I’m always approached by young people who hope to be NFL scouts, and they often ask, what’s the best way to be hired? It’s a tough question to ask because no two teams look exactly alike when it comes to scouting.
With that in mind, we decided to look at the 12 teams who qualified for the NFL playoffs last year in hopes of identifying the template for good scouting and evaluation. What is the common thread between the Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Titans and Bills in the AFC, plus the Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints, Panthers and Falcons in the NFC?
First off, we have to reduce the teams under the microscope to 11 as the Panthers neither publish their scouts and their assignments on their website or publish a media guide with that information. So we’ll take a look at the other teams.
GM stability: This is a really hard factor to measure. There were teams in the playoffs like the Patriots and Saints that, technically, have had the same GM in place for the last two decades. While New England’s Bill Belichick is in a class by himself and not your typical GM, New Orleans’ Mickey Loomis is not your traditional, in-charge-on-draft-day kind of GM, and the team’s fortunes didn’t really turn around until Assistant GM Jeff Ireland was hired. In fact, if there’s a trend, it’s away from the centralized decision-making as several of the GMs in the playoffs last year have either had their personnel power stripped or haven’t been around long enough to really be judged (Buffalo’s Brandon Beane and Kansas City’s Brett Veach have been on the job two years or less).
Director-level scouts and executives: How many of these teams are loaded with chiefs and less-needful of Indians? There’s no real consensus, but it seems that less is more. The Patriots, a team that’s got most of its power in a tight circle around Belichick, has just three director-level members of its scouting staff. So do the Titans, led by former Patriots executive Jon Robinson. The Bills, Vikings, Saints and Steelers each have four. On the other end of the spectrum are the Jaguars and Eagles with seven each.
Total scouts: Again, no team defines every evaluator the same way. However, when counting actual ‘scouts’ in the 11 front offices — not people who are managing and making decisions, but those who are doing base-level evaluation of players — the magic number seems to be 10. The Steelers, Rams, Titans, Jaguars and Bills all have 10 members of their staff who seem to be primarily scouts, while the Vikings have 11. On the other end of the spectrum, the NFC champion Eagles have six and the Chiefs have eight.
To get a fuller picture of how teams build their scouting departments, looking at the average and the median number of scouting interns, national scouts, regional scouts, pro scouts, area scouts and more, check out the numbers on our website, and better yet, check out our analysis of each of the NFL’s scouting departments in today’s Friday Wrap. It will be out later this evening, and it’s easy to register.
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