~ ~ Baalke had a wife, Beth, and two daughters, and he was content. But a funny thing happened on his way to settling down. Baalke had been a liaison to pro scouts at South Dakota State, and a New York Jets representative liked his eye for talent.

The Jets called with an offer so out of the blue that Baalke thought it was a friend pulling a prank. "I never even contemplated getting into the NFL," he recalled.Working for the Jets gave him a chance to learn from some of football's most famous minds. The 1998 Jets featured coach Bill Parcells and assistant head coach Bill Belichick.

Baalke also learned from Dick Haley, the Jets' director of player personnel who had the same role for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1971-90. Haley is best remembered for his 1974 draft: Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster, all future Hall of Famers.But with the Jets and later the Washington Redskins (2001-03), Baalke learned that even the sharpest scouting eyes have blind spots and that humility can be a valuable asset. Asked to name a few of his favorite scouting discoveries, Baalke declined.

"I'd love to tell you all the ones I was right on, but then I'd have to tell you all the guys I was wrong on, and there have been many," he said. "I don't think there's anybody in this business that can say they hit on every player they've ever evaluated."

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