Once upon a time, the offseason in the NFL was actually the off season. Literally. Professional football players would work their other jobs during these long months, and not a whole lot would be going on otherwise, even from the team point of view.
Now that the game is a billions-a-year industry, however, everything has become an event. There was a time when the draft wasn’t televised. At best, you would read about it in the newspaper the next day. Now it’s a primetime event, the highlight of football between February and August.
The league is now hoping to do the same for the NFL Scouting Combine by also moving it to a primetime television slot, where it, too, was once not even televised. Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is actually on the committee for the Combine.
While he may not approve of all of the changes being made (that’s only my speculation, mind you), he has done a good job this week of being a mouthpiece of positivity for the event and the changes that are being made. He did the media gauntlet on Tuesday, and revealed what might be next for the event while appearing on the NFL Network.
“I think that’s part of how we need to evaluate”, he said of the possibility of turning Combine drills into actual competitions that players would ‘win’ in some way, arguing that it also has a football element. “When we see one guy run this drill, well what was his actual time in the drill, as opposed to time in a 40? Actual football-type movement”.
“So if we can create that competition we think we can get more participation from the players, because the players are always going to be competitive. They want to show who they are”, he added, also noting that the move from the newspapers to the television screen also made a difference. “Being on tv helped that in the past. Being on tv in a competitive situation, we hope, helps it now”.
“We want to make it more fan-interesting and more fan-engaging and more fun for the fans because quite honestly when it’s more fun for the fans, it’s more fun for the players”, Colbert added, also admitting that he was an early skeptic of the Combine as a televised event.
“I was one of the ones, I was like,’god this is going to be awful’. And it piqued the interest of the fans and we actually got better participation from our players. So what we were challenged to do this year was take the event. We’re moving into prime time. Let’s update our drills, let’s get more current, 2020 NFL-type football related drills so that we can maybe put a better product out here that in return will be more engaging for the fans”.
Will it pay off? Probably, if you go by ratings. Will it actually get players like Joe Burrow and Chase Young to run the drills at the Combine? Frankly, I doubt it, and it shouldn’t. if they’re entering a world in which they’re continually reminded that it’s a business, they ought to have some business sense before they get there.