Bluff is called, Phillips isn't early on Jaguars get no takers in bid to deal No. 2 pick

April 21, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Tom Coughlin's bluff didn't work, Lawrence Phillips lost several million dollars when he slipped to the sixth pick and the Houston Oilers pulled off one of the slickest draft-day maneuvers yesterday.

Those were some of the highlights of the NFL's 61st collegiate draft, which was filled with surprises after the New York Jets selected Southern California wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson with the first pick.

The Jets' selection of Johnson was about the only sure thing in this draft, and the Jets waited less than a minute to announce his selection.

The drama then started when the Jacksonville Jaguars went on the clock for 15 minutes with the second pick.

Coughlin, the Jaguars coach, let more than 14 minutes run off the clock before taking the player the team had been expected to select the last two months -- linebacker Kevin Hardy of Illinois.

Coughlin had spent the past week trying to convince the other 29 teams he was interested in defensive end Simeon Rice or Phillips, the controversial Nebraska running back, in an attempt to get a team to trade up to the second spot.

Coughlin even dispatched team president David Seldin to Los Angeles late last week to meet with Phillips in an attempt to convince other teams he wanted Phillips.

But most teams thought Coughlin was bluffing because Phillips, who's on probation for assaulting his ex-girlfriend last September, didn't seem a good fit for Coughlin's no-nonsense style.

Coughlin tersely said "no" when he was asked if the Jaguars got any interesting offers for the second pick and insisted it was "extremely difficult" not to pick Phillips.

The Arizona Cardinals then pulled a surprise by picking Hardy's Illinois teammate, Rice, over offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden of UCLA.

That left Ogden as the first selection by the Baltimore Ravens ZTC when they decided to pass on Phillips.

Both Rice, who thought he would go to the New York Giants in the fifth slot, and Ogden, who expected to go to Arizona at No. 3, were surprised at the way it turned out.

"I pretty much thought I was going there," Rice said of the Giants. "But things worked out for the better. I'm not like mad or anything."

Rice actually made some money by moving up to the No. 3 spot, and Ogden is likely to get a slightly lower contract by dropping from three to four.

Ogden said: "When Simeon got picked third by Arizona, I started to think, maybe Baltimore wouldn't be that bad a place to play after all."

The Giants, who wanted Rice or Hardy, settled for Oklahoma defensive end Cedric Jones, and the St. Louis Rams, who had refused to trade their sixth and 13th picks to move up to get Phillips, got him on the sixth pick.

If Coughlin hadn't been bluffing, Phillips would have gotten a much better contract by going in the second spot.

The same two teams, Jacksonville and St. Louis, had the second and sixth selections last year. Jacksonville paid Tony Boselli a $6 million signing bonus and an average of $2.4 million a year, and St. Louis paid Kevin Carter a $5 million signing bonus and an average of $1.6 million a year.

Phillips is still a gamble, though, because of the possibility he could repeat the behavior and he's likely to be a public relations ++ problem because of the possibility of protests by women's groups.

The Rams happen to have the league's only woman owner, Georgia Frontiere, and she was manning the phones at her team's table because she was in New York for dental work.

Frontiere, who hasn't met Phillips, said, "The coach [Rich Brooks] and the staff feel he's the best player. They've done extensive research and felt very fortunate to have him still available."

When she was asked if she thought there would be protests from women's groups, she said, "I hope not. I hope they give him a chance to have a successful life and a career."

Phillips, the only top pick who wasn't at draft headquarters (he either wasn't invited or decided not to come, depending on which version you believe), told St. Louis reporters by phone from his Los Angeles home, "I'm not worried about getting into any more problems and I don't see why anyone else should."

After Phillips was selected, New England picked Ohio State receiver Terry Glenn, a move that raised some eyebrows because coach Bill Parcells usually goes for defense.

But owner Bob Kraft had been pushing for a wide receiver to give quarterback Drew Bledsoe another target and he prevailed.

The choice was made easier when Jones, the player Parcells' coveted, went on the fifth pick.

The Carolina Panthers were then happy to select Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka, a player who would have gone to St. Louis on the sixth pick, if Phillips hadn't been on the board.

The draft maneuvering then started at the ninth spot.

Houston, which wanted Ohio State running back Eddie George, got second- and fourth-round picks from the Oakland Raiders to trade down to their 17th slot.

The Oilers then gave up defensive tackle Glenn Montgomery to Seattle to move back to the 14th slot to take George.

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