"And hey, let's throw the great party
today for the rest of our lives
The fun is just about to get started
So throw the switch
It's rock-n-roll time" -Robert Pollard
Or so I thought. I hadn't had a chance to watch the NFL Combine since I was a child--Major kudos to the NFL for broadcasting it live on their website. There's only one problem: It's stultifyingly boring. I want so badly to enjoy it. I'm about as big an NFL freak as you'll find (exhibit A: thousands of hours producing a Seahawks blog), but there's just nothing interesting about watching dudes run down a track. It tells me nothing about the player's ability and generally makes for bad television. The stultifying element is that here's this incredible collection of talent working their butts off, some of who will undoubtedly be the stars of tomorrow and instead of doing anything entertaining, interesting much less worthwhile, they're running 30 year old drills that are proven yearly to be nothing more than flash and misdirection.
Here's 4 simple ways to fix the NFL combine
Create Contract Incentives for Participation
Simple enough, determine a way to include future incentives in participant's contracts for, you know, actually showing up and competing at the Combine. It could be determined by draft order. Also, offer injury insurance. Anything that makes top prospects respect the Combine again. In recent years, the best indication of future success in the NFL is giving the Combine the ol' high hat, thank you but I have better things to do.
Reduce the Number of Invitees
Bring the prestige back. The Combine should be the NFL's first chance to introduce its stars of tomorrow, not a cattle call replete with mediocrity not seen since the North American Video Game Crash of 1983. Players not invited to the combine can always perform at their respective school's Pro Day. Watching some dude run down a track is boring, watching a linemen with little chance of making a practice squad run down a track is borderline unwatchable. Times that by 30.
Make the Players Wear Pads
Keep the helmets off, fine, but no one's going to be running around in street clothes on Sunday. No one that matters, anyhow. Put these guys into pads and then measure their speed, agility, whathaveyou.
Taylor the Drills
There is absolutely no reason to make an offensive linemen run 40 yards down the field. None.
"Wow, looks like Jake Long there can run a wicked fly pattern."
Seriously, let's have these guys do something that actually reflects their future job. The NFL was keen to call to call the Combine a "job fair" this season. Well, at the moment it's a bit like assessing premeds with a rope climb. Straight out of the ol' keister, here's some ideas of superior drills players could run.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Timed Quick Slant: Set up cones, make the receiver run a quick slant through them, time it.
Timed Curl Route
Timed Double Move
Vert Catch: Use a football gun, aim it at height, have the receiver prove they can jump AND catch the ball.
Pull Drill: Ten yards, two bends, timed.
Snap Drill: Put them in the 3 point, whistle, have them bounce up and throw a block on a force pad. Record time, measure force. How cool would that be? Jake Long, .15 seconds, 500 pounds of force.
Power Lifting: What I like about power lifting numbers is that when you clean or squat, it's not binary like a bench press or leg lift. It's a complete motion and you have to use all of your muscles in coordination. It's also a good indication of core strength: glutes, obliques, all the minor muscles around your hips and lower back. A 225 bench, especially in the giant-size modern NFL, measures slow twitch muscle strength and endurance and that's about it. That's almost worthless.
10 Yard Directional Sprint: Let's find out how long it takes for a back to get through the hole, not how fast they can run 20 yards down the field. Simple, Off tackle left, Guard/Tackle left, Guard/Tackle right, Off Tackle right. All drills started from a single point, then the cones are placed in their respective positions five yards forward. A player must run through the cones and then past a line. Time it, give us a number worth a damn.
10 Yard Gauntlet: Ever played football, you've probably done something like this: 10 yards forward through a forest of foam arms on springs. Let's find who can and who cannot run through arm tackles. Time it.
Blind, Timed Route: Start them facing towards the line then make them run each of the three aforementioned routes. Let's see these guys flip their hips and split the cones on the fly.
Zone Cone: 4 Cones, each 5 yards from the center. Left, center, back, center, right, center, forward. Timed.
10 Yard Directional Sprint
10 Yard Gauntlet
deserve their own post. Enough with a quarterback's "arm" already.
Better television, more accurate assessments, an event rather than prolonged anti-climax/red herring. Won't happen, but fun to think about.