The most important NFL player evaluations are your OWN (players).

Ok, so here we are in week one “post Super Bowl” and the Apocalypse didn’t come after all.  Remember this summer when any and everything was “What are we going to do about this lockout and what if there’s no NFL football?”  Well it didn’t happen.  The season went off as it normally does, there was outstanding play, record setting performances (despite no OTA’s and minicamps), New England was at the top of the AFC (again) and the center of the Universe is happy their GIANTS are Super Bowl Champs (again).  So what now?

To be honest, most of the remaining 30 teams that didn’t make the trip to Indianapolis had a glancing eye at the game but used it more as motivation for next season.  You’d be surprised at how many GM’s, coaches and personnel men just want to press on with the “new season” and let the delirium paralyze the defending champ (whomever that is).

Look in the mirror

By now just about all of the 32 teams have moved forward with their own NFL player evaluations of personnel and are assessing which direction to take with free agency and the draft on the horizon.  Typically, Player Personnel Departments will evaluate each position from a scouting perspective and the coaching staff will grade from their own angle.  Needless to say that frequently the two don’t necessarily converge.  What some scouts might see as substandard for the NFL norm, coaches might see as the perfect fit.

These are the debates that rage on through the month of January and into the first few weeks of February before top decision makers chart the course for who to resign and who to release.

Many roads, only one destination

As The Football Educator has expressed frequently in the past, there are 32 paths to the Super Bowl.  It just seems that some clubs “get it” a bit more than others.  However one way to go about ranking your club is by doing just that.  It’s helpful as a General Manager to understand where coaches and scouts see your players falling in relative importance to the success of the team.

For instance, have your offensive staff rank their players from #1 to the final player.  Ask your defensive staff to do the same.  Mindful of “group think”, have each staff crosscheck the other.  This gives you a firm foundation with which to move forward in compiling the needs of your club.  It also fits nicely into the 20-70-10 approach to building an organization.

Seeing the BIG PICTURE

At this point it’s important to know why an individual fell on the list where he did.  That is you don’t want to cut a rising player that struggled through a developmental year.  You don’t want to extend a “flash” backup for a half season’s worth of production.  You do want to grasp what direction your veteran players are headed and whether or not your young talent is catching on.

It’s easy to get sucked into the throngs of emotion when evaluating your own club, but the wise leader is the one that takes into account all the various dynamics and factors that had an effect on a player’s production throughout the season.  To me the biggest and most costly mistake an NFL front office can make is misreading their own club’s talent level.  Too many times the “baby is thrown out with the bath water” and the onus for lack of production is placed on the player and not on those tasked with getting the maximum out of that player.

So as fans, media, coaches and scouts begin licking their chops for the influx of new talent through the college draft and free agency, the most important NFL player evaluations they can make for 2012 is the assessment of their own.

Take heed.  Some of the best moves are they ones you DON’T make.

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