Sunday at the Post


“Bert Bell talked out of the side of his mouth, like a guy spitting out a silver spoon. Had a raspy, buzz-saw voice that could peel the paper off the Vesper Club dining room walls. Back in the day, when the National Football League needed a hands-on commissioner, Bert Bell had his fingerprints on everything, including the broadcasters’ throats.” -- Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News

As we enter the week of the draft, it’s only fitting that on its 75th anniversary, we honor the man who invented it. Stan Hochman’s quote above was from an article he wrote reviewing the book written by Bob Lyons about the life and times of Bert Bell. Lyons’ book, “Any Given Sunday,” details Bell’s life, which centered on making the NFL the great game it is today. Working tirelessly, Bell’s vision was based on the league being only as strong as its weakest link. He promoted a culture among the owners in which they worked together in the best interests of the future of the league.

More from Hochman’s review: “Lyons puts instituting the annual college player draft at the top of a crowded list of Bell's achievements. Back in the day, the Bears, Giants, Packers and Redskins dominated the league. The other franchises were gurgling in red ink. Bell owned the Eagles in 1935 when they finished 2-9. Named himself head coach to slash payroll. Told the other owners the league was only as strong as its weakest link. Said he knew first hand the agonies of a weak link. Proposed creating a list of college seniors and drafting in inverse order, worst team first, best team last. Had to convince Chicago's George Halas, a fierce spokesman for the "haves.”

The first NFL draft was held on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9, 1936, in Bell's room at the Ritz-Carlton. Total weekend coverage in the three Philly newspapers: zero, zilch, nada, not a word. Holy Mel Kiper!

Sudden death was rejected three times before the rules committee caved in. Then came Colts-Giants for the championship in 1958. Baltimore's Steve Myhra kicked a field goal to tie the game at 17-17 with seven seconds left. When the gun sounded, referee Ron Gibbs walked over to the weary Giants and told them that sudden death would commence in three minutes. Legendary linebacker Sam Huff screeched, ‘Wait a minute, the game's over.’

“It wasn't. Johnny Unitas took the Colts 80 yards, and Alan Ameche scored the game-winning touchdown and tears zigzagged down Bell's cheek.”

With the draft moving to prime time, Bell needs to be mentioned and thanked for all his work helping to make the NFL what it is today. He’s a member of the pro football Hall of Fame for his work as an owner and commissioner. He would be so proud Thursday night.

“I often said that his heart was shaped like a football.” -- Baltimore sportswriter John Steadman, on Bert Bell.


“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” -- Charles C. Finn

It’s four days before the draft, so let’s try to sort out some of the things I’m hearing about the first seven teams:

1. St Louis: Worked out Sam Bradford one more time, and unless the Browns make a huge offer, which I’m hearing they won’t, the Rams appear to be locked on the Oklahoma quarterback. With the Rams, though, anything can happen down to the last minute; you never know what happens at Rams Park once the doors close. However, I’d be shocked if they don’t try to make some headway in the coming days to get Bradford signed.

2. Detroit : Do you get the feeling every time GM Martin Mayhew speaks, he says something different from what the organization might be feeling? From Dante Culpepper to Pacman Jones to his running back comments, Mayhew might be best served saying nothing. But unless the Lions feel they can acquire Albert Haynesworth from the Redskins (I would put the odds at 20 percent), they’ll take Russell Okung. Without Haynesworth, the pick will be Ndamukong Suh.

3. Tampa Bay: The Bucs will take the defensive tackle who makes it to their pick. Not a complicated decision for what the Bucs need, and the trade element does not seem to be real.

4. Washington: The Redskins have tried to sign a left tackle</strong> in free agency, making an offer to Chad Clifton of the Packers, so they know they have to fix this area. Without a second-round pick, they have one chance to fix the problem. Even Bradford and Jimmy Clausen were confused when GM Bruce Allen, head coach Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan showed up Thursday to hold a private workout.

5. Kansas City: The Chiefs are trying, and I mean really trying, to move down. My sources tell me they’ll be willing to go down as far as 15 for the right deal because they feel they can find a player in that range. They want to move badly and might be able to if they can convince a team to move up and get ahead of Cleveland to acquire Clausen. The reality for the Chiefs and the rest of the NFL is that Cleveland won’t pick Clausen. More on the Browns later.

6. Seattle: They need a left tackle, they need a running back and they need to fix their defense, so they can go many directions. But the key point for the Seahawks is how they manage their draft. If they go OT, they might not get C.J. Spiller, so they must look at combinations. Would they want Spiller and a lesser tackle, or Trent Williams and another back? The right combination of players is the decision facing the Seahawks right now.

7. Cleveland: I’m told the Browns are not going to pick a quarterback, that they’re going to draft defense with their first pick. In spite of Jon Gruden’s relationship with Mike Holmgren and his love of Clausen, the Browns are not going quarterback early.

8. Two players, Clausen and Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, are potential trade-target players. Teams that want to move down are hoping that Clausen or Bryant make it to them, and they’ll get calls to move. Miami would love to go down to recoup its second-round pick. If Bryant makes it to them, they might have to take that chance. Bryant has not worked his way back into the top 10 yet, but he’s getting closer.

9. The draft will have two sections — the first will be sorting out the top seven picks and the second will be which team picking at the top of the second round jumps into the first round. From picks 22-32, I expect some trades to be made, and there will be a sense of urgency for teams to no t have to wait an entire day to get their guy in the second.

10. Jason Taylor is still on vacation and will not make a decision on his future until after the draft when he’s supposed to sit down with the Dolphins. If the Fins draft backers, expect Taylor to leave. If they don’t, expect Miami to have to make a decision.

11. I’m told Buffalo will go offensive tackle with its first pick and has interest in Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The Bills might have to move to the bottom of the first to be in position to get him.

12. USC offensive tackle Charles Brown is a hot commodity right now and is moving up. He might make it into the top 15.

13. If the Giants draft DE Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida, which is possible, they’ll get calls on Osi Umenyiora -- and I hear if the deal is right, they’ll make a deal. Umenyiora can be had for the right price.


Teamwork has been a common theme recently in NFL circles, trying to find the right blend of players that allows everyone to work as one. The Steelers’ recent problems involving Ben Roethlisberger have affected their locker room, and watching them play last year, they appeared to be a team that was not always functioning together. This reminded me of my good friend Eric Musselman’s blog concerning the “one bad apple” concept. Here is the post below:

The researcher set out to determine if "one person in the workplace could ruin a workplace. Not just disrupt the way people get along... but could one person actually lower productivity. Does one bad apple spoil the bunch?"

In his research on "bad apple behaviors," Will Felps, a management professor, identified "three personality types, three types of behavior that seem to hurt group dynamics and group performance."

According to Felps, they are:

1. "Someone who is a real jerk, who attacks or insults others."

2. "Someone who's a slacker, who does less than they can."

3. "Someone who's a depressive pessimist."

If your team or group includes one of these types, "there's a good chance that they might spoil the barrel."

Over the years, research has found that groups dominate individuals. "There's tons of research going back decades demonstrating that people conform to group values and norms."

But in his research, Felps found just the opposite.

Invariably, groups that had [the bad apple] would perform worse. And this despite the fact that there were people in some groups that were very talented, very smart, very likeable."

In his studies, Phelps found that the bad apple's behavior "had a profound effect," with the bad apple's group "performing 30 to 40 percent worse than groups without a bad apple."

On teams with the bad apple, "people would argue and fight, and they would not share their relevant information, they would communicate less."

Even worse, team members would begin to take on the bad apple's characteristics. When the bad apple was a jerk, other team members would begin acting like a jerk. When he was a slacker, they began to slack, too, and so forth.

And they wouldn't act this way just in response to the bad apple. They'd act this way to each other in "sort of a spillover effect."

If you're a veteran coach or manager, you've likely seen this in teams or groups you've worked with. Based on my experience, it's absolutely true. A bad apple really can spoil the bunch.

This is a great article that provides each team food for thought before it makes a selection in the upcoming draft.


“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.” -- Pete Seeger

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“We find comfort among those who agree with us -- growth among those who don't.” -- Frank A. Clark

Beyond Hitler's Grasp

A great many Jews know the story of how the Danes rescued 8,000 Jews from the Nazis by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats. Very few Jews know the story of how all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved. Not a single Bulgarian?Jew was deported to the death camps due to the heroism of many Bulgarians of every walk of life, up to and including the King and the patriarch of the? Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

In 1999, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, flew with a delegation to Sophia to meet the Bulgarian prime minister. He gave?the prime minister the first Bulgarian language copy of a remarkable book, "Beyond Hitler's Grasp," written in 1998, by Michael Bar Oar, a professor at?Emory University (a Bulgarian Jew who had migrated to Israel and then to the U.S.).

This book documents the rescue effort in detail. The ADL paid for and shipped 30,000 copies to Bulgaria so that the population could partake in the joy of?learning about this heroic facet of their history. This story is clearly the last great secret of the Holocaust era. The story was buried by the Bulgarian?communists until their downfall in 1991. All records were sealed since they didn't wish to glorify the King or the Church or the non-communist parliamentarians, who at great personal risk stood up to the Germans. And the Bulgarian Jewish community, 45,000 of whom went to Israel after the war, was busy building new lives, and somehow the story remained untold. Bulgaria is a small country, and at the outset of the war it had 8 million people. They aligned themselves with the Nazis in hopes of recapturing Macedonia from Yugoslavia and Thrace from Greece. Both provinces were stripped from them after WWI.

In late 1942, the Jews of Selonica were shipped north through Bulgaria, on the way to the death camps, in sealed box cars. The news of this inhumanity was a?hot topic of conversation. Then, at the beginning of 1943, the pro-Nazi Bulgarian government was informed that all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews would be deported in?March. The Jews had been made to wear yellow stars and were highly visible.

As the date for the deportation got closer, the agitation got greater. Forty-three ruling party members of Parliament walked out in protest. Newspapers denounced what was about to happen. In addition, the patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Krill, threatened to lie down on the railroad tracks.

Finally, King Boris III forbade the deportation. Since Bulgaria was an ally of Germany, and the Germans were stretched militarily, they had to wrestle with the problem of how much pressure they could afford to apply. They decided to pass.

Several points are noteworthy. The Bulgarian Jews were relatively unreligious and did not stand apart from the local populace by virtue of garb or rites.?They were relatively poor by comparison to Jews in other countr ies, and they lived in integrated neighborhoods. Additionally, the Bulgarians had many?minorities, Armenians, Turks, Greeks and gypsies, in addition to Jews.

There was no concept of racism in that culture. The bottom line here is that Bulgarians saw Bulgarian-Jews as Bulgarians, not as Jews.

And being a small country, like Denmark, where there was a closeness of community, that is often missing in larger countries. So here was a bright spot that we can point to as example of what should have been. The most famous of those saved was a young graduate of the Bulgarian military academy. When he arrived in Israel, he changed his name to Moshe Dayan.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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