Now I know why the 49ers are so eager to coach the Senior Bowl every January and why so many of their draft picks are Senior Bowl alums. Unlike the February scouting combine where players perform tasks like the broad jump and shuttle run, the Senior Bowl gives evaluators a chance to watch football players, you know, play football. Lane Kiffin (who was still the Raiders coach when I wrote this) said that at the combine he had 15 minutes to sit down and get to know players. Coached up so well by their agents, the players always say the right things in that brief meeting. At the Senior Bowl, coaches practically live with the players for a week. There’s no way to Eddie Haskell your way through what amounts to a week-long job interview.
And the Mobile experience is way better for reporters, who aren’t even allowed into the RCA Dome to watch the combine workouts. (I tried to sneak in one year and was summarily escorted out by the world’s most officious security guard). At the Senior Bowl, you get to walk onto the field as soon as practice is over and interview any player you want. What’s funny is that the team scouts are doing the same thing and that their questions are far more personal. One scout asked LSU receiver Early Doucet if he had any kids. Were they by the same mother? A Cleveland Browns scout asked Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan if he thought he could play in cold weather. Brennan politely reminded the scout that he played in Worcester, Mass before attending the University of Colorado, two places not known for mild winters.
The knock on small receivers is that they aren’t as durable as their big-bodied counterparts. At the Senior Bowl, however, it was the big guys who had trouble staying healthy while the Smurfs excelled. Three of the best were Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins, Louisville’s Harry Douglas and Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal. Meanwhile, Doucet went down with a hamstring injury and Texas’ Limas Sweed went home with a wrist injury. Another big receiver, Oklahoma State’s Adarius Bowman, struggled to hang on to the football all week.
Ted-less horsemen. Of all the middle linebackers at the Senior Bowl, most seemed like they were cut out to play Mike linebacker in the 49ers’ scheme. The 49ers, in case you haven’t noticed, have a pretty good Mike in Patrick Willis and a nice back-up in Jeff Ulbrich. What they need is a Ted. Two of the top candidates for that position, Miami’s Tavares Gooden and UNLV’s Beau Bell, were hurt this week.
If I was going to rank the Senior Bowl quarterbacks, it would be like this:
1. Chad Henne
2. Joe Flacco
3. Andre Woodson
4. John David Booty
5. (tie) Erik Ainge
I know a lot of you were concerned that I wasn’t eating right in Mobile. (Surprisingly, not one of you who e-mailed me on the matter was my mom. I thought I was her favorite). Anyway, my dining experience greatly improved as the week went on. After my Wintzell’s dinner in Mobile Wednesday, I drove back to New Orleans Thursday night in time to share six pounds of crawdads with Mike and Sarah at The Galley in old Metairie. Today I had a dozen char grilled oysters (lemon, Tabasco) at Drago’s before catching my flight back to San Jose. In between meals, we saw “Cloverfield,” which, from what I could gather, is about a mutant sloth and the world’s longest lasting video camera battery. Let’s just say I’ll be skipping “Cloverfield 2” …
I’ll have a wrap-up of some of the Senior Bowl standouts in a couple of days, including my incredibly long-shot, wild-guess, shot-in-the-dark prediction as to whom the 49ers and Raiders will pick in April. Stay tuned …
-- Matt Barrows