I wanted to pass along a few more thoughts from my lunch with former NFL scout Miller McCalmon, whom I’ll interview for the Rice University Sports Business Society on Tuesday, Nov. 18. One of the striking things from our two hours-plus conversation was how big a role the team’s owner can play, even in personnel matters.
Miller was with the Texans for their 2006 draft, which netted them LB DeMeco Ryans, OT Eric Winston, TE Owen Daniels and, of course, DE Mario Williams. Not only are each of them still active today, well beyond the average length of an NFL career, but they were instrumental in the team’s run of success in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Though he was on the pro side, he was brought in to help on the college draft that year as the team tried to decide what it would do with the No. 1 pick. That year, of course, the media already had the Texans with Heisman-winning running back Reggie Bush on the heels of his sterling junior season at Southern Cal. But the team was very dilligent in its selection process, and wound up selecting Williams, to everyone’s surprise.
What caught me off-guard is that Miller says owner Bob McNair was part of the decision-making process. He didn’t make the call on who the team would take, of course, but he did take part as, a week before the draft, two of the team’s coaches made lengthy cases each for Williams and Bush. McNair took in all the points made during the video, heard the coaches point out the qualities that made each special, and considered the impact each would make on the team.
That year, like this year, there was a talented local quarterback that people around Houston hoped the Texans would take; in 2006, it was Texas’ Vince Young, while this year, it was Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. The difference is that while McNair never pressured GM Charley Casserly or head coach Gary Kubiak into selecting Young, it’s been widely reported that Titans owner Bud Adams was pretty heavy-handed about his desire to take Young, a Houston high school legend. Maybe that’s why the Texans’ dip won’t be as pronounced as the Titans’ struggles have been.
On the other hand, Miller also worked for the Lions. Detroit’s ownership, the Ford family, has been aggressively hands-off for the most part, and that hasn’t led to results, per se. I guess it’s always hard to draw conclusions, and one size doesn’t fit all.