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Is it time to rethink the Combine?

Some NFL coaches and personnel evaluators are open to substantial change. Jack Bechta

Print This February 29, 2012, 04:00 PM EST

Another top evaluator said he would like to see the current interview system overhauled. “We currently have 32 teams trying to interview over 300 players for fifteen minutes each. That’s absurd and a waste of everybody’s time. Why not have each player interviewed just one time for one hour in front of a panel consisting of one coach, one personnel director and a professional psychologist who does interviewing for a living. Each team can submit questions in which the panel can tailor the interview to each specific player. Have the interview video taped and sent to each team.” Love this idea!

With the Combine now live on the NFL Network the dynamics have changed considerably. There is a sense that the NFL is continuously trying to make the event more marketable to NFL fans, sponsors and the TV audience. This could be a dangerous move when the tail (media) starts wagging the dog (the evaluation process). Talks of having competitions between players won’t work. Agents could easily pull the plug on such designs by the NFL if we feel we are putting our clients in compromising positions. It’s bad enough being one of the slowest WR's at the Combine but who wants to lose a race on national TV to the fastest WR?

In addition, the agent community feels that NFL Network personalities should back off trying to shame guys into performing. To call out specific players on national TV is unprofessional and unfair. The Combine is a high pressure, once in a lifetime audition in which everything has to go right for a player or he can lose an opportunity and hundreds of thousand of dollars.

To work out or not to work out is a highly personal business decision for each player and his confidants. These decisions should NOT be publically second guessed by the media. What the media most likely does not know is who is still nursing an injury or who has the flu or some other aliment that may add to a sub par performance. They never dig for and don’t know the back-story of why a player chooses not to work out. The irony is that if a guy, who is not ready or healthy, does perform, the same media imploring him to work out will be the first to throw him under the bus or downgrade his draft value if he performs poorly. I have never heard a commentator or the Mel Kiper-types say, “Wow, that was a gutsy performance because player X is still nursing a high ankle sprain from his bowl game and is just getting over the flu.”

I think the majority of football people agree that some changes and tweaks can be made but they should not be dictated from the media side or solely to improve fan interest. The Combine is still a voluntary event for the draftees in which all players sign a liability release before attending. It’s still an additional evaluation tool for NFL teams so let’s not lose sight of why it exists in the first place.

Follow me on Twitter: @jackbechta
 

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