Make no mistake about the everpresent fact that NFL is, first and foremost, a business. Everything that they do on a foundational level is driven by a desire to try to make the owners the most amount of money possible. It ultimately affects every aspect of the game, and there’s no escaping that fact.
The latest facet of the game to be reshaped by the quest by the league to make as much money as possible is the NFL Scouting Combine, with the desire to make it a primetime spectacle having a real impact on how teams are able to manage their time there.
Previously, all teams were permitted to hold formal, 15-minute interviews with up to 60 prospects at the Combine, out of hundreds of players there. Because of the logistics of moving things around, it was necessary to move the thing into the bright lights to cut the number of interviews down to 45 per team, though the length of the interviews was expanded to 18 minutes.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert broached this subject a number of different times while doing the media rounds yesterday at the Combine, but his most extensive comments came while doing an interview for SiriusXM radio, with his host saying that the reduction in interviews makes Pro Days all the more important.
“It was one of the challenges presented by moving this thing to primetime”, he said. “We understand why they’re doing it. It’s a huge event, as you can see by this type of exposure. And it’s great, it’s good for the game. Now the challenge is to maintain the football integrity of this event. We still have to do physicals. We still have to do the on-field testing. We still have to do the character interviews”.
“We had to cut it back because we had to move the location. We cut it back to 45. So we’re gonna try”, he added. “It’s not like we had a choice in the matter. We’re gonna try to make it the best Combine ever, and if we’ve got 45, then we’ve got 45”.
I think ‘it’s not like we had a choice’ pretty much says it all. The league reduced the number of players they can have formal interviews with by a full quarter, which is significant, and forces teams to recalibrate their approach toward selecting players to have these interviews with, and what they utilize them for.
Not every team is able to send as many of their personnel as they would like to out to all of the Pro Days, as well. The Steelers are fortunate to be one of the most active teams in this regard, but that is not the case for all 32 teams. And so we find just the latest casualty of the NFL’s quest to gain as much capital as possible by turning events that previously were never even televised (like the draft, as well) into major primetime appointment viewing.