As One Season Closes, Another One Opens

8 Openings for New NFL Coaches 

With 8 openings for new coaches in the NFL currently, not only do plans on the field have to be recalculated, but plans for revamping or replenishing a roster for 2019 are in limbo as well. What kind of system will these teams now run with a new direction on the horizon? A 3-4 or 4-3 defensive front? Lots of zone or press man coverage? An offense based on tempo or timing? Or a downhill run game? These questions will be answered soon enough, but right now, NFL front offices are in full-fledged scouting mode to gather as much information about prospects from both the college ranks and the other NFL teams as they can and trying to decide which prospects you may, or may not add to your team as we begin a new calendar year.  

Gathering Background Information on Players 

We are reading about coaches interviewing every day in NFL buildings for jobs. I wonder how many of the interviews come with an hour or two being spent with that said coach reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players on that coach’s team from which he just left or is currently with? Not only can you gather very important background on a player’s character, but also their learning capacities including what technique each player learns best with. It’s also a great way to explore a coaches’ acumen and skill when it comes to evaluating. Coaching and evaluating are two very different skills and mindsets. This is information that teams, who are not looking for new coaches, won’t have a chance to gather so use it to your advantage. You know what they say, “let’s make part of the process, the process”. Top General Managers and scouting staff can really get to know a candidate by talking personnel.  This is a rare occasion to gain this knowledge and your team is missing a great opportunity if you don’t cease it.

Gathering Background Information on Underclassmen

Another task currently in full swing in NFL scouting offices is the gathering of information on potential underclassmen who either have already announced their intention to enter the NFL draft or are considering it. Most years, this number of players ranges from 80-100 guys (most of which are really good players) who will be thoroughly vetted throughout the spring. When a scout makes a school visit during the fall, most schools make it taboo to talk about underclassmen as part of your school call. You might look at tape and gather evaluation information, but collecting this important background information is next to impossible. So you have to circle back and do this after the season. This is going on right now. This information comes from talking to staff within the college programs. A trainer, an equipment manager, an academic person and, in most cases, a couple assistant coaches or the head coach. Here is the tricky part: Being able to trust your source. So many answers in these big money programs are derived from an agenda to present a warm and glowing picture of all their players so it can be a bit of a sales job. As scouts, we get it, but it’s important to our job that we get the correct information. We know the facts are not always aligned with what coaches and administrators say publically. Sometimes it’s very hard for NFL scouts and coaches to get to the truth as well. Some NFL teams have resorted to teaching their people the tricks of the trade of a private investigator when it comes to interviewing sources at these schools. Millions of dollars are at stake in getting to the bottom of the hard questions.

College Bowl Game Circuit

Another important part of January scouting schedules is the college bowl game circuit. That starts with The College Gridiron Classic in Dallas next week where smaller schools or lessor known prospects gather to be weighed, measured, and practice against each other for 3-4 days in front of NFL, CFL and AAF (new to the scouting landscape this year) eyes. After this in subsequent weeks, we have the East West game, the NFLPA game and the Senior Bowl from Mobile Alabama. These are all important events in which information must be gathered by all professional teams as part of draft or player entry preparation.

Keep an Eye on New Hires 

Once all this information is gathered, we must come full circle to sit down and adapt it to the schemes our coaches will be running in order to find the best fit, player-wise, for our franchises. It’s not about collecting talent as much as it is about building a team. Keep an eye on these teams and their new hires. It’s going to have an effect on how the decisionmakers at the top of an NFL franchise put your team together, and what your team will look like next fall. A lot of players’ fates (those already on a roster and those who will be considered down the road) are being determined by the hiring of coaches over the next couple of weeks just based on the systems they bring with them and want to run.