Sunday at the Post

Combine news and notes, plus the original draftnik. Michael Lombardi

Print This February 28, 2010, 07:04 AM EST

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"I love my job, but it's all-encompassing. If I had to serve jury duty, I'd be dead. I don't think a judge could conceive how important this is to me. My whole life depends on every day getting the material I need. I can't let things pass me by, because I'm a one-man business. I was in the hospital, and I had my parents and friends bringing me the mail every day. I don't know what I'd do if I had to have surgery." -- Joel Buchsbaum

INDIANAPOLIS -- As we near the 75th draft in the NFL and spend a week at the combine again, it seems only fitting to honor a man who gave his heart and soul and ultimately his life for the love of the NFL draft. Joel Buchsbaum was the original draftnik. He lived in apartment 4L in Brooklyn, N.Y., and before the fanfare of the draft became incredibly big, Buchsbaum would study college games, write reports and talk on the radio. He was truly an expert on all draft subjects. He could discuss the current crop of college talent down to the smallest detail, and in the same breathe he could talk about each team’s needs with uncanny accuracy. He literally was the “Rain Man” of football.

The draft has become bigger than anyone could have expected, including the ever humble Buchsbaum. When Joel first started his draft book, the draft was 17 rounds, all in one day, and information on each prospect was scarce. Now, the seven-round draft will be spread over three days, and the combine is like the offseason Super Bowl.

“'Draft day is now the second-biggest day of the year behind the Super Bowl,” former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, once said. “'Joel had a lot to do with what became the glorification of draft day. ESPN started putting it on the air live, but Joel helped them get interested in it.”

Joel was better than most scouts I’ve known, even though he would never admit his brilliance. He helped me learn my craft and understand the scouting process, and he showed me that passion combined with work habits is what it takes to be successful. I miss Joel’s advice, his reports, his views on the NFL, his excitement about the draft, his evaluation of the draft picks for any team I worked with. But what I miss most is calling 718-252-4481 and hearing his voice. Rest in peace, Joel. You are always remembered.

Be sure to check out:  The NFP's brand-new "Draft Central" page.  It's got everything you need to get ready for April's draft.


“We're open to just about everything ... Whether you keep the second pick or whether you trade down, it doesn't change what you have to do -- that's make good decisions in the draft. There are blue-chip players available at a lot of different spots in the draft.” -- Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions coach

1. Great story from Sean Payton: I asked him what was the best call or text he received after winning the Super Bowl and he said it was a text from Brett Favre on his way home from the conference championship game. Favre texted his well wishes as he drove to his home in Mississippi from the game and said he was pulling for him. Payton always encouraged Favre to keep playing before he joined the Vikings because he felt Favre should not stop until his body couldn’t perform.

2. The Rams have not drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1967, although they traded for the rights to Purdue’s Jim Everett 1986, so all the talk about drafting one makes some sense. One NFL head coach told me that Sam Bradford is in a class by himself and would be a great starter.

3. Can the new stadium in New York get a Super Bowl in 2014? The last time the owners had a vote on this subject, the idea never got off the ground. And don’t forget, the Super Bowl vote is the only second-ballot vote the owners take. If this passes at the league meeting in May, it will be a surprise.

4. The Ravens might be interested in former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, but I’ve been told he will struggle passing a physical -- not because of his concussions but more because of his ankle and knee.

5. The Lions, Bears, Dolphins and Chiefs sound like they might be the most active teams in free agency year. The Lions appear to be poised to sign a running back, perhaps former Viking Chester Taylor.

6. The Bears might be the frontrunners for Julius Peppers, but if they fail to sign him, they might turn to the Packers’ Aaron Kampman. Someone in the league I trust told me the Bears might be the place Peppers ends up

7. I tweeted this yesterday after the offensive linemen worked out: “With the 8th pick overall the Raiders select OT Bruce Campbell of Maryland 6063 314 36 1/4 arm 10 1/2 hand 34 reps of 225 and a 4.85.” It’s not a farfetched statement.

8. Speaking of the Raiders, they’re shopping every player on the team except tight end Zach Miller and anyone who would be impossible to trade because of their contracts. Running back Michael Bush is the name I hear generating interest.

9. The Cards might lose Karlos Dansby (the Dolphins?) but will try and re-sign Antrel Rolle and appear to be the favorites right now. The reason they didn’t just pay the $4 million was because they wanted to gain more years on the contract, and the only way to accomplish that was to let him test free agency.


“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.” -- Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Making of an Expert” by K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula and Edward T. Cokely

New research shows that outstanding performance is the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill.

Thirty years ago, two Hungarian educators, László and Klara Polgár, decided to challenge the popular assumption that women don’t succeed in areas requiring spatial thinking, such as chess. They wanted to make a point about the power of education. The Polgárs homeschooled their three daughters, and as part of their education the girls started playing chess with their parents at a very young age. Their systematic training and daily practice paid off. By 2000, all three daughters had been ranked in the top 10 female players in the world. The youngest, Judit, had become a grand master at age 15, breaking the previous record for the youngest person to earn that title, held by Bobby Fischer, by a month. Today, Judit is one of the world’s top players and has defeated almost all the best male players.

How, then, can you tell when you’re dealing with a genuine expert? Real expertise must pass three tests. First, it must lead to performance that is consistently superior to that of the expert’s peers. Second, real expertise produces concrete results. Brain surgeons, for example, not only must be skillful with their scalpels but also must have successful outcomes with their patients. A chess player must be able to win matches in tournaments. Finally, true expertise can be replicated and measured in the lab. As the British scientist Lord Kelvin stated, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

Things to Look Out for When Judging Expertise

Individual accounts of expertise are often unreliable.

Anecdotes, selective recall and one-off events all can present insufficient, often misleading, examples of expertise. There is a huge body of literature on false memories, self-serving biases and recollections altered as a result of current beliefs or the passage of time. Reporting is not the same thing as research.

Many people are wrongly believed to possess expertise.

Bear in mind that true expertise is demonstrated by measurable, consistently superior performance. Some supposed experts are superior only when it comes to explaining why they made errors. After the 1976 Judgment of Paris, for example, when California wines bested French wines in a blind tasting, the French wine “experts” argued that the results were an aberration and that the California reds in particular would never age as well as the famous French reds. (In 2006, the tasting of the reds was reenacted, and California came out on top again.) Had it not been for the objective results from the blind tastings, the French wine experts may never have been convinced of the quality of the American wines.

Intuition can lead you down the garden path.

The idea that you can improve your performance by relaxing and “just trusting your gut” is popular. While it may be true that intuition is valuable in routine or familiar situations, informed intuition is the result of deliberate practice. You cannot consistently improve your ability to make decisions (or your intuition) without considerable practice, reflection and analysis.

You don’t need a different putter.

Many managers hope that they will suddenly improve performance by adopting new and better methods — just as golf players may think that they can lower their scores with a new and better club. But changing to a different putter may increase the variability of a golfer’s shot and thus hinder his or her ability to play well. In reality, the key to improving expertise is consistency and carefully controlled efforts.

Expertise is not captured by knowledge management systems.

Knowledge management systems rarely, if ever, deal with what psychologists call knowledge. They are repositories of images, documents and routines: external data that people can view and interpret as they try to solve a problem or make a decision. There are no shortcuts to gaining true expertise.


“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Love Song for Jeff Bridges

True Slant, The Best of Journalism 2009

He’s Not Bill Gates, or Fred Astaire


“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” -- Ralph Marston

Author Unknown

A gentleman once visited a temple under construction where he saw a sculptor making an idol of God. Suddenly he noticed a similar idol lying nearby.

Surprised, he asked the sculptor, "Do you need two statues of the same idol?"

"No," said the sculptor without looking up, "We need only one, but the first one got damaged at the last stage."

The gentleman examined the idol and found no apparent damage... "Where is the damage?" he asked.

"There is a scratch on the nose of the idol," said the sculptor, still busy with his work.

"Where are you going to install the idol?"

The sculptor replied that it would be installed on a pillar 20 feet high.

"If the idol is that high, who is going to know that there is a scratch on the nose?" the gentleman asked.

The sculptor stopped his work, looked up at the gentleman, smiled and said, "I know it and God knows it!"

Moral: The desire to excel should be exclusive of the fact whether someone appreciates it or not. Excellence is a drive from inside, not outside. Excel at a task today -- not necessarily for someone else to notice but for your own satisfaction.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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