The fans were rowdy, and restless. Some 20,000 of them flocked to the football stadium Thursday night to watch the big draft. Some picks they liked, some not so much. And as fans do, they cheered, booed and argued among themselves.
But now it was getting late, and a man once again approached the microphone. The crowd hushed as he began to speak.
“With his third pick for secretary of Veterans Affairs, President Donald Trump chooses . . . ”
It’s easy to imagine that Trump is a fan of the NFL Draft. What’s not to love?
It has pomp. It has passion. It gets good crowds and good TV ratings. It commands attention for days. It’s part-competition, part-spectacle, a show worthy of a showman.
If only he appreciated the work that went into each of the 256 picks over the last three days.
A presidential administration, like a football team, is only as good as the people drafted into it. Each professes to have the same mantra. As Trump says, he wants to hire only the best. But only the NFL actually acts like that.
There is almost nothing an NFL team doesn’t know about a prospect. Draft preparation is lengthy and exhaustive. A team might be impressed by the way a prospect looks in uniform or how he performs on TV, but the process goes way beyond that.
Teams analyze hours of film on each player. They watch them play in person, in games and practices. Scouts write voluminous reports. At combines, teams measure and weigh players, put them through extensive physicals, probe their attitudes and knowledge of the game, and give them intelligence tests. There are drug tests and physical tests — 40-yard dash, bench press, broad jump, vertical leap. Teams meet with players individually for more workouts and to gain insight on their character.
They put in all that effort because each pick, especially each top pick, is huge. A wrong choice is a big setback. Ditto for presidential administrations, which need their own zealous vetting.
Even with all that, teams still make mistakes. But they’d make more if they weren’t prepared.
Chances are that an NFL team would have uncovered the torrent of allegations of professional misconduct that sank Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump’s recent nominee to lead the VA.
An NFL team would have known about the immigrant here illegally who worked as a maid and the taxes that were not paid on her services by failed labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder.
An NFL team would have understood the financial conflicts of interest that ended the candidacies of Philip Bilden for Navy secretary and Vincent Viola for Army secretary, and that discriminatory remarks made by Army secretary nominee Mark Green would make him untenable.
An NFL team would have heeded the red flags about former White House secretary Rob Porter and would have realized the various conflicts that helped terminate Tom Price as secretary of health and human services, Michael Flynn as national security adviser, and Brenda Fitzgerald as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This will be taken by some Trump supporters merely as more criticism of Trump. But it’s meant as good medicine — for him. He’s going to struggle to accomplish anything if he doesn’t have good people to get stuff done.
We can debate the politics of his goals and criticize his hires from our philosophically partisan perches. That’s fair game. But I hope we’re all united in wanting him to hire competent people.
It’s the same in football. You might prefer a tall quarterback with a cannon arm, or a nimble guy who can scramble and think on his feet. But in the end, it means nothing if the guy can’t play.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.