On Monday, I got a question from a young agent who’s dedicated and hard-working. In the course of conducting his due diligence on the scouts he needs to know during the ’15 draft process, he asked me if Arizona — a state where a couple of his clients went to school — is considered a Southwest or West Coast area for the purposes of NFL teams.
I get this question all the time, and unfortunately, there’s no ‘answer’ to the question. Some teams consider Arizona West Coast, some consider it Southwest. Some teams don’t break the nation down by regions, but just assign small clumps of states to different scouts. I know one West Coast scout who doesn’t even live in the region he’s in; he’s on the East Coast.
This is one reason scouting and evaluation are so hard to measure. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that different teams not only do things differently, but they couldn’t care less how others do it. There’s one NFC team that has consistently struggled on draft day for at least the last decade-and-a-half, but continues with essentially the same personnel and the same methodology.
Part of this self-fulfilling prophecy is because no one has developed a consistent metric for evaluating scouts. Maybe it’s because no one wants to be held to an objective measure when it’s time to make changes in the scouting lineup. Maybe it’s because it’s so hard to truly evaluate the job a scout does. Maybe because it’s rare for just one scout to truly ‘discover’ a player, when most teams will send 3-4 pairs of eyes to evaluate everyone on their draft boards. Maybe it’s because scouting departments change philosophies so often, valuing character the most one year, athletic ability the next, size the following year, or even certain schools and regions at times. It’s really pretty murky.
It all goes back to one of the themes of this blog. If you think someone out there has things ‘on lock,’ you’re wrong. NFL teams are made up of human beings, and they make mistakes and fall back on comfortable but flawed methods. Even in a business that is filled with smart, efficient, capable people, there is opportunity if you can identify weaknesses and figure out how to make them strengths. It’s one of the things that makes this game, and this business, fascinating.