When the Indianapolis Colts let Edgerrin James walk in free agency following the 2005 season, everyone knew that they would need to target the running back position in the 2006 NFL Draft.
They wound up taking Joseph Addai in the first round, but it turns out they came pretty close to taking Maurice Jones-Drew instead.
On the Dave Dameshek Football Program recently, MJD recalled the story of how he got a call from Tony Dungy on draft day, and Colts.com posted the video yesterday.
“So I’m sobbing - well, not sobbing, I’m just like, tears are falling, and they can tell I’m upset - and so the Colts call,” he explained. “But at this point it’s not a scout, it’s not an OC, it’s Tony Dungy. So I know, because me and Tony Dungy had a talk at the Combine for about two hours; we were only supposed to be 15 minutes, we just talked about life for about two hours. And then at the end of the day he was like, ‘if you run a 4.3, we’ll draft you in the first round, no question.’ I was like, ‘alright, cool.’ Ran a 4.3. So I’ve got to go to Indy now, right?”
That set the stage pretty well, as MJD got a phone call from Tony Dungy on draft day. He mentioned that at that point, his respect for Dungy was enormous.
“Oh, yeah, we talked about like my grandfather and just how I grew up, and he told me his situation and how he was in Tampa, it was just a great conversation,” he said. “Really, the respect at that point, the level was like up here [stretches hand up high to demonstrate how high his respect for Dungy was].
Jones-Drew acknowledged that the respect he had would fall, but he made it a point to say that Dungy didn’t tell him a lie when the coach called him on draft day.
“And he calls me. He’s on the phone, no scout,” MJD explained. “‘Hey, we are battling right now. The scouts want Joseph Addai, but all the coaches want you. And we’re going to go and pick you, we’re going to call you.’ He was like, ‘do not do anything else, we’re going to call you right back.’ Alright.
At that point, the show ran a clip of the Colts’ pick being announced... and it was Joseph Addai. So what happened? Did Dungy lie? As MJD tells it, the answer is simple: Dungy didn’t lie, but Bill Polian wanted Addai.
“That’s Bill Polian,” Jones-Drew said. “It’s Bill Polian. It was Bill, he had the last say, and at the end of the day that’s kind of how you go. That hurt. That hurt.”
The Colts would win a Super Bowl in 2006 with Addai, who had a good rookie season and a good Super Bowl game, but MJD would get some revenge on the Colts by dominating them for several years. He played in 15 games against Indianapolis and rushed for 1,451 yards and ten touchdowns (averaging 5.1 yards per carry) while adding 46 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 365 more yards against the Colts than against any other team in his career, and he averaged 122.9 total yards per game when he faced Indianapolis. He made sure to bring all that up when he talked with Bill Polian later on.
“Oh, you know I saw him,” he said, “and I was like, ‘so Bill...’ and he was like, ‘well we won a ring, so...’ yeah, but I said some other stuff that I can’t say on air, but I was like ‘yeah, I terrorized you.’”
Ultimately, the pick of Joseph Addai didn’t work out too badly for the Colts, as he wound up playing in 78 games and rushing for 4,453 yards and 39 touchdowns and catching 191 passes for 1,448 yards and nine scores, but he only put up half the production MJD did.
With so much draft talk going on currently - something that will only increase as the weeks go on - it’s always interesting to look at how different something could have been. The Colts were apparently really close to drafting MJD in 2006 and Tony Dungy wanted to, but Bill Polian wanted Joseph Addai. That pick didn’t turn out terribly, but MJD was undeniably better.