Now that the draft is over, Roger Goodell and the NFL ownership can get back to the business of trying to keep their business shut down. Coaches and management have embraced the draftees, and now both parties can retreat to their side of the line drawn in the sand.
While Chicago Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo continues to be treated with less respect than Rodney Dangerfield, he managed to put together a pretty solid draft. The mini-controversy over the Baltimore Ravens and the fourth round pick is little more than the sort of ramped up drama that comes from reporters who are preternaturally bored, stuck for an entire weekend in an overdressed butcher shop watching shoppers select cuts of meat. It's natural to gin up a little conflict, if only to keep yourself interested, as the slow parade of NFL hopefuls amble to the stage, wearing new ball-caps.
The truth is, nobody lost anything in the deal-that-didn't-happen except for Jerry Angelo himself, whose credibility was already irreparably damaged in the eyes of many Bears fans long before this incident. And the missed phone call that ignited this round of contempt does suggest an inept breakdown at a critical moment. But really, if we're all being honest with ourselves, Angelo and Co. could have drafted the next Otto Graham and Dick Butkus, and those same people would have found some reason to criticize him.
Sure, some of that criticism is founded, but a lot of it is just the incessant nattering of the serially unhappy segment of Beardom. They're the same folks who met the successes of the 2010 Chicago Bears with cries of, "Just wait until next year. They'll lose ten games!", followed by the litany of personnel both on and off the field whose contracts they'd cancel, if it were up to them. Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith always seem to top that list.
The idea that Angelo should have given his fourth round pick to the Ravens is ludicrous. Baltimore lost nothing in the snafu. They still drafted the player they were after, as did the Bears. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti made some noise, and that's only to be expected; he wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't try to get something out of it. In a business that relies as heavily on the media as professional football does, it's just standard operating procedure to throw as much manure as you've got at the wall, and hope some of it sticks.
And he was heaving it with both hands, when he made this statement to the Baltimore Sun, "I'm disappointed in the Bears and the McCaskeys. It is in my opinion a deviation from their great legacy."
Well, shucks, it's awfully sweet of him to be thinking of the Bears legacy at such a difficult time for himself and his franchise. I can only imagine how differently he would have handled the situation if the roles had been reversed. No doubt he would have surrendered the pick out respect for the code of honor for which NFL ownership is so very famous.
At any rate, I'm sure it wasn't just his concern for the integrity of the game, or the insurmountable loss his team endured, that made him cry 'foul', until the league agreed to look into the matter. I'd be fascinated to hear him explain exactly for what the Baltimore Ravens deserve recompense.
Jerry Angelo didn't wait around to find out. His response was, for me, one of the highlights of the 2011 NFL Draft: he traded the fourth round pick away in the next round, even as the league was supposedly 'looking into it'. That move served to solidify the defensive line, with the strongest man in the draft, and it also was a tidy editorial comment on Bisciotti's campaign for the fourth round pick.
You can never really know what you have when you draft, not for months or years after the fact. From the immediate perspective, the Bears had a pretty solid draft. And for each player they selected, they have a former NFL head coach, to tutor him and bring him into the league. This is where having Mike Tice, Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz really pays off.