MORRISSEY: Heredity made Long easy choice for Bears
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com April 28, 2013 8:55PM
Oregon guard Kyle Long the Chicago Bears first-round pick in the NFL football draft talks to the media after being introduced to the media on Friday, April 26, 2013, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Updated: May 30, 2013 3:25PM
I don’t want to minimize the work that Bears general manager Phil Emery and his staff did in preparation for the draft, the hours they put in and their lack of anything resembling a personal life the last year or so.
But there’s no way in the world the Bears would have used their first-round pick on a guy with four college starts if his name had been Kyle Doe, Kyle Smith or Kyle Short. Or, to put it another way, if an inexperienced but hugely talented athlete named Kyle Elway were draft-eligible, they would have given him a long look.
As it turned out, they chose Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long, who happens to be the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, a simple genetic fact that made him very attractive to a group of people that will do just about anything to know what it’s buying.
So forgive me if I’m not blown away by the Bears’ daring and due diligence involving a player with one year of college-football experience.
“We do a lot of research on the athletic end of it,’’ Emery said. “… It’s called our athletic index score, or A-Score. This guy is the highest. This guy is the No. 1 offensive guard in the last 12 draft classes, and that’s as far back as we go. He rates as rare. In our scale, nine is rare. He rates as rare.”
Well, yeah, he’s Howie Long’s son. Oh, and did I mention Kyle’s brother is Rams defensive end Chris Long, who had a combined 24.5 sacks the last two seasons?
“[Kyle Long] is one of those guys that you want to be in a room with,’’ Emery said. “He’s very much a leader. He’ll be very much a leader of the offensive line. Obviously he’s a very respectful guy, and when it’s his time and place, he’ll become a team leader.”
And he’s Howie Long’s son.
“All of us have fallen down in life at one point or another,’’ Emery said of Kyle Long’s past off-the-field troubles. “The important thing is, do we get up and try to move forward and make ourselves better and not only make ourselves better but those around us better? And that’s what this young man has done.’’
And you know who his father is.
The Bears are betting heavily on heredity. If that’s scouting genius, or gene-ius, well, OK then. If we accept that the NFL draft is a meat market and that teams look at bloodlines the way horse breeders do, then Kyle Long is what the league would consider a risk easily worth taking.
An NFL personnel director once told me that when he analyzed offensive linemen, he first would look at their wrists and ankles. No matter how big the player might be, if he had skinny wrists and ankles, it was a big concern for the talent evaluator. Thick wrists and ankles spoke of power and strength to him. Skinny ones spoke of frailty, injuries and players carrying weight that didn’t fit their frames
“Measurables’’ — those are the things scouts study. Strength, quickness and speed are a lot easier to quantify at the combine than football skills are to discern at a football game. The Bears saw that Long was 6-7, 310 pounds, ran a 4.94-second 40-yard dash and referred to Howie Long as “my dad.’’
Things like “character,’’ however you define it, are much less important to NFL teams. Emery talks about character a lot, but in this draft alone, he took two players who had DUI arrests (Long and sixth-round pick Cornelius Washington) and another (seventh-round pick Marquess Wilson) who last season quit after nine games and accused his coach of abuse, an accusation he later took back.
Trust me on this one: Most NFL teams would be far more concerned about a player walking out on his team than getting a DUI.
A kid who comes from the same gene pool as a great football player has a chance of having rare talent. Of course, if genes were the only thing that mattered, pro sports would be filled with the offspring of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana and Nolan Ryan. They’re not. Work ethic matters.
But let’s face it, when you’re scouting a talented player who is the son of a great athlete, a lot of the work is already done for you. Did I mention Kyle Long could throw a baseball 96 mph.? You can’t teach that, either.