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The Most Botched Nfl Draft Pick Ever


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Bad calls, as Ken Herock well knew by that point in his personnel career, were just part of the process when it came to the annual crapshoot known as the NFL draft. But nothing in his long and mostly successful run as a club executive in the league would ever rival the chaos and slapstick execution that unfolded in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ war room during the first round of the team’s pivotal 1982 draft.

A team picking the wrong guy happens all the time in the draft. But a team picking the wrong guy? Saying one name into the phone to your club’s representative at draft headquarters in New York City, only to hear another name called from the podium seconds later on national television by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle? When has an on-the-clock team ever blundered quite like that in the history of the league’s collegiate player pick-fest?

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The back of Booker Reese’s 1984 Topps card said that his “improved pass-rushing techniques accounted for 16 quarterback pressures and one sack in 1983.” He would never record another NFL sack.

Topps

Never, before or since, as far as anyone can tell. The star-crossed Bucs of 1982 stand alone, having orchestrated the mother of all draft misses in the infamous Booker Reese saga.

“It was exciting, I know that,’’ says Herock, the former Tampa Bay director of player personnel, recalling the first-round pick the Bucs bungled 32 years ago last week, prompting them into an ill-fated second-round trade for Reese that yielded disastrous results and helped set off a domino effect of losing and record-breaking ineptitude for more than a decade in Tampa Bay. “I was like, ‘Holy s---, what just happened?’ I’d never done anything like that before. I had built a team that went to the playoffs in Tampa Bay, but through my whole career, that’s probably the toughest hit I’ve ever taken.’’

NFL fans have heard plenty about the expansion-era follies of the Bucs franchise, from the epic 0-26 losing streak of 1976-77, to the mind-numbingly short-sighted front office decisions to let starting quarterback Doug Williams get away in 1983 and to draft a baseball-loving Bo Jackson first overall in 1986. But one of the lesser-known tales of Bucs futility involved faulty speaker phones that played a crucial role in the outcome of their 1982 draft, and helped to pull the pin on the grenade of defeat and dysfunction that left Tampa Bay to endure a league-record 12 consecutive seasons of double-digit losses from 1983-94, and 15 years between playoff trips.

The Booker Reese draft, as it came to be known in Bucs history, has a singular place in the team’s crowded Hall of Shame. He was the draft bust that should never have been, but having missed out on him once due to a fluke of fate, Tampa Bay couldn’t leave well enough alone. The Bucs wound up getting their man, but at a cost that kept mounting in time. The bizarre tale of how Reese became a Buc, and what transpired after he did, reads like a story too farcical for fiction.<p>

After two forgettable and unproductive seasons, Reese was dealt away to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a lowly 12th-round draft pick and by 1985 he had washed out of the league altogether in a haze of underachievement and drug use. But the specter of Reese and the trade that brought him to Tampa Bay lingered far longer, haunting the franchise for years to come.

he Bucs call a draft-day (in)audible, via speaker phone

Coming off their second NFC Central championship in three years in 1981, the John McKay-coached Bucs entered the 1982 draft with the certainty that they were building a program with a decent shot to be a perennial winner. With the 17th pick of the first round that year, the Bucs chose Penn State guard Sean Farrell, a highly regarded prospect and future Pro Bowl selection who would go on to play 11 years in the league for four different teams. They just didn’t mean to. At least not at No. 17.

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Sean Farrell was a finalist for the Lombardi Award and for the Outland Trophy—given annually to college football’s best linemen—during his stellar four-year career at Penn State.

Sporting News Archives/Sporting News/Getty Images

Tampa Bay’s first-round decision came down to either Farrell—a linemate of fellow Penn State guard Mike Munchak, who went 8th overall to Houston in 1982—or Reese, a raw but promising 6-6, 260-pound defensive end from Bethune-Cookman College, a small, predominantly black school in Daytona Beach, Fla. Farrell was far more polished and pro-ready, but Reese had freakish athletic skills, especially as a pass rusher, and the Bucs defense for a couple of years had been seeking someone to successfully man left end, opposite future Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon at right end. Tampa Bay’s coaches and personnel men had worked Reese out and were fairly well smitten by his 4.68 in the 40-yard dash.

As the Bucs’ time on the clock in the first round approached, Herock says, he called veteran Tampa Bay equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo—who was given the plum and presumably easy job of representing the team at the draft in New York—and told him to write down two names, Farrell and Reese, and to stay tuned. Meanwhile back in Tampa, the debate continued in the Bucs’ draft room, and eventually the clock wound down to about a minute remaining in the team’s 15-minute first-round window.

There was no noise, only stunned silence at first in the Bucs’ war room when Rozelle called out Farrell’s name on ESPN—in only its third year of televising the draft—and then a whole lot of angry shouting. Says Herock of the reaction, “There was a lot of cussing.”

That’s when the Bucs’ best-laid first-round plans were apparently foiled by a pair of speaker phones and some background noise from rowdy fans in the league’s draft headquarters at the New York City Sheraton Hotel, where the draft was conducted in those years.

“The communication we had then, today you would consider it archaic,’’ Herock says of the speaker phones that both he and Marcuccillo were using that day. “We were on the phone, but it was hard to hear. I’m hearing Pat say, ‘Quiet, quiet, quiet, I can’t hear what he’s saying.’ And I can hear a lot of noise on the other end, in the background in New York. We were close to our time, but we always let it ride until the last 30 seconds or so and then we’d turn the pick in.

“We thought we needed both of those players, but after we mulled it over and discussed it, the selection was to go with Booker Reese. So I told Pat, I said, ‘Listen, Pat, you’ve got two names there.’ I said ‘We’re not going with Sean Farrell, we’re going with Booker Reese. Turn it in.’ But he didn’t hear the Booker Reese part of it because of the noise. He took it that we were going with Sean Farrell and turned it in.’’

There was no noise, only stunned silence at first in the Bucs’ war room when Rozelle called out Farrell’s name on ESPN—in only its third year of televising the draft—and then a whole lot of angry shouting as the reality set in.

“After we turned in the pick, we’re watching a minute later on television and we find out we had selected Sean Farrell,’’ says Herock, laughing at the memory. “There was a lot of cussing, like, you know, ‘What the ****’s he doing? What’s going on here?’ That kind of stuff. But there was nothing you could do. That’s the name that was turned in, and they went with the name that was turned in. That’s the way the selection process went.’’

But actually, the Bucs didn’t just throw up their hands and accept their mistake as their fate. Unbelievably, Herock instructed Marcuccillo to get up and head for the podium to aggressively plead Tampa Bay’s case for reversal. That’s right, the Bucs tried to rescind the pick, likely establishing another first in NFL draft history.

  • Named ‘Black College Player of the Year’ in 1981
  • Lasted only four seasons in the NFL
  • Made 24 career appearances with Buccaneers
  • Traded to Rams in 1984 for a 12th-round draft pick
  • Signed with 49ers in 1985. Released before season after failing drug test
  • Recorded two career sacks and two interceptions
  • Convicted of cocaine possession in 1999

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Yeah well I figure old man JB could take us on a trip down memory lane?

laugh.pnglaugh.png I remember this well, it was a complete cluster ****. Reece was terrible, they didn't take the time to realize the poor guy was dumber than a Box of Rocks, very similar to some who post here. laugh.png

Sean Farrell ended up being a fairly decent guard for us for more than a few seasons.

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Raiders chose Jamarcus Russell #1 overall..... on purpose.

Thats the most botched pick ever.

Not even close! These dizzy ******** had the brilliant idea to trade our #1 the following season to move back up into the first and take Reece. I always felt sorry for him, because it was quite apparent he was in over his head on an NFL field.

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Not even close! These dizzy ******** had the brilliant idea to trade our #1 the following season to move back up into the first and take Reece. I always felt sorry for him, because it was quite apparent he was in over his head on an NFL field.

Could've drafted Dan Marino, etc. with that traded pick too.

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Could've drafted Dan Marino, etc. with that traded pick too.

Marino wouldn't have done **** with those early Buccaneer teams. You forget, we had Steve Young at one time, of course when we had Young, not only did we have any players to play around him, we also had no coaching by that point. After Doug Williams split because our racist ******* owner refused to pay him what he was worth, BECAUSE he was black, we had no team identity whatsoever. It was gonna be 14 years before we ever got that identity back!

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