Friday, July 23, 2004

A blast from the past

Other than Plax returning to his senses and the Steelers re-signing one of their most consistent players, James Farrior, and since training camp won't start for another week, I thought I'd take this opportunity to beat up (yet again) on Mark Madden.

Given that he was canned by the Post-Gazette last month, I've had to resort to reading through his archived articles to get ideas for stories. Well I came across this gem and I just had to comment on it for it's sheer idiocy.

The article is dated April 30, 2003 and Madden uses the entire space to disparage the Steelers for making the "worst draft pick ever." Who was Madden referring to? They didn't draft Gabe Rivera last year did they? What about Mark Malone? Perhaps Scott Shields or the much maligned Troy Edwards. No, no, no and no. The object of Madden's vitriolic pablum? Ike Taylor. That's right, the defensive back who's raw athletic ability easily made him the surprise of the 2003 Steeler's season and arguably made him the best rookie on the team (I know there wasn't a lot of competition, but hey, I'm trying to make a point).

Here's some of what Madden had to say at the time:

Taylor was a tailback at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2001, making the team as a walk-on. Taylor's draft profile on says he did not play in 2000 because he "concentrated on academics." Before that, he was a Prop 48. Before that, he was dumb. Probably still is.

Probably not dumb enough to pick himself in the fourth round, though. This pick makes no sense. On a scale of one to 10, Ourlads Scouting Service gave Taylor a one. They projected him to be drafted when hell froze over.
As usual, Madden puts aside any biases he may hold and opts instead for a lucid analysis. I'm guessing shoving all those Krispy Kreme's in his mouth got in the way of his objectivity as he wrote this piece.

Is Taylor dumb? I have no idea; all I know is he was much more reliable (in limited playing time) against the pass than either of the starting cornerbacks. Of course that's like saying Madden won a five-yard sprint (maybe we should make it a three-yarder) against two quadriplegic's in wheelchairs with their brakes set to "lock." Still, that doesn't change the fact that Taylor was a rookie who had to learn the defense over a short period and then translate those X's and O's to the field. And he did that better than first round pick Troy Polamalu and even though starters DeWayne Washington and Chad Scott purported to know the defense, more times than not they played like they were suffering not only from amnesia, but also from a loss of major motor skills.

Madden goes on to make more ridiculous observations when he writes the following:

At 6-foot, 197 pounds with 4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash, Taylor could turn out to be the latter-day Mel Blount. Or the black Scott Shields. I'm betting on the latter.

With all those marvelous physical attributes, how did Taylor wind up at Louisiana-Lafayette? Why wasn't he at Southern California with Troy Polamalu? Wouldn't a big-time school take a Prop 48 recruit that projected as a fourth-round NFL draft pick? Absolutely. But while you can't teach anyone to be 6 feet, 197 pounds and run a 4.3, you probably can't teach Taylor to play football.
Boy, Madden is on fire. Let's see, currently there aren't any players of note in the NFL who went to small schools (unless you want to consider the following):

player college
Terrell Owens Tenn.-Chattanooga
Jerry Rice Miss. Valley St.
Troy Brown Marshall
Randy Moss Marshall
Chad Pennington Marshall
Steve McNair Alcorn St.
Joe Andruzzi So. Conn. St.
Darren Sharper William & Mary
Daunte Culpepper Central Fla.
Kurt Warner No. Iowa
Jason Taylor Akron
Granted, it took me all of five minutes to put this list together, so maybe Madden was on to something by questioning whether players from small schools can compete with players from the big-time college programs.

The funny thing about Madden's article is that I'd be willing to bet a gross of twinkies that Madden had never heard of Ike Taylor before the draft and didn't take the time to find out more than some cursory information after he was drafted, and then decided to proclaim him "dumb" and the Steelers idiotic for picking him.

Funnier still is that this is Madden's M.O. Making contentious statements to get people riled up and call into his radio show (so he can then harangue them), and by the time he's proven wrong people have forgotten all the silly things he said to begin with.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit where credit is due. Here's how Madden ends his diatribe:

Of course, I'm hardly infallible when it comes to judging this sort of thing.

I liked the choice of Edwards in 1999. Hey, gotta get a receiver, right? Wrong. I also spoke glowingly of Shields' physical skills when the safety from Weber State was chosen in the second round that same year. Conversely, I decried the choice of Antwaan Randle-El in the second round last season.

But I stand by my condemnation of Ike Taylor. Ike Turner would have been a better choice. Talk about a big hitter.
Ok, Ok. Maybe Madden realizes that he often doesn't know what he's talking about. Nonetheless, I'm still calling him on it, if for no other reason than when he's talking about the Steelers he's more wrong than right, and not only that, it gives me something to write about until training camp starts.