Televised every year on ESPN and hosted by the likes of Chris Berman and Mel Kiper, Jr., the NFL draft has become a media spectacle. But what the public sees on TV and reads in the sports pages the following day is only the culmination of a long and elaborate drama. The Meat Market goes behind the scenes during the seven critical days of draft week and offers a view of how an NFL franchise plans and builds its team through scouting, grading, recruiting, and, ultimately, acquiring football players. Richard ...
Televised every year on ESPN and hosted by the likes of Chris Berman and Mel Kiper, Jr., the NFL draft has become a media spectacle. But what the public sees on TV and reads in the sports pages the following day is only the culmination of a long and elaborate drama. The Meat Market goes behind the scenes during the seven critical days of draft week and offers a view of how an NFL franchise plans and builds its team through scouting, grading, recruiting, and, ultimately, acquiring football players. Richard Whittingham, veteran football author and journalist, was granted permission to spend the week leading up to the 1991 NFL draft with the Chicago Bears front office staff - a staff that in 1991 was voted best at judging collegiate talent in a poll of NFL general managers and player personnel directors conducted by the Philadelphia Daily News. He spent a week with CEO Mike McCaskey, vice president of player personnel Bill Tobin and his staff, and head coach Mike Ditka as they put all of their expertise, inside knowledge, and million-dollar resources on the line to find and select the very best football prospects available in the draft. The Meat Market describes the "war room" where strategies are planned, best- and worst-case scenarios are played out, and the ultimate decisions are made. It's powerful never-before-revealed information that provides a front-row seat to this critical drama and reveals what the Chicago Bears' top brass are really thinking before they head up to the podium to tell NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue who their pick will be.
Only the most diehard pro football fans will want to read this analysis by sportswriter Whittingham ( What a Game They Played ) of the NFL's draft system, in which the team with the previous year's worst record gets to pick the best player from the college game and so on through the league, with the current league champions picking last. The goal is to ensure that all teams are competitive. One of the teams most successful at selecting college gridders has been the Chicago Bears, and Whittingham concentrates on them, showing how the team's coaches and management make use of BLESTO, a kind of clearinghouse of information about undergraduate players; their own scouts; the NFL scouting camp, where potential draftees are put through their paces; and Plan B, in which a team can pick up players not ``protected'' by another squad (usually overage or overpaid athletes). Finally come ``D-Days,'' when the 28 NFL teams pick the 336 footballers they want, each one a gamble despite all the advance planning. (Sept.)
Since 1935 the National Football League has drafted each year's best college players. Whittingham ( How They Played the Game , LJ 11/1/84) relates the story of the 1991 draft from the view of the Chicago Bears. With a look back at previous years' winning and disappointing selections, he describes the pre-draft scouting, the draft itself, and the 1991 results for the Bears and the remaining 27 teams. In 1991, only three percent of the eligible players were selected, and even fewer managed to remain on NFL team rosters. As perhaps the first detailed look at the draft, this should appeal to students of the game, especially in Chicago, and their libraries.-- Morey Berger, St. Joseph's Hosp. Medical Lib., Tucson
Pro football aficionados revel in the NFL's annual draft of college players. After all, with there being very few trades and limited free-agent player movement, it's the primary means for building and/or maintaining a successful team. Whittingham, a veteran author probably best known for "What a Game They Played" (1984), was allowed to observe the Chicago Bears' preparation for the 1991 draft. As he presents the incredibly detailed and thorough ground-work--scouting, testing, more scouting, mock drafts, depth charting, measuring, and interviewing--that goes into the modern draft, he also provides an anecdotal history of the event. In the past, owners often made their picks from magazines or from all-American lists. One notoriously racist owner drafted off such a list only to be informed--as a practical joke--that his unseen pick was black. Readers will also sense the internal bickering that takes place as scouts, coaches, and owners all stump for their particular choices. Pro football is big business and is guided by many of the bottom-line principles that drive any other business. But it's also a sport in which hunches, feelings, and intuition still play a large role. The conflict of emotion and logic--and their mutual application--is at the heart of draft day. Superb reading for football fans.