Examining the Graves factor

June, 19, 2013
6/19/13
12:48
PM ET
The hiring of former Cardinals GM Rod Graves as the senior director of football administration didn't garner big headlines -- it occurred the same day as Tim Tebow to the Patriots -- but this was an important decision by GM John Idzik.

Because Idzik's expertise is on the business side (salary cap, contracts, etc.), Graves becomes the Jets' highest-ranking official with a personnel background. Idzik has a comfort level with Graves; he worked under him with the Cardinals from 2001 to 2004.

[+] EnlargeRod Graves
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsFormer Cardinals GM Rod Graves will be the senior director of football administration for the Jets.
"It’s exciting," Idzik said. "I've know Rod since actually [my] teenage years. We were ball boys together back in the old Philadelphia Eagle days. We've known each other for a long, long time. ... I've known him side-by-side and in personnel circles, and of course in our time together in Arizona. I'm grateful to have him on board."

How does Graves rate as a talent evaluator? He headed the Cards' football operation for nine years, but it's hard to get a clear picture of his impact because the two head coaches under him, Dennis Green and Ken Whisenhunt, had significant say in personnel decisions, especially Green. Graves often deferred to his coaches, focusing his efforts on contract negotiations and the big picture. In that respect, he's a lot like Idzik.

Under Graves' leadership, the Cards enjoyed a dramatic rise (the 2008 NFC Championship) and suffered a three-year tailspin (2010 to 2012), resulting in his ouster. The inability to replace QB Kurt Warner was the main problem. They failed with six different quarterbacks, including Kevin Kolb, a $21 million bust. The offensive-minded Whisenhunt was largely responsible for the QB blunders, but Graves was involved in the decisions. That raises questions, especially on a team like the Jets, who may be in the market after the season.

In terms of the draft, the Graves-led Cards picked only four players that went on to multiple Pro Bowls, including WR Larry Fitzgerald and CB Patrick Peterson. They had a monster draft in 2004 and a couple of other decent drafts, but that's about it. Graves never was considered a draft guru. To repeat, he leaned heavily on those around him. A look back at the Graves-era drafts:

2012: WR Michael Floyd (first round) has a chance to be pretty good. OT Bobby Massie (fourth) was a turnstile as a full-time starter on a poor offensive line.

2011: Peterson (first) is one of the top young defensive players in the game and could eventually surpass Darrelle Revis as the top corner. Otherwise, this was an underwhelming draft. They missed on RB Ryan Williams (second).

2010: LB Daryl Washington (second), a star on the rise, is the best of the bunch. First-round DT Dan Williams is pulling a Gholston -- no sacks in three seasons.

2009: Picking 31st after the Super Bowl season, the Cards whiffed the entire draft. First-round RB Beanie Wells already is a goner.

2008: They hit with the first two picks, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (first) and DE Calais Campbell (second), although DRC's career has faded with the Eagles. Campbell was one of the top picks of the Graves era. The rest of the draft ... ugh.

2007: Another stinker. OT Levi Brown, picked fifth overall, hasn't come close to meeting expectations. The other four picks are gone.

2006: QB Matt Leinart was selected 10th overall. Need we say more?

2005: S Antrel Rolle is the sole survivor from this draft, a cast of characters that made no impact in the league.

2004: They built a terrific foundation with this draft, landing four big-time players -- Fitzgerald (first), LB Karlos Dansby (second), DT Darnell Dockett (third) and DE Antonio Smith (fifth), who has thrived with the Texans. Unfortunately for the Cards, they never came close to duplicating this haul.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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