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40-yard dash timing gets scrutinized, again

050226_clarett_vlg_5p.widec.jpgEvery year at this time, a similar set of issues and concerns emerge regarding the pre-draft activities.  Every year, we forget what they were, and we have to re-learn them.

One issue relates to the manner in which the 40-yard dash is timed. 

Several of you have expressed to us dismay that Clemson running back C.J. Spiller covered the 120 feet in unofficial times under 4.3 seconds, and that his official time somehow was 4.37 seconds.

A source with knowledge of the situation tells us that multiple scouts had Spiller below 4.3 seconds on their own stopwatches.  So while the teams will have their own opinion as to Spiller’s speed, the unofficial time will remain north of 4.3 seconds.

Though in the end that distinction might matter only to Titans running back Chris Johnson, who can continue to boast that he’s one of the rare tailbacks to officially rack up a time faster than 4.3, the disparity between team measurements and the official number is just another one of the imperfections of the unscientific process for determining whether guys will be good football players based on their participation in activities other than, you know, playing football.

The process only gets more interesting when players run at their Pro Day workouts, with scouts often adding time based on the specific surface on which the players run.

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26 Responses to “40-yard dash timing gets scrutinized, again”
  1. Michael LaRocca says: Mar 2, 2010 7:47 AM

    Cue Yakkity Sax

  2. Crowder911 says: Mar 2, 2010 7:53 AM

    how in the freaking world can it be so difficult to messure exact times?
    i mean its a joke that there is an official and an unofficial time as in the olympic summer games or track championships it is possible to messure exact with no problem.
    im living in switzerland, and Rolex, yes the bling bling watches, provide often the sports event with the messure technic tools. give me a call Roger if you need me to get you the contacts

  3. CP21 says: Mar 2, 2010 8:05 AM

    Two players running a 4.28 and 4.31 respectively running on the same field (not side by side), no one will be able to tell who is faster..Its not that big of a deal

  4. Shademan says: Mar 2, 2010 8:09 AM

    Is that Maurice Clarrett?

  5. CP21 says: Mar 2, 2010 8:12 AM

    and hand time (someone using a stop watch to time him) will always cause a degree of human error…Validity and Reliability of physiological assessments, look it up or just enjoy the fact that we get to witness freak athletes running sub-4.5 and sub-4.4s …there is nothing to “scrutinize”, clean the sand out of your vag…

  6. Tom says: Mar 2, 2010 8:19 AM

    What don’t the GM’s and coaches just watch game film where the players have pads and have to run around or through players? The Combine is worthless.

  7. SUNDAY says: Mar 2, 2010 8:27 AM

    Underwear Olympics

  8. Chapnasty2 says: Mar 2, 2010 8:32 AM

    Since the above picture shows someone in shorts and a t-shirt I guess that the term “underware olyimpics” is now void

  9. Reasonable says: Mar 2, 2010 8:57 AM

    Best and Spiller will both be way over drafted and overpaid because of Chris Johnson. That is how the NFL rolls. It’s a copy cat league. Too small to be “the man”. Should be 3rd round prospects. Much like Reggie Bush, they will be productive, just not first round productive.

  10. MunichEagles says: Mar 2, 2010 9:24 AM

    You are always criticizing the combine. But you never come up with a better idea. So why blame anyone for it, if you can´t do it better?
    And after all I think you media guys blow the combine out of proportion.
    For GMs/Coaches/Scouts it´s still what it should be: A medical test for players. See if they are able to perform in the range you thought the guy could do.
    Within in this range you are fine. If a guy over or underperforms your expectations, then double check your facts.

  11. foxylettuce says: Mar 2, 2010 9:29 AM

    I really wish we drafted that kid that ran the 40 in 4.4. Instead we drafted the kid that ran it in 4.55 and our season end with a 6-10 season. What could have been only if we drafted differently…….
    But seriously, why haven’t they gone to F.A.T.? Times for T&F races have been timed this way for years now.

  12. Nevisyakker says: Mar 2, 2010 9:36 AM

    C.J. Spiller has excellent speed. His 40 time indicates that, but it doesn’t need to be more than a good indicator.
    The bottom line on this kid is the number of TDs he scored in college. It seemed like once he turned the corner his speed went into hyper-space with people chasing him. And THAT is what should remind people of Chris Johnson far more than a less than precise stop watch number.

  13. chief says: Mar 2, 2010 9:57 AM

    Jamaal Charles was in the same boat. He ran sub 4.3 unofficially and the “official time” was 4.38.

  14. Patsfan1776 says: Mar 2, 2010 10:30 AM

    NFL officiating crews must be responsible for determining the “official” time. Pay no attention to the actual time. Since it is all on video, can’t the video be analyzed to determine what the actual time is?

  15. db3300 says: Mar 2, 2010 10:32 AM

    “You are always criticizing the combine. But you never come up with a better idea. So why blame anyone for it, if you can´t do it better?”
    You must be one of those who stay up all night analyzing all of the players because it’s the only football you have to watch. It’s not up to a commenter on a website to come up with something better. It’s up to the NFL but I’ll give it a shot – stop spending a top 10 pick on a guy no one has ever heard of and based on his broad jump and 3 cone time. These are drills that were used in the 40s. Draft a player who plays big in big games. Use game film. Use practice film. Employ better scouts.
    There. I just did better so sit down and shut up.

  16. scrapdawg12 says: Mar 2, 2010 10:39 AM

    A human should not be in charge of starting the stop watch. There has to be human error figured in somehow. So maybe these times aren’t right.

  17. Gunther69 says: Mar 2, 2010 10:50 AM

    It doesn’t mean anything anyway. It’s all about how a player runs with pads on and plays in games. It’s the biggest cop out for teams. Instead of scouting a player and evaluating if he can play at the next level, gimmick things are used. Scouts do your job. 40 times, number of reps etc are negated when a player is evaluated on FUNCTIONAL speed, strength, height. It’s all how a player uses these attributes. The best book I’ve read on the subject is by Razzano. So, you expert draftniks, get your universal rating of the players by some nobody and tweak it so you can act like an expert.

  18. Florio-is-a-tool says: Mar 2, 2010 11:02 AM

    Peter King would break the record if he saw Brett Favre exit the shower 40 yards away.
    40 yard times are overrated – just ask Jerry Rice and Emmit Thomas.

  19. floriolovesmen says: Mar 2, 2010 11:08 AM

    They have the technology to electronically time these athletes. Any number that comes off a stop watch isn’t even worth the time discussing. Differences between electronic and handheld can vary up to .2 of a second.

  20. burntorangehorn says: Mar 2, 2010 11:49 AM

    CP said it: hand-times are always going to be fraught with human error. Don’t pay attention to them at all. Electronic timing is the only timing worth considering.

  21. DAS says: Mar 2, 2010 12:38 PM

    I saw three different sources tweeting about Trindon Holliday running a 4.22 yet his official time was 4.34? WTH?

  22. Mangy66 says: Mar 2, 2010 2:39 PM

    Hey Florio (a.k.a. The Perez Hilton of Football),
    You forgot to mention that the Redskins signed Albert “The Baconator” Haynesworth to a contract shortly after midnight on the first day of free agency.
    You’re slipping man.
    Regards,
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Redskins Fan

  23. Route36West says: Mar 2, 2010 6:31 PM

    The CJ Spill 40 yard dash mistake is nothing what about Taylor Mays.
    NFLN had him clocked at a 4.28 unofficial and when the official time came back it was a 4.43.
    Dieon sounded like he was going to throw a conniption fit.

  24. Bucket says: Mar 3, 2010 11:36 AM

    I don’t think Chris johnson ever ran a 4.24 anyways! Think about it, all these athletes get time added onto their 40 after the “official” times get put out but Chris Johnson who was timed as a mid to high 4.3 suddenly gets changed in the opposite direction when everyone else is getting time added on. I think his was a mistake in the other direction. how often is a guy’s changed by taking that much time off rather than adding a few hundreths of a tick on to the final time?

  25. ceetown22 says: Mar 14, 2010 4:13 PM

    # Shademan says: March 2, 2010 8:09 AM
    Is that Maurice Clarrett?
    That is exactly what I said! hahaha or this guy is his twin brother….
    HAIL SKINS!

  26. EAGLES#1 says: Mar 14, 2010 5:10 PM

    hahahah wow Maurice Clarrett what a bum.

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