It’s now a trend. How widespread it becomes remains to be seen.
Some coaching staffs have decided not to attend the Scouting Combine. For most casual observers, it’s a jarring revelation given the hype and focus devoted to the first of the league’s offseason tentpole events. If, after all, multiple coaching staffs are boycotting the festivities, maybe it’s not as big of a deal as Big Shield wants us to think it is.
Here’s the reality of the NFL’s offseason off-field reality show. Some have decided that their time is better spent working in the team facility for the week. They can spend the day doing multiple things, from making decisions about which of their own players they’ll keep to which free agents they’ll pursue to which incoming players they may want to try to add.
With the launch of the offseason program not very far away, some teams opt to focus on planning for the officially unofficial start of the next campaign in lieu of devoting an entire week to focusing on the next wave of new players.
The Combine started as a way to combine medical information, making it cheaper and more efficient to gather diagnostic information regarding players who emerge from their college football careers with lingering injuries. It has become, in many respects, a TV show for the league, a game of speed-dating when it comes to getting to know players, and a convention for the people who work in and around the game.
Making the Scouting Combine less meaningful to the coaching staffs is the fact that players train extensively and specifically for the various events of the Underwear Olympics, none of which are football. (As we say every year at this time, guys only run 40 yards in a straight line on a football field when something very good — or something very bad — is happening.) Players also have received so much advice and education on the interview process that it becomes impossible during quarter-hour chunks to pierce through the preparation and get through to the real man.
The league and the media machine around it won’t like this development. But coaches don’t keep their jobs because they play along with things that don’t contribute to the bottom line of winning games. Some coaches are deciding that skipping the Scouting Combine and staying home does.
For now, not enough teams are staying away to make it a major problem for the league. At some point, enough teams could take a pass to make the NFL ponder ways to keep the Combine as a viable slow-month moneymaker, including having 24 or more owners vote to make attendance by all coaching staffs mandatory.