The most memorable moment in recent Vikings draft history, outside of Adrian Peterson‘s selection a couple of years ago, was undoubtedly the infamous 2003 skipped pick episode. Everyone still gives the Vikings grief over that gaffe, which saw the team failing to use its #7 pick in timely fashion, allowing two teams to pick ahead of them before they themselves selected Kevin Williams.
All these years later, there is still debate over what actually happened: some believe the Vikings skipped the pick deliberately so they could take Williams at a lower spot without having to trade down, while others think Mike Tice and his staff were merely incompetent. Evidently, this confusion extends even to the people involved, people like Tice and former owner Red McCombs who are still battling with each other over who deserves blame/credit for the episode.
McCombs, as quoted in a recent Pioneer-Press article, says it was all the fault of Tice and his staff. “That was because Mike and the guys didn’t have their damn signals straight,” McCombs blasted. “That was like junior high school handling of a situation. We didn’t go up and get our draft pick in. That showed lack of organization.
“Was it the guy up there (in New York) that was supposed to turn it in? Was it us in the draft room? I got very upset about that because we didn’t get it done. As it turned out, the end result was we didn’t get hurt, but we could have.”
Tice, never one to back down from a confrontation, shot back at McCombs via email, saying, “My only response to that is coaches game plan and TEACH and personnel people evaluate and DRAFT. How could the coaching staff have anything to do with the draft pick being turned in late? It was more a product of the persons that are making the final decisions and turning the pick in to N.Y.”
At the center of the confusion is a dispute over the role of McCombs Enterprises employee Gary Woods in the whole debacle. Tice says Woods ordered the Vikings to trade out of the #7 spot, but McCombs said Woods never had any such role in the process. Tice claims that whoever gave the order to make the trade gave it too late, leading to a mad scramble and, ultimately, a tardy pick.
And as to the urban myth about the Vikings missing the pick on purpose, McCombs says, “That’s all bulls**t. That never happened. That was strictly ineptness in the draft room, who was supposed to do what.”
Seems to me there was a whole problem with the chain of communication from McCombs on down. Thankfully, McCombs elected to sell the team, paving the way for Zygi Wilf to put in place a much more efficient and professional operation. Now we don’t miss picks…but we do occasionally draft offensive linemen several rounds too soon.