Com-bore: NFL Gets Ready for Overhyped Scouting Combine

Rich TandlerSenior Analyst IFebruary 22, 2008

The combine (I refuse to capitalize it) is all over the sports media.

There were some 400 media credentials issued for the gathering, more than one for every player participating.

Every paper has its team beat reporters in Indianapolis. Sirius NFL radio is there for many of its daily shows. The omnipresent ESPN is there.

The NFL Network is the worst, carrying hour upon tedious hour of live coverage from the RCA Dome and the various other media centers in downtown Indy. They’re even counting down highlights and showing classic combine moments from years past.

And why are they all there? To watch a bunch of college dropouts run around in shorts and t-shirts doing a variety of tasks—most of which are unrelated to football.

The prospects run the 40, do a vertical jump from a standing start, pump iron, run laterally over some pads lined up on the ground, and do something called a three-cone drill. They get weighed, measured, poked, and prodded. Fortunately, the TV coverage does not include the weigh-in—which, I understand, is conducted in minimal clothing.

The purpose of this is to provide NFL coaches and general managers with what they call “measurables”. That way, in three years when five of a given team’s seven draft picks are working at Best Buy, the GM can go to his boss and say, “but our second-round guy ran a 4.355 40 and the fifth-rounder had a shuttle drill time that was off the charts.”

Of course, he won’t remind his boss that he ignored the fact that those draftees were utterly unproductive on the field of play.

For their part, most of the players have put a dent into the former schools’ graduation rates, dropping out to prepare full-time for the combine. A cottage industry has sprung up centered around training NFL prospects in the finer points of the shuttle run and shaving a few hundredths of a second off of their 40 times. All of this is bankrolled by eager agents, who front the kids expense money in exchange for a hefty chunk of their first few paychecks.

I suppose it’s necessary, a good way for all of the teams to pool their resources and get some needed information. And it would be a bit much for a prospect to have to run the 40-yard dash 32 times. The economy of scale does make some sense.

But 400 media credentials? There are pressers going on almost constantly, providing quotes, notes and nuggets to fuel the 24/7 sports media machine. Kind of like the event we had all of two and a half weeks ago in Arizona. I mean, has that much changed since the Super Bowl that we need a whole new round of it?

At least in Phoenix the media frenzy was centered around an actual event, a football game for the NFL championship. This weekend’s press opportunity revolves around something that’s sort of like a track meet minus the crowds, the excitement, and the awarding of medals.

I’m usually a sucker for anything with the letters “NFL” as part of name. But I’ll pass on this one.