For years the National Invitational Camp, Inc., held its annual workout in Indianapolis with nary a whimper heard from the National Football League. Back then the League Office really didn’t focus on the content of the Combine that much. In fact you might see a representative here or there, but certainly nothing like the annual circus that Lucas Oil Field has become.
But since the inception of the League’s own network, covering all things NFL 24/7, the Combine has become an annual “event” versus what the “founding fathers of scouting” had originally set out to set up. In fact many aren’t aware that the Combine’s primary purpose is to ensure the completion of a thorough physical on every incoming invitee. At least that was the original intent.
Slip sliding away
Having sat on both the Selection Committee and NIC Board for many years, I knew deep down that once the League became involved the Combine would eventually change. Instead of a scouting event being televised, we’ve seen a transition to a television event that is being scouted. Having glimpsed at some of the 2015 telecast, I felt like I was watching the latest episode of Survivor or American Ninja.
Look, I’m fully aware that the League has gone “progressive” in many aspects of its operations. I entered the NFL during a time when PC’s were just replacing legal tablets, and Under Armor Dri-Fit was actually Fruit of Loom 50/50 on the players’ backs. But what place does the “League” have in determining what clubs should administer and takeaway from the Combine? Who’s the last draft pick made by a department at 345 Park Avenue?
Case in point. The following excerpt came from ESPN via NFL.com. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
NFL to study data from combine drills
Mike Rodack, NFL.com
The NFL will reconsider tweaking its long-standing timing and testing drills at the scouting combine this offseason.
“That’s a project we’ll be working on this offseason,” Matt Birk, the league’s director of player development, said Friday. “Once we look at the data that was gathered in-game this year, it may be important to know how fast a wide receiver or defensive back can go 60 yards. Maybe for an offensive lineman it’s only 20 yards.
“We can actually see that in-game: How far are these guys running? What are the real or improved measures of importance and value as it relates to evaluating players and whether or not they should be drafted in the first round or the sixth round?”
Birk was speaking as part of a panel on advanced NFL statistics at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston.
Who are you?
No offense to Matt Birk, or Troy Vincent, or Merton Hanks, or any of the other officials at the NFL, but when’s the last time they were “on the clock?” Determining what data is relevant, pertinent, or otherwise important to the 32 clubs in their own draft evaluations has nothing to do with NFL, or any other high tech company trying to gain a lucrative license with the League. This continued steering of policy and procedures down to the club level reminds me a lot of the role of the Federal Government versus States Rights. What’s good for Rhode Island isn’t necessarily good for, or what the people want in Montana.
Certainly there might be a need to update some of the various physical tests and skill drills in order to facilitate a thorough evaluation of today’s college athletes. But that’s not the place for the National Football League to decide, and it’s certainly not the place for those not engaged in the actual process of player selection to make that determination. That is a collective club issue and I’d like to know where the General Managers and Personnel Directors stand?
Would you let your neighbor come over and tell you the five things you can only take into account when buying a new car or house? Would you even bother to listen to him?
Clubs draft, the NFL doesn’t
I’ve been gone for a while and outside of the NFL personnel process, but I haven’t forgotten what drives the internal decision making of a club when it comes to player acquisition. It’s not who Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, or Mike Mayock tell me I should take. And it’s certainly not based upon the data that someone in the NFL feels is most relevant to a particular position on the field.
Otherwise, just scrap the whole damn process. Do away with the scouts, cancel the all-star games, and send Kiper/McShay/Mayock to the unemployment line. Create another NFL Network reality TV event and let the computers sift through the League approved data and make all the selections, shooting out the results on Microsoft Surfaces (official tablet of the NFL).
That’s way more progressive than waiting the full ten minutes of the first round for someone to turn in an index card with a name scribbled on it.