, Port Arthur, Texas


May 3, 2014

West column: Manziel's draft stock appears to be slipping

PORT ARTHUR — Smokescreens aside, the closer the NFL draft gets the more likely it seems overanalysis could send Johnny Manziel out of the top 10 and into the open arms of Dallas’ Jerry Jones. Former Texans’ GM Charley Casserly even said on ESPN Friday that he won’t be surprised if Manziel doesn’t get drafted in the first round. Sports Illustrated’s cover story had a five-person panel of coaches and former NFL quarterbacks going into Manziel’s positives and negatives in a way that left considerable doubt about the wisdom of taking him high in the draft. All the questions being raised about Manziel will make it easier to the Texans do what they were always going to do — pass on him. Unless Cleveland takes Johnny Football  with the fourth pick or Oakland grabs him at No. 5, it’s at least 50-50, probably higher, than he’ll wind up with Dallas. For once, Jethro would be smarter than the real football people . . .  Every time I see all the NFL wise guys back off a great player, I think of what happened to Jamaal Charles in the 2008 draft. Labeled early on as a probable late pick in the first round, Charles was hurt by questions raised about his toughness — most likely coming from coaches at the University of Texas — and wound up falling all the way to the third round where Kansas City got him with the 73rd pick. Seven running backs — Darren McFadden at No. 4, Jonathan Stewart (No. 13), Felix Jones (No. 22), Rashard Mendenhall (No. 23), Chris Johnson (No. 24), Matt Forte (No. 44), Ray Rice (No. 55) and Kevin Smith (No. 64) were taken before Charles. Today nobody in their right mind would take any of those guys over Charles. He’s one of the top 3 backs in the league, so good and so versatile that a recent redraft of players available in 2008, based on what they’ve accomplished, had him as the No. 5 overall pick behind quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and tackles Ryan Clady and Jake Long. The shame of the NFL drafting machine missing so badly was that it’s going to wind up costing Jamaal millions of dollars. Draft position typically dictates contract size and Charles is a classic example. Last time I checked, he was the 12th highest paid running back, the 7th highest salaried player on the Chiefs, 20th in pay in the AFC West and 102nd in the AFC.

The high regard for Memorial football coach Kenny Harrison among his peers will be underscored Wednesday night when he’s installed as president of the Greater Houston Football Coaches Association (GHFCA) at UH’s Carl Lewis facility. Harrison has also been chosen as head coach of the East Team for the Bayou Bowl June 14 at Mercer Stadium in Sugarland. With Louisiana no longer participating, the game matches top seniors from the Golden Triangle west to Katy and from Galveston north to Lufkin. Area players on Harrison’s team will be Memorial wide receiver Roderic Rucker, West Brook defensive lineman LaVonte Williams, Ozen wide receiver Ronnie Caesar and Central defensive back Derrick Broussard. For those wondering why no Nederland or PN-G players, their coaches don’t belong to the GHFCA . . . Terrific recruiting lick for Tic Price last week. In addition to signing three JC players who should provide immediate help for Lamar next year —  6-4 wing Dontavius Fears (Eastern Oklahoma)  6-9 banger LeMon Gregory (Angelina) and 6-3 point guard Quan Jones (Connors) — the Lamar basketball coach got a verbal commitment from a rising star in Louisiana. Noah Griffin, a 6-2 guard from Covington, La., who averaged 17 points a game as a sophomore, told Price he would play at Lamar, a fact announced by his dad on Twitter. Why would Griffin commit so early? Because one of Price’s assistants, Anthony Anderson, coached one of his AAU teams. The big question now becomes whether Griffin will stick with the commitment once the negative recruiting toward Lamar’s situation begins . . . One overriding thought will dog everyone involved with the Houston Rockets for months, after Friday night’s gut-wrenching loss to Portland. With 0.9 seconds left, how could the Rockets allow Portland’s most dangerous shooter, Damian Lillard, to get such a clean look for what proved to be a season-ending dagger?  Even Lillard was shocked to be so wide open, as he talked about being able to get squared up for the shot.

Wade Phillips will be involved with the NFL draft, although in a manner he could never have imagined. Sky Sports, which is sort of the European version of ESPN, has hired Phillips to be part of its draft coverage Thursday night in London. “I guess we’re going to find out if folks over there can understand Texan,” quipped Phillips. “I think it will be interesting and be a lot of fun. I still don’t have a lot of details, but I think what they want is for me to get into a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that’s goes on while the draft is in progress. Prior to the draft, they are having some sort of Fan Fest where I’ll be answering questions. I was told the Fan Fest is so popular tickets had to be distributed through a lottery.”  . . . Phillips,  by the way, isn’t among those who have overanalyzed Manziel, and he doesn’t think the A&M QB will drop out of the top five picks. He still says if he’d been hired as head coach of the Texans, he’d be telling owner Bob McNair and GM Rick Smith to take Manziel. So who does he think Houston will draft? “I’m not going to speculate on that,” he said. “I do know that after I told Bob McNair that I’d take Manziel, he said, ‘Why not take Clowney, then draft a QB in the second round?’ ” . . . Phillips, who was head coach of the Cowboys during the 2008 draft, was asked why Jamaal Charles fell so far. “Sometimes guys get pigeonholed. Scouts from various teams talk to each other, although they say they don’t. Rumors spread. I really liked him, but Jerry and some of the scouts were high on Felix Jones. Arian Foster didn’t even get drafted. If you look at players long enough, you find flaws in all of them, even the Pro Bowlers. It often comes down to who has the strongest voice in the draft room. I’ll say this about Jamaal. I am not surprised at what he’s done. As a defensive coordinator, he was a nightmare to prepare for. He was the guy you knew was a threat on every play.”

Speaking of nightmares, how about Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling? Never has the NBA had such an exciting first round of playoffs games, yet that’s been diminished by a disgusting old bigot who can’t stand to have his half-black “mistress” being seen with minorities. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was right when he said it’s a slippery slope for the NBA to go after somebody based on a private, taped phone conversation, but Sterling’s long-standing history as a racist makes it easy to think he’s getting what he deserves. Some owners, who probably have their own skeletons, down deep probably don’t want to vote to force Sterling to sell, but they really don’t have much choice. To not vote against him would be to invite serious backlash from advertisers, fans and players . . . Nearly as troubling as all the Sterling stuff was  reading that the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP had twice honored a known racist and was preparing to give him a lifetime achievement award on May 15. Leon Jenkins, the president of that chapter has resigned, as he should have. But it’s doubtful he was the only one who signed off on making Sterling look like a humanitarian. The clear message is that Sterling’s donations were getting him a pass from the NAACP, despite his history of mistreating minorities. The sad part of all this is that similar tradeoffs happen in communities large and small. Corporations and fat cats — you probably know some — come across as civic assets through their donations, though in some cases their gains have taken a toll on the communities in which they live . . . On the lighter side of the Sterling incident, the best line I heard concerned Jerry Jones. “Does Jones have a mistress, a wise guy wanted to know? Actually, it was a wise woman. “If he does,” she continued, “somebody needs to get her to start taping phone calls. Maybe we can get rid of him that way.”

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at




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