Late For Work 1/17: One Ravens Coach Pushed To Draft Tom Brady In Third Round

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One Ravens Coach Pushed To Draft Tom Brady In Third Round

Remember Matt Cavanaugh?

Well, he could've become known as the person who joined Tom Brady with Ray Lewis, two future Hall of Famers from each side of the ball on the same team.

Cavanaugh was the Ravens offensive coordinator from 1999–2004, which weren't exactly golden years for his offensive units that ranked in the NFL's top half just once in six seasons.

Those rankings could have been drastically different had Cavanaugh spoken up more loudly about his opinion of a lesser-known Michigan quarterback in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Seventeen years ago, Cavanaugh was asked to review about a dozen prospects before the draft, and he became intrigued with Brady, who, despite being athletically-challenged and having a borderline "comical" NFL Scouting Combine performance, seemed to make all the plays.

Cavanaugh told ESPN that he* *recalls putting a second- or third-round grade on Brady.

"I was a big advocate of Tom Brady's," Cavanaugh, who is now the Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach, told Ian O'Connor. "He looked like he belonged. He was comfortable in the pocket. He had good delivery mechanics. The knock on him was that he was slow-footed, but he played the game faster than he ran. He just stood tall in the pocket, scanned the field well, made his progressions from one receiver to the next. He looked like a team leader on the field, a decision-maker, and his ability to get the guys around him to play hard jumped off the tape.

"I wasn't brilliant enough to put a first-round grade on Brady. I think I put a second- or third-round grade on him. I really liked him."

Nobody was that brilliant; not even the New England Patriots. They passed on Brady six times before finally taking him with their 199th pick in the sixth round. The Patriots didn't have a big need at quarterback with Drew Bledsoe entering his prime at 28 years old.

Just because Cavanaugh put a higher grade on Brady than most of the league, he isn't proclaiming to be an all-knowing draft guru. He pointed out that the grades he gives players don't always pan out, and he certainly didn't expect Brady to turn into what he did.

"I've also put first-round grades on guys who turned out to be busts," he said.

At the time of the 2000 draft, the Ravens had Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer, neither of whom many people thought could lead the Ravens to Super Bowl XXXV victory 10 months later. Dilfer accomplished that feat, but largely because he had one of the NFL's all-time best defenses aiding him.

The Ravens could've used a young developmental quarterback on the squad, which is why they drafted one in the third round. But instead of getting Brady, they used their selection on Chris Redman, who only started six games for the Ravens during his four-year stay in Baltimore.

Here's how they came to that decision:

During a pre-draft meeting with General Manger Ozzie Newsome – who Cavanaugh said is one of the best at listening to everyone's opinions – Ravens scouts and coaches went around the table sharing their reports on draft prospects.

"[W]hen [Newsome] got to his offensive coordinator, Cavanaugh didn't sell Brady as a can't-miss prospect," wrote O'Connor. "He merely spoke of his intangible characteristics, his competitiveness, all those winning traits so obvious on the Michigan films.

"…There were dissenting voices in the meeting, ones Cavanaugh either doesn't remember or doesn't see the need to identify. But during the draft, when Baltimore was strongly considering a quarterback in the third round, a person in the Ravens' draft room confirmed Cavanaugh wanted Brady selected with that pick, No. 75 overall. The Ravens instead chose Louisville's Chris Redman."

The rest is history.

Brady become Brady, setting just about all the quarterback records out there, including most overall wins and playoff game appearances. He's set to appear in his sixth consecutive AFC championship game Sunday.

Oh what could've been had Cavanaugh spoken more convincingly in those Ravens' pre-draft meetings.

"If we'd taken him," Cavanaugh said, "we probably would've won a couple more championships. But it's not about me. I would've loved working with him, and it's rewarding that I felt I did a good evaluation on him. I just don't puff my chest out when Tom Brady's name comes up. I thought he had the qualities to succeed, but I didn't realize he could turn into what he did."

Stanley Wins ESPN's AFC North Rookie Of Year; Pitta Wins Comeback Player Of Year

The decision was unanimous among ESPN's four AFC North writers.

Sixth-overall pick Ronnie Stanley was the division's rookie of the year, beating out candidates like Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

Stanley's competition wasn't as tough as in other divisions that boast stars like Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott or Joey Bosa, but he gets the nod after being the NFL's best left tackle over the last four weeks of the season, per Pro Football Focus.

"Burns makes a compelling case after a three-interception rookie season, but Stanley looks the part of a high-level NFL tackle," wrote Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler. "Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the season that Stanley has the makings of an elite player, easing the impact of Kelechi Osemele's loss during the offseason. Stanley gets the nod over the others because he acquitted himself well at one of the league's hardest positions for rookies to handle."

As for the division's comeback player of the year, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta received that honor after notching a league-high 86 receptions among tight ends despite coming off two significant hip surgeries.

The decision wasn't unanimous, as Fowler voted for Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who notched 157.0 total yards per game after returning from an NFL suspension in Week 4 and tearing two knee ligaments 10 months earlier. But, the three other AFC North writers voted for Pitta.

"[N]o one's comeback journey compares to Pitta," wrote Hensley. "He fractured his right hip in 2013 and 2014. Pitta didn't even play in 2015, causing most to believe his career was over. There were doctors, friends and family members who discouraged Pitta from returning to football. So, to play his first full season since 2012 was an accomplishment by itself. What made Pitta's comeback more amazing: He led all NFL tight ends with a career-best 86 catches. Only Antonio Brown had more receptions than Pitta among AFC North players."

Tucker Named To PFWA's All-NFL Team

Another day, another award for kicker Justin Tucker.

The fifth-year veteran was named to the Professional Football Writers of America All-NFL team for the second time of his career. This honor comes after Tucker was already named to his second Pro Bowl and his second AP All-Pro team.

Tucker was nearly perfect this season, connecting on all of his extra points and 38-of-39 field-goal attempts. His only miss was on a blocked attempt. He also tied an NFL record by nailing all 10 of his field goals beyond 50 yards. Tucker is currently the most accurate kicker in league history.

Tucker was the only Raven named to the PFWA All-NFL squad, but six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda was voted to All-AFC team for the fifth time.

The full list is below.

Kristen Berset Battles Breast Cancer For Second Time

Here's to hoping Kristen Berset kicks breast cancer's butt for the second time!

Berset, who is a WUSA9 sports anchor and co-hosts our in-house production of "Ravens Report," announced last night that she will step away from the news desk for a brief period to undergo surgery and treatment to battle the disease once again.

After first being diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 27, doctors finally declared Berset cancer-free two years ago. She opted to undergo a bilateral mastectomy in hopes of lowering her risk of getting breast cancer again.

But unfortunately, as she was in the middle of wedding preparations before Thanksgiving, she found a lump in her breast just after her bachelorette party, and doctors confirmed the cancer had returned.

"I 'graduated' from treatment and thought I was in the clear," Berset wrote in a Facebook post. "I walked out of the oncologist's office feeling relieved and empowered, ready to get on with my life.

"So, here I go again. This time I am in a different place in my life. Six years into my job in Washington, DC, married to a wonderfully loving and supportive man, preparing to move in with my new husband, with hopes of expanding our family."

Last month, Berset married Brent Harris, a Comcast Sportsnet reporter. But their plans for their newly-formed family will be put on hold as Berset is now scheduled to undergo surgery followed by five to six weeks of radiation, five days a week.

"Our plans to expand our family may have to wait," Berset wrote. "I am taking the same approach I took 7 years ago. I'm not scared (well, maybe a little scared of the radiation) because I know I have an incredible support system that has only grown over the past several years. I now have a husband and two beautiful step-daughters who have been nothing short of amazing. My family and friends have been there with love and support every step of the way.

"I am ready for this new fight. I'm ready to kick some Cancer butt once again."

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