As NFL Combine Ends, Questions Remain Whether It Has Outgrown Its Purpose
Today is the final day for the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but like "lots of things the NFL does, the combine has gone from measured and reasonable to spectacular and ridiculous," according to Paul Daugherty of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. What used to be a way to "get all prospective draftees in one large room with a bunch of medical doctors has metastasized into yet another marketing tool." The combine is "another example of how The League takes itself preposterously seriously" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/24). In Boston, Ron Borges describes the combine under the header, "An Exercise In Stupidity." The event has "become as overblown with self-importance as halftime at the Super Bowl." It has become a "hype machine" for players entering the league. Borges: "The beauty of this non-event from the NFL's point of view is it's no longer known as the scouting combine or even the combine. Now it's the NFL combine 'presented by Under Armour'" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/26). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige noted the NFL "gave out more credentials this year for the combine than ever before," as there were "almost three media people to every player" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/25). ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted combine coverage was "wall-to-wall on this here network” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/25). Meanwhile, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay noted what the combine "mostly proves -- once again -- is that the people will watch pretty much anything related to football." This is despite the fact the combine "makes for strange but upbeat television." Gay: "Optimism oozes. Nearly every player has an upside, is a winner, a gamer, a worker." The combine "might not be electrifying entertainment, but what constitutes entertainment anymore?" Nothing is "banal enough to ignore" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/25).
SCHEDULE CHANGES: The NFL is contemplating changing the schedule of the combine, free agency and the Draft to allow for one marquee event a month, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported, "Don't look for it to happen the way they want it.” Mortensen said moving the start of free agency to April would be so the NFL can "layer this out for public relations reasons, for media relations, to increase revenue.” But the NFLPA is "unhappy because the league year is now starting on March 12 when free agency kicks off." Mortensen: "They’re not going to go for April” (“NFL32,” ESPN, 2/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole noted the schedule change "was met with resistance, but also with a mentality that resistance is futile." Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli said, "Bottom line, among football people like myself, no one is going to like it because we're creatures of routine. If it changes, we'll adjust." ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said that the push to an 18-game schedule by the league may "necessitate some change." Cole reported the league additionally may be "angling to create more dedicated programming for the struggling NFL Network by moving events like the combine and draft away from times when ESPN would want to show them." But the idea of having the start of free agency move from March to April and the draft from April to May to have them "so close together creates tremendous stress on teams" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/24). ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote, "I see no downside to the NFL seeking a more evenly paced and structured offseason." The time between the Super Bowl and combine would "expand, but the NFL would promote regional combines in the interim." The league "thinks a more structured offseason would allow for greater promotion of each event and greater profits." NFL players would have to "sign off on the changes." Moving back the start of free agency could "affect the window for players to maximize their value" (ESPN.com, 2/22).
LATEST PUSH TO 18 GAMES? ESPN's Tony Kornheiser noted the "speculation" around all the potential changes is that by "moving everything two weeks, you pave the way for two more regular-season games.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said an 18-game season “is on the table” and noted it is "just completely hypocritical as they talk about player safety and try to add more games, more pounding, more hits and I’m presuming more carnage." Wilbon: "We know what the NFL’s agenda is. They want more money. ... They want world domination. They’re not happy with national domination." Kornheiser noted the NFL ultimately "would love to have" an 18-game schedule, but the league “can’t sell it to the players now if you offer the players the same amount of money they’re getting now and ask them to be exposed to two more games of hitting” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/22). CBS Sports Network’s Allie La Force added, “It’s so funny that in the same year that player safety has been such an issue that we’re going to add some more games” ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 2/22).