A taste of the Senior Bowl

Most agents and football people will tell you they have a love-hate relationship with the annual pilgrimage to Mobile. Although the focus is supposed to be on the players, there’s a lot more going on around town than meets the eye.

Here are a few things I noticed after my first 48 hours in Mobile:

Challenging practice schedule for evaluators on Day 1: I’m hearing complaints by scouts about the way the schedule was laid out on Tuesday. The North team practiced at 12:15 to 2:15 at one field, then the South team practiced at another field from 2:30 to 4:30. That field is about thirty minutes away. There is a very limited time frame to evaluate and get exposure to players, and the tight scheduling made it difficult for scouts. The players usually have team meetings in the morning and a mandatory media or social function in the evening. From 8:30 pm to 11:00, teams are allowed to conduct formal interviews with players. By this time, everyone is usually fried from the long day.

Its obvious the Senior Bowl caters to the “wants” of the local community. The event brings in millions of dollars to hotels, restaurants and local businesses. It helps to keep Mobile relevant in the football world.

Star power is waning: Before the media explosion (NFL Network coverage, hundreds of bloggers, etc.) hit the Senior Bowl, the likes of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Al Davis, Arthur Blank, and the who’s who of NFL royalty were seen just five feet from one-on-one drills on the field, while followed by the ducklings that made up their inner circle. Many owners, head coaches and even general managers have decided not to attend the practices as frequently as they used to. I think the hordes of media that are here now make it less productive for them. Years ago the town was somewhat cloaked away from the outside world.

Jerry Jones is about the only owner who consistently visits the Senior Bowl. It’s great seeing him rolling around Mobile. He doesn’t have bodyguards, he’s accessible, engaging, stops for photos, and says hello to everyone. He simply enjoys people and is a constant ambassador for the NFL and his beloved Cowboys.

New coaches and GMs get slammed: If you are a new coach or just landed a GM job you wont be able to walk five feet without an informal resume hitting you in the face. If you are a new coach or GM you really need to be scouting the best college players. However, the job seekers and well wishers have other plans for your time. Some new head coaches avoid the Senior Bowl for this reason alone, as they can’t really ever get any scouting done.

Financial advisors, accountants, and other service hucksters are outnumbering the agents: I’m not saying this is a bad thing; they have as much right to promote their business as anyone. However, the players really don’t have the time, can’t pay attention to, or have an understanding of how to manage such introductions. One clever but unprofessional professional, has been witnessed going up to players with a clipboard after practice asking for the players’ email and cell number. Unsuspecting players think he’s a scout or somebody associated with the NFL. These are some of things players and agents have to deal with while trying to work and compete for higher draft slots.

The Senior Bowl has long been a staple for the NFL and its evaluators, however, many changes have been embraced and many have not. If you watch the game on Saturday, just realize you are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. The heart and soul of the Senior Bowl is Monday to Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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