When it comes to draft busts, it’s rare when you hear that a player “wasn’t developed well” or “he just didn’t get the coaching he needed.” The narrative you usually hear is that the GM is dumb or the scouts weren’t thorough or “every other team knew he couldn’t play.”
I wonder if that’s fair, though. Is it true that when players fail, it’s due to poor evaluation? I posed this question to some friends in scouting, and as you might expect, there was sharp disagreement over the premise that the evaluation was wrong.
Here are four responses I got on this question:
When a high draft pick fails, what percentage of the time is it because he wasn’t as good as advertised, and what percentage that he wasn’t coached/developed well by the team?
- “That’s a hard question to answer. There’s so many different reasons. New coordinators, not used right, kid finally got money for the first time, outside influences. There’s just so many reasons. I’d really have to think on that, just because everyone is wired differently.”
- “Players don’t fail! The teams fail for grading a talent that was not good enough based on overrating his talent, or taking him high based on need when he did not belong at that pick, or not smart enough, or the player really did not love football. Those are the players that fail. . . All teams have errors in the first round. There are first-round talents that fail because their addiction, ego or work ethic gets in their way. You can name those. . . Most new GM’s were not good scouts. Their decisions and record tell the tale.”
- “I’d say a quarter or maybe even a third of the time the player is not coached/developed like scouts think he should be. Happens all the time. Majority of the time, if you take a guy high, the player will at the very least have the traits — height, weight, speed, athleticism etc. — so it’s extremely hard for a scout when you feel he’s not getting developed properly. And maybe a third of the time you missed on the guy’s talent and he just wasn’t good enough, good as you thought he was. Another third, you miss on the person. You didn’t realize how the kid was wired, whether it’s toughness, motivation, mental capacity, whatever reason.”
- “Definitely, it is more often than not getting a bad match with a system or coaching staff, oh maybe would say 50/50. I have seen coaches and been told, ‘man, who do you want to make it? We totally control who plays and who looks good.’ Actually, (our defensive coordinator) told me that sitting with a couple of scouts one night. I saw it with (our head coach) and his staff. If you brought someone in they did not like, he had no chance. (That’s) totally why personnel and coaching has to be on the same page, because a lot of (coaches) do not like personnel guys telling them, ‘this guy is good,’ when what they saw they thought (at the Senior Bowl, or during limited film study), he stunk, wanting to prove they were right. (Our head coach was) totally like that. Oh, (our head coach was) nice and fun to scouts until there is a difference of opinion on a guy and he does not get the guy he wanted. But there are some (head coaches) who know that none of us are right 100% of the time, but they respect the process.”
Joe Romano said:
The idea that a coaching staff would sandbag a prospect to prove the scouting department and GM wrong is an amazing concept. I couldn’t see that happening too often. But, it does raise new questions. Now, when a player gets cut for poor performance but then goes on to a stellar career with another team, was it the coaching staff?