DRAFT, SAINTS, THE FIGHT, THE RULING

Rick Sarro Thursday, June 4, 2015 0
DRAFT, SAINTS, THE FIGHT, THE RULING

Never have I come out of a Super Bowlish weekend so disappointed, so underwhelmed, as I did two weeks ago, when it seems the sports lords had their scheduling out of whack.

The NFL Draft, pro football’s spring stranglehold on the fans and media alike, had to share the headlines and sports talk radio banter with the “Fight of the Century.”

It seems the six-year wait for Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao had an equal vice grip on the media and celebrity spotlight, and lured in a tsunami size wave of fans who couldn’t tell you the difference between a welterweight and bantamweight, or a speed bag from a Speedo.

The New Orleans Saints had a solid, fill-the-needs type draft, but garnered more local attention over selecting a quarterback in the third round than all those badly needed defensive bodies.

The saga of LSU’s La’el Collins,  a sure fire first-round draft selection who got caught up in a twisted case of lousy timing and bad luck, was both tragically sad and bewildering.

Yes, I was disappointed and uninspired over three days of head spinning sports that also included the little mentioned Kentucky Derby.

The NFL, with its traveling draft circus coming this year from Chicago, was poised to have what I thought would be a first round for the ages, involving two polar opposite Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, receivers, and pass rushers that shuffled up and down mock draft lists like a yo-yo.

With high anticipation, I was planted in front of the big screen at straight up 7 pm Central Standard Time for the opening bell of the NFL Draft, not knowing exactly who was going where.

Needless to say, some two hours later, I was struggling to stay awake.

This is not me. I love the draft drama. The hype. The speculation. The deals and trades.

Unfortunately, there was no drama. No deals. No head-turning trades.

Tampa Bay selected quarterback Jameis Winston with the  no. 1 pick.

Numerous teams made the obligatory calls of interest to Tennessee about dealing the no. 2 selection, but none reportedly came to the table with any serious offers. So the Titans, who were infatuated with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, drafted him second overall.

The suspense of the draft went out the window faster than the boos that once again rained down on Commissioner Roger Goodell.

I really thought Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt had seen enough positive things from former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger in his limited time as a starter last season to build on him and his strong arm. I figured Tennessee would put the  no. 2 pick on the block and make a mega deal for several first round picks, and a few later round choices to bring in a bevy of players so desperately needed for the 2-14 Titans.

They obviously don’t think Mettenberger is the long-term answer at quarterback, and simply couldn’t pass up what they feel is a generational type talent in Mariota.

I just don’t see the attraction in the former spread-happy Oregon Duck.

Once Mariota went second, it appeared the succeeding teams sent their draft cards to the podium in rapid-fire quickness.

Ex-Florida defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler went third to Jacksonville.  (And in a sad turn of misfortune that can only hit the lowly Jaguars, Fowler suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the first hour of his very first NFL practice.)

Former Alabama receiver Amari Cooper was drafted fourth by the Oakland Raiders, and that’s when I must have dosed off, only to awake before the Saints selected 13th.

Never have I seen so many mock draft guesses go right for Mel Kiper, Jr., as the draft proceeded in an expected and unexciting fashion.

This was supposed to be interesting. Winston with his NFL-ready skills offset by his immature and knuckleheaded off-field actions;   Mariota, with concerns over his arm strength, never playing under center or calling plays from a huddle, balanced with his maturity, leadership and high character.

The Saints thought protecting the backside of their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, more important than opting for a defensive end or linebacker so early in the draft.  GM Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton took a mountain instead. That being 6 ft., 7 in., 316 lb. offensive tackle Andrus Peat out of Stanford.

They got that inside linebacker later with the 31st pick (remember the Jimmy Graham trade to Seattle) in Stephone Anthony from Clemson.

Another linebacker in Hau’oli Kikaha (good luck to Hokie Gajan on nailing that name on the radio game broadcasts) from Washington came in the second round.

Later, on day two, the Saints saw that Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson was still on the board, and figured “Why not?”

Grayson’s a big, strong-armed passer who succeeded in a pro-style offense at CSU. I don’t see the pick as the big, stir-the-pot move everybody else does. Grayson was the third-rated quarterback on many draft boards, and when will be the right time to start looking at possible successors to Lord Drew?

If Grayson sits for three years, like many backup quarterbacks do, so be it. Luke McCown will probably retire. Ryan Griffin may or may not be in the mix. So Grayson may develop; he may not. A third-round investment is not too high a price to pay in order to find out, in my opinion.

I did wake up in time for the late Saturday night fight of all fights between Mayweather and Pacquiao.

The pay per view price tag was higher than most, but this was $300 million, must-see TV.

Many others thought so, as well, as the bout was delayed 45 minutes so more pay per view buys could be processed, running up to the opening bell.

I was on the edge of my seat for this one, and, in hindsight, was glad I didn’t get lured into buying a $5,000 ticket to sit in the rafters at the MGM Grand.

Once I reconciled the sight of the Burger King, big-headed mascot in Mayweather’s locker room, or comedian Jimmy Kimmell escorting Pacquiao from his, I was ready for blows.

Then came a Tom Brady interview after what appeared to be more than a few cocktails. Good thing the Wells-DeflateGate report did not come out before fight night, or Brady may well have divulged secrets on Spygate, Watergate, Iran-Contra, who killed Kennedy and Lincoln, and the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa.

Jamie Foxx must be a Las Vegas neighbor of Mayweather at the MGM Grand, because that’s the only reason to explain why he sang and butchered the national anthem.

Look, I’m a huge boxing fan, and I predicted this fight would live up to the hype. I also said Pacquiao would win a hard-fought split decision.

I was wrong on both calls.

I can take the highbrow approach, and explain why the fight wasn’t as bad as everyone thinks.  Do you want to hear why Mayweather’s defensive tactics were so interesting, and how he used his laser-accurate right jab to keep Pacquiao at a distance, and thwart any advances?

I could explain how Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach’s pre-fight strategy never materialized in the ring. Or was it because of Pacquiao’s rotator cuff shoulder injury, suffered in training camp three weeks earlier?  Or was Pacquiao worried about that sudden knockout suffered at the hands of Juan Manual Marquez in 2012, when Pacquiao charged in head-strong, and got caught flush?

Either way, Mayweather did what he does best, and that’s defend, move, tie up, and score points on limited punches.

Pacquiao did not do what he needed to do to win, which was throw a lot of punches in the early rounds, move at Mayweather from different angles, and pressure Mayweather into the ropes.

I was underwhelmed after the fight. It was not a total waste of money, as I waited over five years to see these guys finally fight.

The post-fight news of Pacquiao’s injury, his camp not checking the box notifying the Nevada Boxing Commission of his shoulder injury on official paperwork, the lawsuits, allegations, finger-pointing and controversy is par for the course for boxing.

Near the end of that May 2 weekend, more details came forth on the killing of Brittany Mills in Baton Rouge. Mills was the former girlfriend of LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins.

Collins’ fall from grace, and off the NFL’s draft board, was swift and harsh, all because he knew Mills, and Baton Rouge authorities needed to speak with him on the case. Simple as that.

Above all, another tragic murder in Baton Rouge ended in the killing of a 29-year-old pregnant woman, whose unborn child was delivered after the shooting, but later died in the hospital.

Collins was an innocent bystander who suffered collateral damage because of bad timing and bad luck.

Mills was murdered days before the draft.  Police could not schedule time to talk to Collins until after the draft. Worried teams needing more information, or as Payton said “seeking clarity‚” passed on Collins.

The talented Tiger, who returned for his senior season in 2014 to improve his draft status, was now untouchable.

He went from a possible top 15 draft prospect to undrafted in a matter of two days.

All because he once knew and dated Ms. Mills.

The Baton Rouge investigators clearly stated that Collins was not a suspect, nor a person of interest, in the Mills case. They simply wanted to speak with him.

When it was clear that Collins was radioactive to NFL teams, his attempts to be removed from the draft, or petition for the supplemental draft, were denied by the league because of existing rules in place.

The NFL’s ruling was correct, under its bylaws, but unfair in the reality of this tragic and unusual story.

Collins’ NFL future was in jeopardy because of the unknown, and no doubt whispers of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots All-Pro tight end, who was just convicted of murder.

It’s human nature to look and place blame when there is injustice.

Collins is not to blame. Nor is the NFL, or teams who backed away from drafting him under the circumstances. You can’t fault the police, or Baton Rouge authorities, who were simply doing their jobs. The media is not at fault for reporting the facts of the case, and its ripple effects.

Saints coach Sean Payton repeated what several long-time NFL coaches, scouts, managers and insiders said. “I can’t recall a situation like this since I’ve been a part of the draft process. It’s something that’s unique.”

Unique, and off-the-charts tragic.

Collins woke up from his living nightmare, when he signed a three-year, $1.65 million free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

As a first-round pick, Collins would have been paid millions more per year, along with a tidy sum of guaranteed money in the bank.

Millions aside, his dream of playing in the NFL will come true, and his life goes on.

That can’t be said for Mills, whose heinous murder is still unsolved and under investigation. Her dreams of giving birth to a son and raising a family were ended with gunshots from a sick madman.

The double homicide of Mills and her child will become a footnote to this story.

That’s the true tragedy.

 

Get Rick Sarro’s perspectives on sports on Soundoff 60, which airs Monday through Sunday nights at 9 pm on Suddenlink Channel 60 and Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10 am as well.