There are still a few teams — the Saints, Patriots, Chargers and possibly Browns come to mind — that have openings in their respective scouting departments. At the same time, Memorial Day weekend signals the traditional end of hiring and firing season in NFL personnel departments.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the trends for 2018, and compare this year’s post-draft period to last year and previous seasons. All our information is culled from the Scouting Changes Grid we compile each season. This year’s grid is here. You can find all of the grids we’ve compiled since 2014 here.
- With new full-time GMs in New York, Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston and Green Bay, it was expected that this would be an incredibly busy offseason. So far, not so. Last year, we tracked a whopping 170 moves — hirings and firings, promotions and reassignments — and 126 in 2016. To date, we’ve tracked 89 moves.
- For a while, it looked like colleges would become the logical landing spot for ex-scouts, but we’ve only tracked two such hires (Tampa Bay’s Pat Perles to Kansas as an analyst and Atlanta’s Kevin Simon to Tennessee in a player development role) this offseason. Why? A new rule allowing a 10th coach on the field in college football is credited with pulling money away from the personnel side and into the coaching side.
- It’s getting harder and harder to get back into the league. We counted 30 members of scouting and personnel who got let go between the end of the ’16 season and start of the ’17 season, most of them last spring. Of that 30, only 10 are back in football as of this week. And only eight of them are back in the NFL (former Chiefs exec Will Lewis and ex-Titans scout Tim Ruskell are now GMs in the Alliance of American Football).
- Area scouts seem as disposable as ever, and maybe more so. Nine area scouts were let go after the ’17 draft. Only one — former Bills scout Shawn Heinlen, who was hired by the Eagles — is back in the league.
- The reason is that teams seem to be elevating their own people. We counted 11 area scouts hired this spring (though they have various specific titles), and of the 11, five — about half — were in-house hires as either promotions or reassignments.
- Staying in-house is actually part of a larger trend. Sixty people got hired to new jobs this spring. Of those 60, 24 didn’t have to change addresses. Again, almost half.
- At the same time that it’s hard to get a second job in scouting, loyalty isn’t always valued, either. Of the 23 scouts and executives dumped this offseason, eight had never worked for another team.
- Looking over the course of the last five years we’ve been tracking scouting changes, about 20 men get fired every year and don’t return. Those scouts vary in experience, time with team, and success of the team firing them. With about 250 jobs across the league in scouting and evaluation, that’s around 10 percent.
I wish I knew what to make of these numbers, but it’s hard to find trends, and our research and scope are still limited (five years and counting). At the end of the day, the only things to know are that it’s a volatile business; loyalty and personal relationships are critical; and once you get in, work as hard as you can not to get out.