Kansas City Chiefs


Jason Lisk has tweeted that it has been 30 years since Joe Delaney perished trying to save three boys from drowning. And yes, the tragedy of that day strikes me. What strikes me as much, though, is that I was in the same high school as he was, one class ahead of Joe, and if, on my last day of high school, you had mentioned his name, I would have said, “Joe who?”

See, he wasn’t branded as a star in our school. The running back for the team, usually the star, was Sonny Lewis. People were still talking about the team in 1972, the one that went to the state semifinals and lost to Denham Springs. Players from those years, guys like quarterback Gene Couvillion, whose family lived up the road from us, or Arry Moody, a running back and routinely described as the most talented player anyone in those parts had ever seen, were the ones folks talked about. Lets make this clear. In high school get togethers, people still talk about Arry Moody. I was in band in those years. I saw every high school game. Gene had a strong arm and could have played college ball.

By the time of Joe’s freshman and sophomore years, he must have been playing wide receiver. We didn’t have good quarterbacks. There wouldn’t have been much stardom for a skinny fast kid. I’m saying skinny because I’ve seen Joe’s photos once he was a Chief, and nobody was built like that in high school. I say fast because I recall a quote in Sports Illustrated by Houston’s Bill Yeoman, to the effect that everyone knew about a kid running a 100 yard dash in well under 10 seconds, but no one could get near him.

I can vouch for the hard core influence of Northwest Louisiana University in our area. The local golf course was owned by a retired Northwest Louisiana coach. Looking around the Internet for that Yeoman quote, I find a short blurb from the October 31, 1978 Tuscaloosa News instead, which goes:

Joe Delaney, Northwestern Louisiana’s sophomore running back, made only his second start Saturday and rushed for 299 yards…

So, given the physique I see in his post high school years, the amazing performances in his college years, I can only assume he was a product of his college system. He went to college and paid the price required to star there.

Gene Couvillion? He went to Louisiana Tech and balked at being redshirted. Arry Moody? You would hear occasional mentions of his presence at Tech, or later on, with the minor league Shreveport Steamer, but nothing approaching the hero worship of his high school years.

If I look on Facebook, I find a guy called Arry Moody, with over a 1,000 friends, Haughton area. 5 of my friends are also his friends. Seems to be doing fine, and I wish him luck.

But what drove Joe that didn’t drive the others? What made him able to endure the college grind and even prosper? I know that people almost eternally ponder the tragedy of it all, but for me, the mystery of his success is equally as ponderable.

I picked up this book after Greg Cosell gave it a big thumbs up on Rob Rang and Doug Farrar‘s radio show for KJR in Seattle, curious what it might actually say about the NFL draft.

Turns out this book is an update and rewrite of his earlier book, Patriot Reign, and for 11 of the chapters of this book, really has almost nothing to do about the draft, other than teasers spiked throughout the work. One interesting comment about the draft ranking system implemented by Belichick goes:

One of the things that made the system different was that it absolutely required a scout to know his college area or region of coverage in addition to each member of the Patriots’ fifth-three man roster. All reports, without exception, were comparative, and were based on what a given prospect could do vs. any current Patriot playing his position.

As a book, it initially has no sense of overarching storyline, content to wander about the narrative landscape the way a 60 year old grandfather would, telling one story in deep depth and then switching abruptly to another. It follows a variety of points of view. They all do not make much sense until you get to the end, where Michael actually starts talking more in depth about the draft in chapter 12. It finally becomes clear that he has three points of view, all intertwined, that of Belichick, that of Thomas Dimitroff, GM of the Atlanta Falcons, and that of Scott Pioli, GM of the Kansas City Chiefs. But to get there, to the three chapters of new material, he has you read about 11 chapters that I suspect were mostly all told in Patriot Reign.

Disturbing is the often myopic point of view of the book. Most notable in this regard is the coverage of Spygate, which can be summarized as (A) It was all Eric Mangini’s fault (B) Everybody does it and (C) People are picking on us needlessly and hurtfully. It’s in these segments where the book descends even from rambling history and becomes a fanboy lament. When you have to complain, in Poor Poor Pitiful Me fashion, about Gregg Easterbrook talking you down – in football terms, a comic, mind you – then you really do need to step out of the narrative a while and reexamine the facts. Tom, of the blog Residual Prolixity, puts it this way:

There are also a couple things Holley doesn’t seem to get, either from a Boston-centric viewpoint or they’re not obvious and nobody actually bothered to explain them to him, with the foremost example in my mind that Spygate (covered only briefly) exacerbated an existing anti-Boston sentiment arising from a belief that the Patriots were willing to push to the edge of the rules and beyond, if they could get away with it, which they could (see increase in illegal contact penalties, 2004, post Colts-Patriots).

All that said, once you get to Chapter 12, there are three chapters of useful insider stuff on how three teams conduct their draft. The background info on Dimitroff and Pioli are good enough to be useful to fans of the Falcons and Chiefs. Just, the new stuff isn’t substantial enough to be a book on its own – more like a long extended article in the New Yorker or the Washington Post. But, book sales being what they are, the new stuff was tacked onto the old stuff and sold as an entirely new product.

Up to you, whether you should read it. It can be interesting given the limitations of the material. Scaled in the measure of a draft pick, this is day two material.

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