The NFL Scouting Combine is a sort of “cult-like” event for many hardcore football fans.
Does the combine matter?
Of course it does.
Does it directly affect football fans?
Not so much.
Well… until maybe now.
In fact, fans weren’t even allowed into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to watch the combine until last year when only 250 fans were permitted in after they all submitted essays outlining they should be allowed to attend. The fact of the matter is, the scouting combine has traditionally been a secretive event where only the NFL personell would go, observe, report and evaluate the performances in this glorified job interview. Now, like seemingly everything else in the world, the event is gaining more and more media attention each year and the interest grows with it. This raises the question: What does the NFL do now with another potential monetary goldmine?
Please feel free to read through the articles on the top of the post to get the full story, but essentially the NFL is in the process of reviewing what the combine is in relation to the fans. While the drills now are individually run (including the bench press and the 40-yard dash), some are thinking of making some events more comparative and competitive amongst the participants. For example, the 40-yard dash being a race between two of the same position or the same with a bench press competition. This would inevitably be tied in with a more spectator focused event. There are also talks of extending the combine and making a bigger spectacle out of the already increasingly popular event.
As you would imagine there are mixed opinions about this prospect. Some feel nothing needs to change, while others want the combine more accessible to the public (the public and NFL people alike). I think either way, we can all agree that the reason for the combine can’t change.
It’s for the players and the evaluation process.
Sure the combine isn’t the only thing to the entire “process”. In fact, many would argue that the combine is more there to reassure teams that their judgements from game film were accurate or to reassure them that they have time to go back and reassess that first judgment. Point is, the combine is just a piece of the puzzle and not the deciding factor. Still, the combine is a very important piece. The drills do tell evaluators important things about the players and it gives players a chance to make NFL teams take another look if the player demonstrates an ability that doesn’t really show up in the game film. There are plenty of players out there who have made a ton of money because of the combine.
As for changing it? I’m fine with adding some competition to it, but only if it still benefits evaluators. The key thing is to avoid becoming a major media spectacle. After all, the combine continues to be a job interview in a sense. The players are there to earn a living. If the NFL wants to extend the length, that’s fine too in my book. As a football fan, I will always take football over no football, especially when you enter the offseason. I don’t think fans need to be there though. Just add a couple more cameras and let fans watch the participants with experts (like NFL Network’s Mike Mayock) explaining the drills and what evaluators are looking for. Let players earn a living and let fans watch from a distance with experts providing the essential information for the fans.