The NFL Combine is going on now. I have mixed feeling about this spectacle. Most of them border on deep cynicism and skepticism. This event has now taken on a life of it’s own, it is another part of the “roman circus” spectacle of the NFL. It is just a marketing event. I was channel surfing last night and came upon the NFL network coverage of the combine. A scout was showing the players the start of the Forty, explaining the timing procedure. The statement that blew me away was: “ the watch starts on first movement”, the first movement of what? Give me a break, this is 2011, why not use a touch pad to start and truly time electronically? (They use sensors at ten yards, twenty yards and the finish to time what they consider “electronic") I think I know why, it is because electronic timing is considered “slower.” Yes it is, because it is accurate, you take out the subjectivity, inter tester reliability is no longer a factor. There is no subjective judgment of what first movement is, it is cut and dried, the times are accurate. This why I call it the CONbine. If you watch some of the position drills, it is borderline ridiculous. Any resemblance to what happens in the game is pure coincidence. It is a big con job and I am not sure who is being coned.
I have my ideas that I have shared at various times, some are quite old school and some are high tech. The key is to have a system for evaluation where any measures made are precise, accurate and meaningful in the context of the game. Anytime electronic timing can be used, it should be used, that eliminates bias and human error. There are very good systems available to accurately time and measure all the combine tests that are currently used. When I was playing in college at Fresno State circa 1966 I distinctly remember the Dallas Cowboys scout coming to test some of our players. The scout had a Dekan timer that was activated by a touch pad. They timed electronically in the 60’s and we are fooling ourselves in the new millennium! The Cowboys found athletes and made them players. They had a plan and system and they knew what they were looking for.
If you want to do it right and truly evaluate the player’s ability to play football, their aptitude for learning, their injury history, the whole nine yards, it can be done. You would need to challenge conventional wisdom and take a close look at the game. If anyone is interested, my consulting services are available. I am not into guarantees, but I do know if you listen and implement the concepts I have developed you will find football athletes who will have a chance to be injury free and adaptable. It demands getting far out of the comfort zone of accepted perfromance measures. I know, we did it in baseball over twenty years ago. Look at the 1988-90 CWS MLB draft and you will see the results. After you draft them you must have a program that will make them better, that is another story for another day.