Monday, April 30, 2007

Great day to be selling Browns tickets, the worst of days to be selling Dolphins tickets


Sunday was a great day to be a season ticket account executive for the Cleveland Browns. You were sitting at your desk taking phone call after phone call from ecstatic Browns fans after the Browns captured nothing but positive attention after they drafted Joe Thomas with the third overall pick and then chose Notre Dame quarterback and Akron native Brady Quinn. At the other end of the dial, sales representatives of the Miami Dolphins were dusting off their resumes ready to start pounding the pavement looking for a new job. The NFL draft is all about offering hope to a teams’ football fans. Brady Quinn may never become an NFL franchise quarterback, but when it comes to consumer confidence and the business of selling football tickets, Saturday was the best of times for the Cleveland Browns and the worst of times for the Miami Dolphins.

As Saturday’s first round unfolded Dolfans everywhere were salivating at the prospect of the prodigal son being drafted by the Dolphins. The Miami Dolphins success has been built around white drop back quarterbacks. First Bob Griese led the Dolphins to their only two Super Bowls, the back to back titles in 1972 and 1973. While Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl, he brought a sense of pride to the Dolphins. Ten quarterbacks have failed at replacing Marino since he retired six years ago; the Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since Mario retired. After the Browns didn’t draft Quinn with the third overall pick and Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden who never misses drafting a quarterback with the marquee value that Quinn offered, at long last the Dolphins who needed a big name quarterback to make Dolfans feel better about their team were stunned when NFL commissioner announced the Dolphins first round selection was “Ted Ginn” With all respect to the talented Ohio State punt returner Dolfans were stunned, angry and upset – all at the same time.

At the Dolphins draft day party general manager Randy Mueller stayed in the teams draft room leaving rookie head coach Cam Cameron to address a very unhappy group of football fans. According to The Miami Herald, Cameron’s interaction with the fans went something like this:

Cameron: “Let me tell you about the young man we just drafted.”

Crowd: Boo

Cameron: “I've known this young man for over 10 years. I've watched this young man for a long time.”

Crowd: Booo.

Cameron: “You will be thrilled every time you watch him as a punt returner.'”

Crowd: Booo.

Cameron: “Let me put it to you this way . . .”

Crowd: Brady, Brady, Brady, Brady.

Cameron: “Ted Ginn is a Miami Dolphin.”

Crowd: Cheers.

And then boos again.

''I understand it,'' Cameron said. “I'm a fan, too. The problem is I'm not a fan today. I understand why they reacted the way they reacted based on what they read.”

“I think what we'd like to think is that as these players grow, the fans will love these players as much as we do.”

The NFL draft is very much a by-product of the media. Carried live by both ESPN and the NFL Network Saturday and Sunday and driven by the internet, the Dolphins decision was attacked by every so-called football expert.

''In a word, ridiculous,'' ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “[Quinn] falls into your lap and you're the Miami Dolphins, you don't have to trade up for him, he's there at nine.

“You get a chance to get Brady Quinn at No. 9 and you pass on him for Ted Ginn, coming off a foot injury -- not real polished as a wide receiver -- you got to be kidding me.”

Pete Prisco, Sportline.com’s NFL draft guru, had these thoughts on the Dolphins selecting Ginn with the ninth overall pick: Ginn's a good player, but how the heck can they pass on Quinn? That makes no sense. Who's their quarterback of the future? Cleo Lemon? How terrible a choice does Prisico believe the Dolphins made? In his grading of the 32 first round picks and the order they were selected in, the Dolphins were the only team whose pick received a D grade.

And what did Prisco have to offer on the Browns picking Quinn with the 22nd overall pick of the first round: This is the best pick of the entire draft. They get a franchise passer in the back end of the first round? Are you kidding me? Good job by Phil Savage to go up and get Quinn. He will be a star. An A+ pick for the Browns.

ESPN’s John Clayton offered what was a great day for the Browns but a terrible day for Brady Quinn.

Cleveland Browns: All right, they gave away a potential top-five pick in next year's draft to get Quinn at No. 22. We all realize the Browns may not be very good next season. The roster has age in the front seven of the 3-4 defense and numerous other holes. The reason the Browns are the big winners is because they potentially filled two of the five major building blocks of a team, getting Quinn and left tackle Joe Thomas. Teams win with quality players at left tackle, defensive end, cornerback, wide receiver and quarterback. If the Browns lose next season, general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel might not be around to reap the rewards of this draft. Regardless, Savage did a great job despite the price.

Brady Quinn: Not since Aaron Rodgers has an NFL draft seen a quarterback lose as much as Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. Slipping from a top-three pick to No. 22 could cost him as much in $33 million in contract dollars and maybe $18 million in guarantees. The Browns considered him with the third pick but took Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas. He could partially understand the Vikings passing on him. Halfback Adrian Peterson was available and coach Brad Childress invested time and draft choices to get Tarvaris Jackson last year. The killer was the Dolphins at No. 9. Television cameras caught him flabbergasted by the Dolphins' selection of Ted Ginn Jr. Vince Young, the third pick in last year's draft, received a six-year, $48 million deal that included $24.9 million in guarantees. The 22nd pick, being a quarterback, might get a five-year deal that could max out at $15 million or maybe $20 million, although Quinn's agent, Tom Condon, can be creative. Regardless, Quinn was the biggest loser on the first day.

SI.com’s Don Banks had this to say about the Dolphins selecting their “quarterback of their future in the second round” I like BYU quarterback John Beck. I really do. They say he's a gym rat who eats, drinks and sleeps football. But let's face it, if Miami's second-round pick (40th overall) doesn't turn out to be a better NFL quarterback than Brady Quinn, whom the Dolphins passed on at No. 9, Miami fans aren't going to let Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller forget about this one.

At the top of USA Today’s winner’s list: The Browns exited day one with two (Brady Quinn, Joe Thomas) of the five players rated highest entering the draft. GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel are fighting like there's no tomorrow ... which might be true for them if they don't produce some wins.

At the bottom of USA Today’s loser’s list: OK, the Dolphins passed on Brady Quinn because they thought John Beck at No. 40 gave them better value. But do they really think Ted Ginn Jr. is worth the No. 9 pick? Miami surely could have traded down and still selected the Ohio State product later in the first round. It's a big investment on a return man whose receiving skills are no sure thing in the NFL.

Fox Sports.com offered two views on each player drafted in the first round, starting with the Dolphins selecting Ginn: Well, Ted Ginn, Jr. was the draft's first shocker. All you had to do was look at Brady Quinn's facial reaction when Miami's selection of the Ohio State receiver was announced. All week, the Dolphins spoke with the Bucs about moving ahead of the Vikings, and Tampa Bay officials thought the Dolphins were interested in Quinn. I mean, what do you do if your only quarterback is Cleo Lemon? Yes, the Dolphins believe they will eventually be able to make a trade with Kansas City for veteran Trent Green (for a fourth-rounder this year?) It is obvious now that scouts were right about Quinn from the very beginning — that he wasn't a top ten player in this draft because of his lack of accuracy and his non-production against top college defenses. Still, this seems to be a reach for the Dolphins. It's like they took Ginn to cover the loss of all-around Wes Welker, who was traded to the Patriots. Ginn is a game-breaking kick returner, but he needs work as a receiver and his foot still hasn't healed from the national championship game. Most teams would say he was taken 10 picks too high.

The first big surprise of the draft! The Jets fans come out in force, instantly organizing, developing, and executing a fabulous "Miami Sucks" chants. It's amazing how the Jet fans could come together and form such a harmonious spit of venomous hatred so fast. Imagine they put that much work into solving global warming? The speed of that chant forming was nothing short of mesmerizing. And so is the Ginn pick. A.J. Hawk's brother-in-law, meanwhile, is near tears. Could make for a wonderful G.Q. shoot, no? Somewhere in Arizona, Matt Leinart's on a couch with three topless women, texting him, "It's all good, brah." Or, he's in a hot tub with the entire waitress staff from the local Hooters watching "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" and not paying any attention at all to the draft. Either or. Ginn is a great player with breakaway speed. He'll be the perfect target for...um, CLEO LEMON!

And on the Browns picking Quinn with the 22nd overall pick: The great news for Browns fans is that Cleveland ended up with Quinn after taking the draft's best offensive lineman, Joe Thomas, with their first pick. Granted, the trade with the Cowboys was pretty steep — a third-round pick this year and next year's first-round pick. But the Browns need help now, not next year. If Quinn can develop into a quality quarterback, GM Phil Savage has filled two great needs in Cleveland. Quinn, a native of Ohio, wanted to play in Cleveland — and how many college kids say that? — and he presents tremendous value at this selection, considering many teams had him rated between 8th and 15th overall. The Browns had him rated higher than that. Savage wanted JaMarcus Russell, but the Raiders wanted way too much. He settles for the second-best quarterback in the draft for a lot less in compensation and doesn't have to wait until next year to get him. The only downside for Cleveland is if that first-rounder ends up being among the top five selections once again.

A.J. Hawk's wife's brother goes to Cleveland. The Browns fans are ecstatic — euphoric even. Guys in dog masks everywhere, each one going bonkers with toy milk bones. The kid in the Brady Quinn jersey from before has found his Notre Dame hat and is 100% jumping up and down. His father, broken hearted only hours earlier, has found new life and looks like the dad from "7th Heaven" — happy that it all came out alright by the end of the episode. Menawhile, Quinn, himself — seems to be invigorated. After a day of walking around New York aimlessly that included games of hopscotch, trips to the Village and a hot dog from a vendor, he's going home to Cleveland. The Dublin, Ohio native makes his way to the stage with a team of roughly 7,000 handlers, looking like that chip is ALREADY on his shoulder. But wait — why are the team of handlers going up there?! Umm, guy — you were just the 22nd pick. TEN after Marshawn Lynch, NINETEEN after where you were supposed to go! Leave the entire entourage in the green room at this point. Oh well. Meanwhile, the Browns give him a #1 jersey to hold up, which makes little to no sense because he a) wasn't the first pick of the draft, and b) wasn't the team's first pick. Intangibles, though? Well, he's number one in that department baby. So intangible, in fact, you can't even touch him. All the while, Steve Young, Ron Jaworski, and Chris Berman just inducted Quinn into the NFL Hall of Fame. Yep, he's already in there. As the best quarterback to ever live, it's only sensible to do it now. Why wait?

Fan polls are anything but scientific, are purely subjective in nature but are a reflection as to how football fans feel about how the draft went for each team. An ESPN Sportsnation poll (as of 9 PM EDT Sunday) with 18,039 voting on the Dolphins drafted believed the Dolphins deserved an F for their 2007 NFL draft efforts. 45.7 percent and 26.3 percent D. At the same time of the 29,683 voting on the Brown selections 19.7 percent gave the Browns draft an A grade.

It was comical; call it a Greek Tragedy to watch Quinn fall in the draft. Sitting alone in the green room, the cleaning crew having arrived in the green room to clean up the mess left behind by the four players drafted early in the first round and on their way to their new NFL homes, a forlorn looking Quinn was by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Taking pity on the falling star, Quinn left the players green room (in part so they could finish cleaning the green room) for the sanctity of the Commissioner’s green room. Quinn who should enlist a personal grooming coach in the near future looked both relieved and happy when Goodell announced his name towards the end of the longest first round in NFL history.

“No, actually I was sitting. It's been a long week here. We've also been bussed around doing a lot of different things. I actually had gone back to go to the bathroom and as I came back out, you know, the Commissioner came out and I talked to him. He said, hey, you know, based on the situation, you're probably not going to be taken for a while. So if you want, feel free to come up here and sit down. There's no use putting your face on camera during teams that are picking when you're not going to be picked. You know, I said, "Hey, that's fine. I'll come and check it out for a little while."

“I didn't intend on being as long as they were. We made a commitment to come out here and I think sitting in the Green Room is part of it if you make that commitment. But again, we started talking to teams and trying to deal through some other teams and it ended up that the entire family was able to come and we stayed there,” a relived Quinn related after he was finally drafted.

For Browns general manager Phil Savage it was a dream come true: "This is a day that will go down as the day that the fortunes of the Browns turned," Savage said. "This is going to be one of those stepping-stone days.

"When you're able to add a left tackle, a potential quarterback who can play for a long time and then you combine that with what we've been able to do with the addition of Eric Steinbach and Jamal Lewis, and with (Kellen Winslow) and Braylon Edwards coming back, we're more legitimate than we've ever been."

Brady’s agent Tom Condon acknowledged his client’s the loss of income to The Cleveland Plain Dealer -- an estimated $20 million in guaranteed money from the No. 3 pick to the No. 22 pick. Then factor in the lost endorsement potential (anywhere between $5 million and $10 million) and Saturday’s free-fall represented a loss of between $25 million and $30 million in money Brady Quinn will never realize.

According to CNBC’s Darren Rovell, Quinn did have at least two endorsement deals in place before the bottom fell out of his Saturday. One of Quinn's deals is with Hummer General Motors Corp (GM) and the other with Nike. Word on the street is that Nike paid Quinn about $750,000. If that's on, that means Under Armour paid both their endorsers Joe Thomas and Patrick Wills and made their commercial for less than Nike paid Quinn.

"But it's not about the money for Brady," said Condon. "It's about being a leader for a great team. We know the Browns think very highly of him, and I expect they'll treat him well."

Back to the scene Sunday, today and the rest of the week in the Browns ticket office – that’s the message you want your general manager delivering. Regardless of whether or not Brady Quinn becomes the franchise player the Browns desperately need, Savage bought the Browns at least one full NFL season where Browns fans will be happy regardless of whether or not the team wins or loses in 2007. The Dallas Cowboys may end up, likely will end up with a top-five pick from Saturday’s trade (a shrewd move by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) but the Browns needed to send a message to their fans, a message of hope.

"I'm so excited to be in Cleveland," Quinn, who grew up in the Columbus, Ohio suburb of Dublin rooting for the Browns, said during a conference call with the Cleveland media. "It's a dream come true."

As bad a day as it was for Brady Quinn, the furor surrounding the Dolphins not picking Quinn hurt what should have been a great day for Ted Ginn. Called the worst pick in the first round, his selection booed by Dolphins fans, what should have been the day Ted Ginn had dreamed about since he first player Pop Warner football turned into an embarrassing day for a pretty good Ohio State football player.

“I said, `Oh, geez,'” former Falcons GM and longtime NFL executive Ken Herock said. “I'm not enamored with Quinn, but there were better players than Ginn there. I know you don't need linebackers, but Patrick Willis is a much better player, [so] maybe try to trade down. This draft is heavy with second-round receivers.”

NFL Network's Mike Mayock said No. 9 ''is way too high for Ginn. His teammate, Anthony Gonzalez, runs better routes. You're getting a good return guy but you're not getting a polished receiver.'' Former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, with nfl.com, said Ginn ''needs to improve his route running, but that can be taught.''

The moment in time during Cameron’s ‘talk’ with Dolphins fans at Saturday’s draft party came when the coach had apparently had enough of the fans booing him (they weren’t upset with Cameron just the team missing on the prodigal selection) came when a clearly frustrated Cameron according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel tried some happy talk about the player whom the Dolphins had drafted, Ted Ginn Jr. He mentioned Ginn's speed, talent and then something non-sensical about drafting, "the entire Ginn family" (Dad at tight end!). Fans then began chanting. "BRA-DY! BRA-DY!"

Dolphins’ owner H. Wayne Huizenga had dinner with Mueller and Cameron on Wednesday, and "knew then what their plan [for quarterbacks] was," he said after Ginn was picked. "But you have to stick around for the second pick to understand it."

Not only did Huizenga not offer a ringing endorsement of Mueller and Cameron’s decision but by suggesting you have to look at the ‘bigger picture’ the Dolphins owners is testing the patience of football fans from a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years.
Huizenga's 'true feelings' and reaction was reported by the Miami Herald: Huizenga stood grimly off to the side as Cameron addressed the hostile constituency, arms folded across his chest.

Asked earlier if Cameron and GM Randy Mueller were right in choosing Ginn over Quinn, the owner had said tersely, ``They better be right.''
And as bizarre as reactions where in Miami Ginn himself was shocked to be selected over Quinn.

''For sure,'' he admitted on a conference call. ``You're knowing Miami is hurting for a quarterback right now, and Brady is a great quarterback.''

For Mueller and Cameron it’s likely their careers at stake. Not necessarily resting on what Ted Ginn does but more on what Brady Quinn accomplishes with the Browns. Monday a great deal to be selling Browns tickets and those working for the Dolphins are getting ready to jump ship. Both teams needed to deliver a message to their most important stakeholders (their fans). One stood and was counted, the other failed miserably. In an era when how people spend their discretional income, the Miami Dolphins are in a great deal of trouble, at least for the foreseeable future.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The Miami Herald and The South Florida Sun Sentinel

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