Why the original intent of the annual NFL Combine was to save money and centralize the scouting function, it has become big business and must-watch TV for football-starved fans.
The annual dog and pony show, which is lovingly called “the underwear Olympics,” but officially called the NFL Scouting Combine has once again landed in Indianapolis. And while many fans could care less, the NFL Combine money-making machine churns on as we get ready for the league’s new year.
A chance for 300+ college athletes to strut their stuff in front of all 32 teams has been a mainstay in Indianapolis since 1987 and has always ginned up draftniks and hardcore fans alike. But ultimately, it’s a stage for aspiring NFL players to make their mark.
It doesn’t matter if you are a small school DB or a Heisman winning QB, the combine gives everyone their chance to make a big enough impression to improve their draft stock and make themselves a ton of money. While some players continue to limit their participation, it’s still an opportunity for many to get noticed.
With the rise of high profile players choosing to pass on drills, and many teams cutting down on personal sent to the combine, many will ask if it is still needed at all. Well, the combine is here to stay and it is here to stay for the very same reason it was started: money.
Tex Schramm was the president and GM of the Dallas Cowboys when he proposed a way to centralize the scouting process. Before each individual team would go around and set up their own workouts. This process meant that teams would have to cut down on the numbers of players they scouted because of both time and financial constraints.
At the beginning of the process, three camps were started – all three would be combined into what we now know as the NFL Scouting Combine in 1985 for the main purpose of cutting the cost of running three different camps.
When the NFL decided to start their own television network in 2003, the biggest question would be how do you fill all the time. Developing content was going to be paramount during the offseason when you have no highlights to show.
The idea of showing the combine drills was a cheap and easy way to fill a week of the calendar for the network. Little did anyone know football fans would have a thirst for anything football, even if it was just drills. Television ratings have soared over the years will and it moved to prime time.
Fans increasingly put stock into somewhat meaningless drills and exercises because they see them on TV. While it does wet the football appetite of us rabid football fans during the offseason, much of this is now for show. With increased metrics and analytics, and technology improvements over the last 30 years, NFL teams go into the combine already knowing must of what they need to know about a college prospect.
There is a laundry list of players that have come to Indy and made themselves some serious money by blowing up the combine. For some of these players, it is their only chance to make their mark and have a chance to keep their dream alive.
Luckily for them, they do not have to worry about the combine going anywhere because not only did the NFL find a vehicle that saves them money, but they also found one to make their teams and owners money too.