Shutdown Corner

NFL could be moving to less combine, more ‘SuperStars’

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Cam Newton, under the microscope. (AP)

Remember when we told you that 250 fans would be watching the quarterback and receiver drills at this year's combine from inside Lucas Oil Stadium? Remember when we told you that the personnel people and scouts who see the combine as a crucial part of the NFL scouting process were not at all happy about the move? And remember when we told you that this was just the first step in Roger Goodell's plan to turn the combine into a Super Bowl Media Day circus-style event?

Well, it would appear that Goodell's even further ahead on the track than we thought. According to Judy Battista of the New York Times, the NFL is seriously considering adding a few new drills to the combine, and none of them seem to be about forwarding the actual scouting and evaluation processes. You could soon be seeing players running 40-yard dashes against each other, Olympics-style, and competing head-to-head to see who can pump out the most bench press reps. Engrossing to be sure (or so it would seem), but when was the last time you saw two guys hold an actual footrace on the field?

Put simply, Goodell wants to turn the combine into a public spectacle, and if that gets in the way of whatever it is that teams get out of the combine ... well, work around it, guys. Just like you work around those trips to London, lost home games, and a Super Bowl week that happens to have a football game shoehorned in at the end.

"We would not want to do something that was just good for television, or just good for the fans, if it were at the expense of either the football evaluation or the players' preparation," said Eric Grubman, the executive vice president of NFL ventures and business operations, in one of the better whoppers in recent memory. "It's a balancing act. The combine works."

Well, if the combine works as a television event, it does so because fans like to see inside the tent and get a sense of what their favorite teams are doing in draft prep. People who watch tape can use the TV feeds to confirm or change their own evaluations, and it adds a bit more to the technical, scouting side of the process. Not everybody who watches football does so just to watch stuff blow up.

Later on in Battista's piece, Grubman further explained the league's thought process behind the proposed combine changes.

"When you make it interesting, people want to see it. When you let them in, it gets bigger. When it gets bigger, other people want to be there. It goes from football media, who are attracted to it because it's such a pure event, to popular media, to sponsors because fans are watching.

"Not a day goes by that Roger Goodell and everybody else doesn't take a step back and say, 'This is all about the game. We're not going to threaten any aspect of that. One of the reasons the Super Bowl was so incredible was how much teams try to get there. Making every part of it big means everybody cares more, including the athletes. Having athletes prepare more because the combine has become more competitive has to be good for the game and the players."

Well, then let's just say that's what you want, leave the combine alone, and go back to the 1970s, when the "SuperStars" series pitted athletes against each other in some very unlikely competitions. Have Gabe Kaplan host it, or Mario Lopez, or some other modern ridiculous equivalent, and give the people what you think they want. It could replace the Pro Bowl, and would also be a good way for players to work off their PED and illegal contact suspensions.

Example below. And heed our advice if you take it, commissioner -- apply the Joe Frazier Memorial Swimming Competency Test to every potential entrant. We don't want this happening again. And you're going to have to get insurance for these guys, just in case a first-round tackle blows out his knee in the log roll.

We're sure you'll find a way around it.

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