I recently asked NFL.com’s Gil Brandt when he first began his long and close friendship with Bill Parcells. I naively assumed it was in the late ‘70s, when Brandt was personnel director of the Cowboys and Parcells was an assistant coach with the Giants.
Not even close.
It was actually during the 1963 season, when Brandt was scouting Parcells — then a linebacker at Wichita State. And I’m pretty sure that Brandt is the only person associated with the NFL today who can provide a detailed scouting report on Parcells the player.
FYI: Parcells was taken by the Lions in the seventh round of the 1964 draft, the 89th player selected overall. The Cowboys had the 88th pick. Dallas GM Tex Schramm turned to Gil and said, “Let’s draft the fastest player still on the board.” Gil didn’t flinch. He offered up a small-school prospect he had scouted who was more a track star than a football player, a guy by the name of Bob Hayes.
Of course, Hayes is far from the only Hall of Fame player on the resume for Brandt, who ran the Dallas draft board from 1960-88.
“For all of us who came up through the personnel ranks of the NFL, Gil is still the gold standard for evaluating talent,” said fellow NFL.com analyst Pat Kirwan. “His innovative management style and personnel systems were decades ahead of the rest of the NFL and are the basis for all good personnel work to this day. He brought the computer and the ability to analyze talent to the Cowboys before any other teams had an idea of how to integrate modern technology into pro football. Gil created a competitive edge for the Cowboys that was the foundation for all of their success.”
As the NFL prepares to celebrate the league’s 75th draft, it’s fair to say that no person at Radio City Music Hall next week will be more closely associated with the draft than Brandt – even after his association with the Cowboys. On the league level, in addition to his work for NFL.com, he has played a lead role for the past 15 years in helping the league bring the top prospects to New York City for the draft.
As part of the 75th draft celebration, the NFL will honor Brandt next Friday, April 23, during Round 2 of the NFL Draft. Before the Cowboys’ second-round selection, appropriately, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will make a short presentation and bring Brandt on stage to acknowledge his years of service.
“Simply put,” said Kirwan, “Gil Brandt represents both the great history of the NFL draft as well as its present status as the greatest non-sporting event in sports.”
— Craig Ellenport