you can't please all the people all of the time

By George Somerville

George goes once again back into Draft history to find out how some tine honoured traditions were first started.

Booing during the Draft has become as integral a part of the Draft as Rich Eisen or Mel Kiper or Radio City Music Hall.

But how did it start and why does it happen?

Jets Fans - A Salty Bunch

Image Credit: James Lang (US Presswire)

There are numerous theories as to why Jets fans are a grumpy bunch when the Draft comes around.

But in general, most Jets fans are of the opinion that their historically poor form during drafts, allied to the Commisioner’s inability act during the 1987 lock out, has resulted in the Jets fans being the most sour fan base of them all.

Of course, it is now de riguer during the draft to boo the Commissioner as has been seen during recent drafts in Philadelphia and Dallas (even when Goodell appeared on stage with Dallas greats, Aikman, Staubach and Witten).

But this isn’t a recent phenomenon and not just limited to annoyed New York fans. Famously the Eagles fans booed Donovan McNabb who went on to be probably the greatest quarterback of all time in Philadelphia.

Desperate For Dan...

As I highlighted in my article about the 1983 Draft, Jets fan almost certainly thought they would draft Dan Marino with the 24th pick that year. In fact given that 23 teams had passed on Marino, the Jets fans couldn’t believe that the Pitt QB was still there.

So when commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the announcement…

“New York Jets take the first round selection quarterback….”

At this point Tagliabue pauses for a dramatic second before announcing

Ken O’Brien, California Davis”

The Jets fans in the audience instantly go from a state of ecstasy to the depths of despair by picking an unknown QB from a D2 school.

The Jets Track Record

But bizarrely that wasn’t the biggest  NFL Draft bust in Jets history. Here is a list of draft picks which drove the Jets fan base into perennial hecklers of their own team’s picks.

  • Blair Thomas, RB, Penn State. 1990 draft, 2nd overall pick. A Heisman winner at Penn State, expectations were sky high. However injuries and an inability to settle in New York meant that Thomas only returned 5 touchdown’s in a four year career with the Jets.
  • Roger Vick, FB, Texas A&M. 1987 draft, 21st overall pick. If you’re not alarmed the the Jets drafted a fullback 21st overall then perhaps you are destined for a job in the Jets front office.
  • Kyle Brady, TE, Penn State. 1995 draft, 9th overall pick. The pick in itself probably shouldnt be considered a complete bust, however with the marvellous benefit of hindsight, the Jets left Warren Sapp on the board for the Buccaneers to pick and take them to a Superbowl.
  • Browning Nagle, QB , Louisville. 1991 draft, 2nd round pick. The Jets loved Brett Favre but were unable to trade up to get him  at 33, just missing out on their QB target. As so often is the case panic struck and, in dire need of a QB, they selected Nagle. In his short NFL career Nagle threw for 7 TD’s. Sadly this came with 17 interceptions.
  • Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State 2008 draft, 6th overall pick. Buyer beware players with only one good year of college production. Oh and when no-one else sees your pick as a top ten pick, it probably suggests you shouldn’t pick your guy at #6. Picked to resolve the Jets pass rush woes, Gholston recorded 0 sacks during his Jets career. Yes, zero.

The 1987 Lock Out

Whilst most associate the Jets fans booing everything in sight come draft night, it is indeed true that Commissioner Roger Goodell is given special treatment not just from the New York contingent.

So on the basis the Commissioner doesn’t have anything to do with the picks in green and white, why boo Goodell.

Well, this seems to go back to the NFL lockout in 1987. While US sports history is littered with bitter disputes, the 1987 despite between ownership and players, was particularly egregious with the season being cut short by five games as a result.

By week 3 of the 1987 season the players union and the NFL (representing the ownership of the teams) had come to an impasse. As a result the players voted to strike to bring the league to a standstill. The ownership had different ideas, signing replacement players from all walks of life, but also from the recently demised USFL to play instead of the striking players.

This proved deeply unpopular by players, fans and advertisers alike, resulting in widespread rifts in locker rooms.

Fans to this day still see the NFL, and by definition the Commissioner, as the face and voice of the ownership. As such the Commissioner gets it in the neck each time he is seen publicly. And the commissioner is no more public than when he announces each of the picks on draft night.

Boo that man. Boo.

Feature Image: ESPN

george somerville

College football writer