Draft-day second-guessers give George Young a giant headache

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When George Young was named general manager of the New York Giants in 1979, he said all he wanted was an office with a fence around it and a gate.

It was supposed to be a joke, but Young may now be ready to add some barbed wire to the fence after he found himself the target of a lot of potshots during the off-season.

The hypercritical New York fans and talk shows have decided Young isn't keeping up with the times or handling the salary cap well. He got a lot of flak when his former coach, Bill Parcells, outbid him for David Meggett.

Young's also hearing it about some of his recent first-round draft picks, including Derek Brown, Jarrod Bunch and Eric Moore, none of whom have made anybody forget Lawrence Taylor.

Young finally let loose a week ago at a reporter from the New

York Daily News who brought up his recent drafts.

"Why don't you write what you want to write, that we can't draft? I'm not going to respond to that. Why do I have to make an excuse for our drafts? I'm tired of it. We draft the guys when we draft guys. They don't come injury-proof or anything else. I'm a dummy on the cap and I'm a dummy on the drafts, too," Young said.

It didn't take long for Young to calm down.

"Don't write that in Baltimore, or at least leave out the bleeps," Young said. "He picked a bad day [to call]. I was irritated. It gets tiresome at times."

OK, George, we'll leave out the bleeps, but the outburst was an indication that being an NFL GM these days isn't a day at the beach.

Young has built a couple of Super Bowl championship teams, but he knows his record is only as good as his last victory.

"People saw me after we won the Super Bowls and they don't think I was very excited. I said, 'Don't worry, I'll be dumb next year.' I was correct," Young said. "I learned this living in Baltimore; all the geniuses are from out of town. I'm not a genius. I don't pretend to be. I'm a working stiff trying to do the best I can. I've got a track record. I haven't changed much. Maybe it's a drawback. It doesn't show much growth."

Young figures that criticism goes with the job. He remembers that the fans booed when he made Phil Simms his first draft pick in 1979.

The cameramen even asked then-commissioner Pete Rozelle to announce the pick a second time so they could get the boos on film.

"They went through the whole thing again and they booed more. Pete even started to smile because he knew what was coming, and they said even he was laughing at the Giants' pick," he said.

Despite all that, Young has stood the test of time. When he arrived in New York, all the sports teams had different executives than they do now.

He's still on the job, conducting his 17th draft this weekend and trying to avoid listening to the roar of the crowd.

"You have to look at the draft as a whole, but the writers, fans, TV guys and agents put the emphasis on the first round. Some teams react to the public pressure of 'How can you pass up this guy?' You get into that sometimes. In the other rounds, you're not as affected by the outside influences."

In yesterday's draft, Young's pick on the first round -- running back Tyrone Wheatley -- was a popular one this time with the fans at the Paramount Theatre. They cheered when Wheatley's name was announced.

Now that the Giants have Rodney Hampton, Herschel Walker and Wheatley, the fans may stop complaining about the loss of Meggett.

Maybe Young even can start leaving the gate unlocked.

Negotiating wars

The Carolina Panthers' decision to give up Ki-Jana Carter for quarterback Kerry Collins means that Collins could be a holdout this year.

That's because general manager Bill Polian said last week he doesn't like contracts with voidable years, which are the gimmicks that agents use to get around the rookie salary cap.

The idea is to get a large contract that's spread over several years to get it under the rookie cap and then void it after three or four years and negotiate again.

Leigh Steinberg, the agent for Carter and Collins, negotiated these types of contracts for the last two No. 1 picks, Drew Bledsoe and Dan Wilkinson, after the rookie cap went into effect.

Last year, the first two quarterbacks taken, Heath Shuler, the third pick by Washington, and Trent Dilfer, the sixth pick by Tampa, also got those types of contracts.

Shuler got a $19.2 million, eight-year deal with a $5 million signing bonus that voids after three years. Dilfer got an eight-year, $16.5 million deal with a $4.5 million signing bonus that voids after four years.

Since Collins went on the fifth pick, he figures to get a slightly better deal than Dilfer got.

If Polian really tries to draw a line on the Collins talks, it should be a tough negotiation.

By contrast, the Steinberg negotiations with Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals shouldn't be a major problem.

Last year, Steinberg and Brown negotiated a six-year, $14 million deal for Wilkinson with a $5 million signing bonus that voids after four years.

Since running backs get paid more than defensive linemen, Carter is likely to top Wilkinson's contract.

Missing

You're not likely to hear the name of Brigham Young offensive tackle Eli Herring called in the draft, even though he was projected to be a third-round pick.

Herring, a Mormon, has told scouts he doesn't want to play on Sunday, which effectively precludes him from playing in the NFL.

Several Mormons, notably Steve Young, have no problems playing on Sunday, but Herring does. For Herring, Sundays are for church and family. He doesn't even watch television on Sundays, much less play in televised games.

Workout wonder

One of the most intriguing players in the draft is Mike Mamula, the Boston College defensive end, who shot up the draft charts on the basis of his workout at the Indianapolis combine.

The Philadelphia Eagles traded up with Tampa Bay to select Mamula with the seventh pick of the draft.

Mamula impressed the scouts with his agility drills, bench presses, and even his 33 score on the 50-question Wonderlic mini-IQ test that is administered to all the players. The average score for NFL players is about 20.

Mamula, though, might be a gamble for the Eagles because some players perform better in these workout drills than they do on the field. Mamula has to prove he can play as well as he can work out.

There's also question about whether all these standardized tests can project what a player is going to do on the field.

One skeptic is Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who said his team has stopped giving psychological tests to the players.

"We lost a lot of good players giving those psychological tests. I can remember one, I won't mention his name, but he was this, he was that. . . . We dropped him from our list. Now he's an All-Pro, playing today."

Stadium problems

The Malcolm Glazer family might be getting just a bit worried now that Mike Brown, the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, is talking seriously about moving his team to Baltimore if Cincinnati doesn't solve its stadium problem by the end of the year.

The Glazers paid $192 million for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, knowing they will lose big money playing at Tampa Stadium if the city doesn't build a new stadium. The Glazers only promised to play two years in Tampa.

But the Glazers, who tried to get an expansion franchise for Baltimore, figured they could always move to Baltimore after two years if Tampa doesn't find the funding for a new stadium.

If Brown beats the Glazers to Baltimore, they could face big financial problems in Tampa without a new stadium. Los Angeles is an alternative, but that city doesn't have a new stadium, either.

Meanwhile, Tampa isn't making any strides toward getting a new stadium.

A county administrator in Tampa, Dan Kleman, unveiled a plan last week for a $98 million renovation of Tampa Stadium that would be financed by public money and $30 million in premium-seat licenses.

The plan is so unrealistic that it's obvious Tampa doesn't even understand the problem, much less have a solution.

To start with, the Glazers -- who didn't publicly comment on the plan -- want a new stadium, not a renovated one.

And selling premium-seat licenses wouldn't be easy in Tampa, where the team has problems selling regular tickets.

It's obvious the city needs to go back to the drawing board and find ways to obtain funding for a new stadium.

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