One of the themes of this week’s conversation with ex-Dolphins scout Mike Murphy has been the inexactness of the business, and the fact that it’s an art, not a science (though many are trying to change that perception).
With that in mind, I asked Mike if any teams he had worked for, or any he had heard of, had metrics for measuring the effectiveness of its various scouts. Many/most feel that scouting is the ultimate ‘old boy’ network, and that may be true. It’s also a place of great nepotism. So, does anyone ever evaluate the scouts themselves in a coldly logical way?
Mike said the area a scout covers is, in its own way, a way to evaluate them.
“Regions are (a) difficult (way) to say (that) one scout is better than another because the quality of players are different from each region. Some conferences are known for their offensive linemen, while others are known for their skills positions. Traditionally, one of your better scouts is placed in the Southeast, but that does not mean he is the best scout. Scouts are looked at in different ways; how they fit in with other scouts, how he does gathering information, (how he) presents that information, and does he get his work done in a timely manner? Some places are known for having their scouts more as information-gatherers than evaluators, and place a high importance on the information-gathering. Others are known to lean on their scouts as evaluators, not just information-gatherers. This is not an exact science; otherwise scouts would not be needed. You want to get more right than you get wrong, or you won’t be in the NFL long.
“I don’t know any team that has a set of guidelines to evaluate scouts. You do have some individuals who are IE’s (Instant Evaluators) and look at where players are drafted compared to a scout’s grade. The issue with being an IE is that your team or another may have made a mistake on a player but may not know for three years.
“The best way I know to evaluate a scout is the same as a player. Give them three years. Players will wash out somewhere around the three-year mark. Scouts are the same way (to see if they are any good). There typically will be a good year, a down year, and hopefully by the third year they have evened out and settled into their role.”
This is an interesting insight. There does seem to be a three-year window on staying in the league for most new scouts. You’ve got three drafts to prove you know what you’re doing, for the most part.
Given Mike’s insights along with Ari Nissim’s thoughts on the advance of sports metrics in the game, it will be interesting if teams start to apply such measures to figuring out whether their scouts are doing the job they’re paid for.