The Combine is over, and free agency is upon us. The mind games are about to kick into high gear.
There is no question the NFL’s popularity is at an all-time high. The Combine, which is nothing more than a meat market where scouts collect numbers and ask questions, garnered hours of TV coverage and volumes of print analysis.
But what did anybody learn in the last week?
Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy both performed well, but there are years of game film that show this much better than a 40-yard dash or a Wonderlic test would.
Most of the big name quarterbacks entering the draft didn't even throw at the Combine for various reasons, but they know the Combine is just a show, a lie agreed upon that's part of the process.
Joe Haden ran a 40-yard dash that provoked all kinds of negative responses. The question is, was his 4.57 time an aberration of a bad start?
It probably was. Look at the game film; the guy can cover.
But the NFL has told everyone the Combine is important despite ample evidence to the contrary that Workout Warriors don’t necessarily make it in the NFL. It’s a lie told by the NFL to its teams and its fanbase that everyone agrees is true.
Now free agency is beginning, and along with it come the trades. Trading a player is one long exercise in deception on the part of both teams in the deal. Team A wants to get as much as they can, while Team B wants to give up as little as possible.
So numbers are thrown out to prove just why Joe Blow is the best offensive lineman in the history of the game while a corresponding set of numbers is thrown out to show why said offensive lineman is undeserving of such a high contract.
Agents throw their two cents in, usually riling up the fanbase on the way in order to put pressure on the teams to sign The Star Player to as much money as possible because, as everyone should know, the more the player gets, the more the agent gets.
The agent lies to get his player and himself more money while the team lies to save money. But the lies are all agreed upon once the player signs on the line that is dotted.
The draft brings its own set of lies, evolving out of the Combine and various pro days as teams desperately try to play a high stakes chess game over which player they’re actually interested in.
Outside of the first few picks, which can be locked up prior to the draft actually starting, the teams engage in sophisticated campaigns of disinformation to keep everyone guessing.
This doesn’t even factor in teams that want to trade up or down, which once again adds another layer of deception to the whole situation.
Meanwhile, columnists for newspapers, blogs, and Web sites like this one, try to make sense of it all. But in our own way, we just buy into the lies because we take what is given us and run with it in various directions, some more serious than others.
When the lies are running thick, it’s difficult to take anything seriously.
The title of this column is a call back to the title of a two-part Deadwood episode, and the various meanings of that can be debated all you want. But the parallels are what make it relevant.
Everyone agrees the Combine is an exercise for scouts and an opportunity for teams to save money by not flying 350 prospects out to their facility for interviews, yet every single test result is being analyzed to the ends of the Earth.
Everyone knows teams are in a race to get a competitive advantage and that lying is just an accepted part of the game, but every statement by a coach or general manager is a screaming headline.
Like the gold that made Deadwood run, its value, and the real value of anything any NFL team says during the offseason, is only as real as we agree it is.