If Brian Xanders has his way, the Denver Broncos are going to draft Nick Fairley.
How do I know this? I'm speculating of course, but after watching all of his interviews five times over this week in an effort to build our wildly popular Brian Xanders Random Quote Generator, new information has come to light, man.
First, let me point out the obvious--the Broncos would like to trade out of the #2 spot. If someone tries to claim that as an original thought or breaking news, flog them. This fact has been widely known for weeks. Xanders himself has said on numerous occasions that his general strategy (which is sound) is to trade down and accumulate picks. So you won't find me claiming that mantle.
What I will claim is that Xanders is not your typical General Manager. As I suggested yesterday, the guy simply has a hard time with public speaking. Moreover, he tends to get slightly animated and nervous, which causes him to search for what he likely perceives are high-quality football buzzwords. Take this quote for example, which is included in the Random Quote Generator:
"We researched their personal character and their football character…we never want the character grade to bleed into the football grade."
Xanders' interviews are ripe with this sort of material. What Xanders wanted to say here in simple terms is that the Broncos initially treat a draft prospect's play on the football field seperately from their potential off-field character issues. In his search for fooball speak, the words fall short.
However, it's during this space and time--in which Xanders is racking his brain for more complex ways of saying simple things--he reveals quite a lot. Whether he does it intentionally or not, I don't know, but it's not germane to the larger point--Xanders gives out clues.
I'm sure by this point you'd like some proof. Let's run through a quick example before I give you my rationale for Xanders' desire to draft Fairley. During this interview, Xanders is discussing one-year wonders. Rather than give a very canned and generalized answer, Xanders suddenly says this in a very animated way:
Then there are success stories. Clay Matthews was a one-year starter..and so he had four sacks and was a special teams player of the year three times at USC, and he had all of these linebackers in front of him, but he was a one-year starter...but he blossomed...
This a revealing quote for several reasons. First, it shows that Xanders isn't stupid. His argument is well reasoned and logical. Second, and this is more interesting to me, is that he specifically brings up Clay Matthews complete with a detailed narrative. This is significant. As you might recall late last year after Josh McDaniels was fired, it was rumored that Xanders had wanted the Broncos to draft Matthews instead of Robert Ayers. At the time I, along with others, accused Xanders of cherrypicking with hindsight bias soley for the purpose of PR-ing his way into the General Manager's job.
While I still feel that Xanders was indeed doing a little self promotion, I now believe that he probably did want Matthews. Why? You don't suddenly bring up Clay Matthews at a combine interview out of the blue in which you are asked a simple question that most GMs would answer in a few seconds. Xanders (in his attempt to sound more like what he thinks a GM should sound like) pulls the detailed Matthews story out of his head because the Matthews narrative is the first thing that comes to him. The reason it comes to him is because he has spent a significant amount of time scouting Matthews.
He could have brought up a whole number of players. He not only brings up Matthews, but brings him up in a detailed way. Psychologically, I think it's good evidence that Matthews weighs heavily in his conscience.
You might call this a reach. You might say it's akin to a belief in black helicopters, crop circles, and the abominable
X-Man snowman. I prefer to think of it as attention to detail, microfacial expressions, and body language. Now, if you'll excuse, me, I'm heading to my bunker with fresh water, canned goods, and batteries so I can ride things out until 2012.
First, though, let's turn our attention to Nick Fairley. I believe Xanders has him highest on the Broncos' board. John Fox and John Elway may overrule him, but it won't be because Xanders didn't want Fairley. During this same interview, Xanders uses the word "disruptive" several times when describing the kind of defensive linemen and defensive players that John Fox and new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen want to acquire. Soon after this, Xanders is asked about Marcell Dareus and Fairley. At first, Xanders begins to give a pat and sanitized answer regarding Dareus and lets us know that Dareus plays in a 3-4 (interesting thing to say given the Broncos are switching to a 4-3). But he can't restrain himself when he begins to weigh in on Fairley. He says:
Fairley is a true 3-technique. He's a disruptive guy, nonstop throughout the game...he beats linemen all day, every game...
Again, Xanders could have given a general answer to this question, but he chose to tell us:
- Fairley is disruptive, which is exactly what he's been saying John Fox and Dennis Allen want for several weeks now;
- Fairley is a 3-technique, which, in a 4-3 like the one Allen wants, has to be very disruptive;
- Fairley beats linemen all the time, which reinforces the whole disruptive theme.
Xanders' body language is more animated when he talked about Fairley. He really wanted to tell us what he knows about the guy--not because he's throwing up a smokescreen, but because he would rather have Fairley.
Watch the interview for yourself and make up your own mind. I maintain that Xanders, in his attempt to demonstrate both his knowledge and passion for being the Broncos' GM, tends to go off script when he's excited and nervous. It's in these moments that he lets his intentions roll out of his head--for better or for worse. Either that or Xanders is a great actor, and he's dong one heck of a job in selling the details of Clay Matthews and Nick Fairley, something he neither needs to do nor benefits from.
Does this improve my perception of Xanders? It does. Although none of us truly know if he will be good at this job (much of which is a crapshoot anyway), and I still believe the Broncos should have conducted a legitimate GM search, I am convinced that Xanders won't be outworked. He lets too many interesting details slip for me to think that he's lazy or completely incompetent. It's also clear from other interviews that he places a higher value on tape and personal interviews than he does the
beauty pageant combine. Another point for the X-Man.
Xanders isn't as polished a GM as A.J. Smith or even Matt Millen. Until he's got a longer track record, that's good enough for me.