Today marks the day when 300 or so football players from across the nation gather in little Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. The combine gives NFL organizations a chance to evaluate players at every angle. I participated in the combine coming out of college, and I have to say it is a very grueling process. However, is the combine as valid as people make it out to be ? I am 50-50 on the answer to that question considering the history given.
The combine has changed over the years in order to help teams evaluate players more efficiently. My experience of the combine was much shorter and much more intense. We only had a couple of days to fly in, workout, and meet with teams. I vividly remember being yanked on by doctors, taking EKG’s, having blood drawn, and more. I even had to take a cardiac stress test ! During my examination the doctors said I had a small block in one of my ventricles. Let’s just say they were way off on that one. The heart is a muscle, and all muscles, even the heart, grow to some extent. As in most athletes involved in endurance related sports, the ventricle walls can actually grow depending on how conditioned the athlete is. Mine is .005 centimeters thicker than normal. So Lance Armstrong is lucky not too many brothers like to ride bikes up and down hills across the world for fun. I might give him a run for his money.
There are pros to the combine. Since scouts usually go to the larger schools, it does give players like Cecil Shorts WR (Mount Union) and Julius Thomas TE (Portland State) an opportunity to be seen up close and personal. Teams can talk face to face, see body structure, and look at how they react to the environment of the NFL. A player can improve his draft status significantly with great workouts and numbers. Players can also show improvements of flaws listed by NFL teams, like weight, foot work, arm strength, and character. The are many opportunities in these few days to have coaches and GM’s leave with a positive outlook on a player.
As good as that may sound, there are cons to the combine as well. In my opinion some organizations put too much stock in numbers. Because a guy runs a 4.2 40 yard dash, it doesn’t make him a football player. If a player does 40 reps during the bench press test, it doesn’t mean he’s a football player. I place many great combine workouts under the Immaculate Mamula Theory. Mike Mamula’s story is known, great workout, scored like 48-49 out of 50 on the wonderlic test, everything needed to be done to raise his stock, he did it. FAIL ! On the other hand, Zach Thomas, a friend and former teammate of mine is 5’10 at best, very good athlete, not physically put together like some may be, or as fast ,and had an average combine workout. Taken in the fifth round of the 1996 draft by the Miami Dolphins, fourteen years and eight pro bowls later, he is an example of how combine numbers don’t matter. Let me explain the Immaculate Mamula Theory. We as humans are able to train our minds and bodies to adapt and improve in certain areas with practice and repetition over a period of time. If a person knows exactly what to train for, has a proper plan and practices it, then of course the results are going to be significant. Anyone can train for anything. Football is a game of speed, reaction, and improvisation, which is why some players do not produce on the field. Learning game plans, and schemes do play a significant part, however, adapting does as well. Many things happen during the course of a play, and although it may be drawn up a certain way on the board, the majority of the time is does not work out that way. Innovation with calculation is key in this case.
The combine has turned into a money grabbing, over hyped, meat market. Hall of Fame selector and editorial consultant for FOX NFL Sunday, John Czarnecki, says,” there was a time when less than five reporters, not 750, showed up for the Combine, and security wasn’t really necessary.” Those numbers show how much the NFL has hyped up this event for ratings, which essentially makes them more money. I have always been a firm believer that, a football player is a football player. Athleticism is needed, especially at the skilled positions, but an unusual amount is not required. I think more like 1560 The Game’s talk show host John Harris, ” why don’t you go and put the film on bro! ” I am more interested in how a player performs during the game, what adjustments are made, and how good is his technique. If I desire to see running and jumping, I’m sure there’s a local high school track meet going on around here somewhere, and I at least get to spill cheese and jalapeno juice on my shirt from the nachos I devour.