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NFL

Try As It Might, The Draft Is Still A Dog Of An Evening

CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 29: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces Gregory Rousseau being selected 30th by the Buffalo Bills during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The only thing that made last year’s 2020 NFL Zoom Draft even microscopically worthwhile for anyone other than the participants and the kind of person you would close your tab and leave the bar to avoid was Nike the Dog.

Or more specifically, Nike Belichick the Dog. Showing his typically calculated disdain for non-football football things that don’t have him explaining football things as the focal point, Belichick drafted from his home on Nantucket Island and inadvertently made Nike, who is his girlfriend Linda Holliday’s Alaskan Klee Kai, the star of the second evening by leaving dog treats by his laptop. Nike, ever the stealthy opportunist (kind of a Patrick Chung type), sat in Belichick’s chair and waited patiently for the Patriots to draft Kyle Dugger of Lenoir-Rhyne (14 games, seven starts).

Everything about last night’s 2021 NFL Draft, like all drafts, was the standard recitation of names and fevered bloviation about each of them, done by an army of psychopaths being paid to pretend they knew what they were talking about at any given point.

In fairness, the league did try to tart it up with corporate idiocies like Roger Goodell’s chair and all its throne-based inferences, and wacky off-the-peg nerdery like Aaron Rodgers trying to force a trade to San Francisco because he’s still mad at Green Bay for not making him the general manager. Even Tim Tebow’s latest “Put Me In, Coach” scheme made an effort to spice up the evening for late ’90s SEC fantasists, but draft night was still the thing it always is: a vehicle for Mel Kiper to remind parents not to do whatever happened to make him him.

In the ever-shrinking world of sports viewing attention, the draft remains an automatic—even if the Jets screwed it up by not keeping their preferences a better secret at No. 2—and the world demanded more Nike. The dog, not the company. The company ought to do less.

The world, typically, got nothing. The Patriots have made a creepy fetish of having nothing for you but 16 games and 32 scowls (Belichick’s midweek and postgame pressers), so it figured that the one thing other than Bob Kraft’s leisure time that could make them seem less like Voltron was a dog sitting at Belichick’s computer and looking like it had been trained to know as much as Dan Orlovsky. It was pure off-brand brilliance that nobody in the organization could have come up with independently, even though Nick Caserio, then in the Patriots’ employ and now the general manager of Hell, used his kids to crawl about Dad’s desk.

So where was Nike last night? Nowhere, that’s where. Sitting alone in front of his Pet Food Express–model laptop, knowing in his spunky heart and gritty brain that he could have drafted Mac Jones if he’d only been given the chance rather than sitting and waiting for Old Doctor Frumpy to come by and toss him a chewie for faithfully monitoring Atlanta’s pick of Kyle Pitts. Invisible, sadly, to the world. Or maybe not even on the roster any more. He got them Kyle Dugger as he was assigned to do, he did his job, and he was cut. With the Patriots, who the hell knows?

Then again, that’s so like the Patriots—everyone has a job, and everyone is replaceable. Nike made a play, he helped the team win (kind of), and now, without an announcement, they may have gone to another member of the Belichick menagerie to handle draft night. Todd the Deathstalker Scorpion, Oogie the Blue-Ringed Octopus, Gronk the Box Jellyfish … the mind boggles.

Or maybe the Patriots will come out with a typically terse statement today announcing that Nike is still in the club’s employ and that his role hasn’t changed—that he works with the scouts on the second night of the draft, looking for the little-heralded gems with whom other teams wouldn’t or couldn’t be bothered. I’m thinking Nike has his eyes on Amen Ogbongbemiga, the linebacker from Oklahoma State. Or a BarkBox. Whichever had a better 40 time.

In other words, last night sucked except for the perpetual delusionals who think they know more draft than mock. Tonight has some hope, but only if Nike appears. I mean, there’s an Animal Planet development deal waiting here, as long as Nike doesn’t go all Brady and start demanding things like a personal trainer. Or in this case, a vet.

The draft was its highly specialized bore, from the Ginger Avenger’s tatty old prop-comedy chair that should have had an ejector seat à la Graham Norton to give it greater dignity, to Jon Gruden’s usual form-defying pick (this time, Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood). It lacked the same things it always lacks—the sparkle that only a second mammalian species with a new perspective about football orthodoxy can provide.