Birk's Eye View: Rich Rodriguez-Morgan Trent flap much ado about nothing
Gil Brandt doesn’t know if Rich Rodriguez bad-mouthed Morgan Trent to NFL scouts or not. Trent thinks so, at least according to the book “Draft Season: Four Months on the Clock”. And Rodriguez issued a statement saying he did no such thing for the second time Wednesday.
But after spending the past 50 years in and around the NFL, Brandt is quite sure nothing Rodriguez said - good or bad - had anything to do with Trent falling to the sixth round in last year’s draft.
That’s just not how things work.
“I can assure you, even if somebody said anything about a player, (scouts are) not going to pay any attention,” said Brandt, the former vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys and a current analyst for NFL.com. “They’re going to pay attention to what they’ve seen on tape, what they’ve seen in practice and so forth.”
Sure, scouts talk to college coaches, but that’s a tiny piece of their evaluation pie. They watch film, the “lie detector” as Brandt called it. They study the minutia of practice, like if a player is first or last in line for position drills. And they talk to everyone else around a player, from janitors to strength coaches.
“If you watch drills and you see that (player) is always the last guy in line, you know he doesn’t have a very good work ethic,” Brandt said. “If you go to the weight coach and say who are the top five guys for participation and he’s not in the top five or top 10 - we used to do top 10 - you find out what the deal is.” Rodriguez, in his statement Wednesday, said the only call he’s received about a player in the last two years came this spring from the Philadelphia Eagles about Brandon Graham.
“I talked with NFL scouts about all of our seniors on our pro day and all of my remarks were positive,“ Rodriguez said in his statement. “After that day, no scouts contacted me with questions about Morgan Trent, and if they had I certainly wouldn’t have said anything disparaging about him. Any reference to that is completely false. I’m very disappointed that Morgan and the author didn’t call me to clarify the facts before the book went to print.”
The author of the book, Bobby Deren, wrote that Rodriguez “bad-mouthed (Trent) to every NFL scout he could. Rodriguez claimed that Morgan was lazy, he had an attitude problem and he was a big reason the Wolverines finished with a 3-9 record” in 2008.
Brandt said that sounds like the excuse making proliferated by agents. It’s something he dealt with as a personnel man with the Cowboys - in the late 1960s or early 1970s he said he was blamed for a quarterback from SMU falling to the late rounds - and something he saw first-hand more recently with former Lions draft pick Jonathan Scott.
Brandt said Scott’s father called him after Scott’s junior season at Texas and asked what “1-14” means.
“I started to laugh,” Brandt said. “And he said, ‘No, tell me.’ I said, ‘Obviously, some agent told you that he saw Jonathan’s (draft) grade and he got a 1-14, which means he’s going to be drafted in the first round. He said, ‘How did you know?’ I said, ‘It happens all the time.’ And I said, ‘Believe me, Mr. Scott, your son is not going to be drafted in the first round, so stay in school and do better.’”
Scott returned to Texas for his senior season and after benching 225 pounds 15 times at his pro day, fell to the fifth round in the 2006 draft.
Brandt said Scott’s father called him again after the draft.
“And of course the first thing the dad wanted to know was what happened?” Brandt said. “He said, ‘Did somebody say something bad about him?’ And I said, ‘No, why?’ He said, ‘Well, the agent said that they didn’t have a real good year this year and so they put the blame on Jonathan and everybody else.’
“That is a common story that you hear, so in defense of Rodriguez, I would say that him saying anything bad about a player was completely wrong.”
Trent’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, said he never had any conversations with Trent about Rodriguez bad-mouthing him to NFL personnel and has never spoken with Rodriguez personally.
As for why Trent fell to the sixth round, Brandt pulled out a scouting report and offered a simple explanation.
He ticked off the positive attributes that led him to rank Trent the 18th-best cornerback in the 2009 draft, a projected fifth-round choice - good bloodlines (his father played football and mother swam at Nebraska), prototype size (6-foot-1 and 195 pounds) and a 38-inch vertical jump and the speed to outrun Ted Ginn in high school track meets - and a slew of negatives.
“Does not play with confidence, instincts are just average and does not show awareness on route recognitions,” Brandt said. “Tight in the hips, choppy backpedal, he’s late out of his breaks, weak tackler, gives up too many big plays, questionable ball skills Struggles off man coverage I’m not sure that he had the physical temperament either to play the safety position.
“Anybody who’s fast now and can play defensive back and has coverage skills goes pretty early. Last year, we had a record 37 corners drafted. This year, we had 36 corners drafted. The thing I assure you of is that this has come up before that (coaches) have bad-mouthed people, and I just don’t think that matters.”