inserted at tight end.
What's more, getting a second-rounder may be better than getting a first-rounder for New York. the Giants' success in that round is astounding - from Joe Morris a quarter-century ago, through Collins, Howard and Johnson to Jumbo Elliott, Amani Toomer, Michael Strahan, Barber, Osi Umenyiora and Chris Snee.
Joe Jurevicius and Cornelius Griffin were also second-round picks of the Giants as were Corey Webster (2005), whose overtime interception set up the winning field goal in the NFC championship game and Steve Smith (2007), who caught five passes in the Super Bowl.
If Shockey was not happy returning to a team that won the Super Bowl without him, Taylor would have had to return to a team that was 1-15 last season. Even with Parcells in Miami, the 33-year-old Taylor was likely to finish his career on a rebuilding team.
Washington? Give Snyder and GM Vinny Cerrato credit for resisting the urge to spend on big names and getting the Redskins under the salary cap. And give them credit for NOT pursuing Brett Favre, the kind of fading name they have often coveted. And credit them for getting the Taylor deal done in six hours after those two quick injuries.
Gil Brandt, who spent 29 years helping build the Dallas Cowboys from expansion franchise into consistent winner, speculated Tuesday that Roy Williams, the Cowboys' Pro Bowl safety, could be released if he doesn't play better in camp. He noted that Williams, who never was good in coverage (especially against Shockey), always seems to be on his man but rarely makes a play.
When discussing trades, the Internet or ESPN or the NFL Network are quick to provide instant analysis on ``who won.''
But if the Dolphins use their picks to become a playoff team again and the Giants use theirs to remain one for the foreseeable future, then the verities remain: Accumulate draft picks, use them wisely and you rarely go wrong.
 

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