DETROIT - FEBRUARY 02: Four of the candidates for the "Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year" (L-R) Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Charges, Odell Thurman of the Cincinnati Bengals, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and DeMarcus Ware at the Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year Press Conference prior to Super Bowl XL February 2, 2006 at the Ambassador Ballroom of the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. Williams won the award. The fifth candidate who is not pictured was Lofa Tatupu of the Seattle Seahawks. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
That the Dallas Cowboys made the right decision in the first round of the 2005 draft is, after four years and change, growing accepted for the most part as a fact; it certainly wasn't always so.
With the eleventh overall pick, Dallas took DeMarcus Ware. With the twelfth, the San Diego Chargers took Shawne Merriman. Since then, the two have been linked, and followed by many football fans comparatively. Through the two seasons following that draft, many thought that San Diego had gotten the better of the two.
Merriman, after his sophomore season, had 27.5 sacks; Ware had a still-impressive 19.
Since then, Ware has developed a reputation as one of the best, if not the best, pass rusher in the game while Merriman has struggled with injury and a 2006 suspension for use of a banned substance. The sack total since the 2007 season is decidedly in Ware's favor, 43-16.5, respectively.
But mitigating circumstances have thrown the relevance of such comparisons into question, with Ware generally healthy and Merriman, who missed all of 2008, generally not. In any case, the two remain linked to some degree by that April day in 2005. Following the draft, Merriman detailed a Randy Moss-like grudge against the Cowboys.
“Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones both told me if I was still on the board at No. 11 they were going to pull the trigger," Merriman had said. "Not only was I lied to, I was smacked in the face."
They say time heals all wounds though, and it seems that Merriman has long forgotten any such vindictive motivation against the Cowboys.
“It’s the Dallas Cowboys against the San Diego Chargers,” said Merriman, in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “If anyone makes it more than that, that’s just for reading."
As for the relationship between he and Ware, Merriman says the two are friends and friendly rivals.
“In life, you go through a time where you have a little setback,” Merriman said of his injuries. “And now I’m playing catch-up. Not catch-up in stats with him, but getting back on track to what I’m accustomed to doing. [Ware and I] talk all the time, we know each other well. It’s not just me looking at stats. I watch him. … He’s a great player. (The statistics) are just for talking between me and him."