Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For NFL teams that prepare well for draft, war room is a misnomer

There's a definite downside to the Colts' run of success. Advancing deep into the postseason each year doesn't do a whole lot for your draft position.

Per usual, the Colts are drafting late in the first round this week, 31st overall. That means team president Bill Polian has to be particularly savvy in determining who will be left on the board when their pick rolls around. He has become so good at it, he's famous around the league for his mock drafts.

"Bill can whittle it down to just a few guys," coach Jim Caldwell said. "More often than not, it's right."

Because of sophisticated preparation such as that, the place known as the "war room," where the coaches and executives hunker down during the draft, is — by design — a pretty dull place.

The name might conjure images of a frenetic, stock exchange-like environment, but it's quite the opposite. Other than the occasional mild debate, it's a pretty controlled environment.

"Usually," Titans coach and executive vice president Jeff Fisher said, "there shouldn't be debate on whether you want a player."

That's a discussion that should happen long before a team finds itself on the clock. And the process is far more elaborate than a few scouts comparing notes. The Texans, for example, conduct dry runs of war room scenarios to avoid being caught flat-footed.

"We practice on a constant basis," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I'm not saying it happens exactly like you practice it. But that helps you form opinions and get enough information so that we can make the right decision. To me, it's very similar to the way you prepare for a game. I think because we're so prepared and we've talked about all the different scenarios, there's not a whole lot of stumbling around in our draft room."

The Bucs utilize similar methods, general manager Mark Dominik referring to them as "war games." The goal is to eliminate the element of surprise.

"I've gone through different scenarios," he said. "If the question was posed: If (we) were on the clock right now with the No. 1 pick, could you make a determination as to what we would do with the pick? And the answer is yes, and it should be because we've had 12 months to work with it.

"We've role-played a lot of that."

That's why draft meetings that last eight hours or longer aren't uncommon for some teams. They involve taking input from an array of sources, from the lowest-level scout to position coaches to members of the personnel department.

In Tampa Bay, that's when those parties have their say. Dominik aims to have "as few people as possible" in his war room so his thinking isn't polluted. Often, position coaches and scouts aren't invited. During predraft meetings, no detail is too small to be considered. Dominik started adding notations that indicate if a prospect was a team captain, which points to leadership ability.

The Colts conduct the process as well as anyone, led by Polian and his son, Chris, a team vice president.

"They do a great job of directing the scouting department," Caldwell said. "Those guys know exactly what we're looking for. The second thing is, when we start to create that draft board, they know other teams' systems very well. They know who is doing the drafting. They know the schemes. They know what they're looking for.

"A lot of times, with other teams, they'll say, 'No, they'll never take that guy, and this is the reason why.' Nine times out of 10, they're right. It's not helter-skelter at all. It's very well thought out. And that's why it takes hours and hours and hours."

One of the rare times things get antsy in the war room is when a player coveted by the team is taken just before its upcoming pick. There's disappointment and regret but not disarray. Plan B — there's always a Plan B — immediately kicks in.

At those times when things go just the way they've been scripted, the war room can be downright laid back.

"There's a sense of peace," Fisher said. "The most you get then is, 'Speak now or forever hold your peace.' And then I always say, 'This isn't my guy. This is our guy. Right?' "

As for the fist-pounding and heated arguments many might envision in the war room, they happen. They just shouldn't happen on draft day.

"Every good draft room I've been in has had its battles before that day," Kubiak said.

"If you're still battling with three minutes left on the clock, then you probably didn't battle enough over the course of the last six weeks when you were preparing."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

For NFL teams that prepare well for draft, war room is a misnomer 04/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 7:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais vows to return for IndyCar finale

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastien Bourdais was in one of the best race cars he'd ever had, so fast that most of his competitors thought he would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

    Sebastien Bourdais does physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. Bourdais broke his pelvis, hip and two ribs in an accident during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. He plans to return home to St. Petersburg soon to continue therapy. [Associated Press]
  2. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis


    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  3. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  4. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”
  5. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. laughing right along after comical dive

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Souza being Souza.

    That seemed to be the best way to describe the entertaining — and comically bad — dive Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. attempted in Friday's game, and the good humor he showed in handling the fallout, including a standing ovation his next at-bat from the …