2011 NFL Draft: Sorry Charley!

With apologies to the lovely Brenda Lee, I’m calling out the sports-genius pundits who covered the 2006 NFL draft. Warm up your singing voices. A one, a two…

I’m sorry
So sorry
Please accept my apologies

But love is blind
And I was too blind to see
-from Brenda Lee’s “So Sorry”

As I watched the first round of the 2011 NFL draft on Thursday night, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere Charley Casserly had a big smile on his face. Why? Because, despite what the press says about you, there is no better revenge than being right-and last night’s first round put an exclamation point on just how right Charley Casserly was in 2006…though I doubt you will hear any of his critics man up and say it.

You don’t remember Charley Casserly? Well, maybe you remember the schoolgirl-like hysteria that surrounded the 2006 NFL draft. In the minds of many pundits, USC’s Reggie Bush and Vince Young of Texas were shoo-ins for the Pro Football Hall of Fame before they took a professional snap. They were going to transform the teams they played for; maybe even transform the way the game was played. The pundits were duly horrified when, with the first pick in the 2006 draft, the Houston Texans picked DE Mario Williams. Not believing their good luck, the Saints snapped up Bush at number two; the Titans grabbed Young number three.

For days and even weeks later, a football fan couldn’t pick up a newspaper or turn on a television without hearing a barrage of criticism directed at the foolishness of the Houston Texans front office. And by saying “Houston Texans front office,” they meant “Charley Casserly”-who was the General Manager of the Houston Texans. For Charley, the move simply addressed one of the many needs of Houston’s fledgling franchise. In the minds of the press, it was idiocy.

So last night, when the Titans drafted QB Jake Locker (effectively signaling the end of the turbulence that defined the Vince Young era) and New Orleans picked up RB Mark Ingram (surely numbering the days Bush is a Saint), I’ll bet Charley secretly smiled.

Since the draft of 2006, Mario Williams has been to the Pro Bowl two times, and despite recent injuries that have slowed his career, has performed the role Casserly envisioned. Bush, on the other hand, has been paid larger than he has played. He has never been to the Pro Bowl, and has yet to show that he is durable enough or strong enough to be an every down back in the NFL. His return of the Heisman Trophy can only be seen as an embarrassment. Vince Young made the Pro Bowl once on his own merits (2006), and served as a replacement in 2010 when neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Carson Palmer wished to replace the injured Phillip Rivers. His subsequent implosion in Tennessee may have finished him as a starter in the NFL.

It’s yet to be seen whether Reggie Bush or Vince Young will have resurgent careers. It’s yet to be seen whether Mario Williams will return to his Pro Bowl form. But at this stage of the game, it seems to me that somebody owes Charley Casserly an apology. Unlike the press, the Titans, the Saints, and even Brenda Lee…love did not blind Charley Casserly. He saw what no one else did.