Among the more over-hyped events on the sports calendar every year, the NFL Combine arrives in all of its glory this weekend. To say that the NFL Combine is all flash and no substance overstates the actual amount of flash involved. The sheer absurdity of the event has evolved over the years, with the result being that the Combine is almost a caricature of itself. The lasting image of any year could be a kicker bench-pressing, an overweight lineman running the 40, or the photo of an almost famous quarterback (see below.) But we all still get up for it don't we? Here are some of the reasons I simply have to watch the Combine (after the jump):
Ten Tard Fight - 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
1) Fat Guys Running the 40- This is the easy one...the easy joke, the easy punchline, the easy entertainment factor. But try for a second to let the ridiculous image of a 300-pounder racing up the field escape your brain...if you can. This event underlines the lunacy of the Combine. Listen, the elite linemen in any draft made their name by dominating opponents on the field. It's all on film. You can watch it, grade it and move on. Subjecting these guys to 40-yard dashes seems crazy. The likelihood of a guy moving up on your draft board because of an unexpected time in the 40 is probably not as great as the likelihood one of these guys has a heart attack. And God forbid one of them takes their shirt off. I remain convinced Bill Veeck is the man behind the idea to make linemen run the 40. What other explanation is there for this:
2) Fast Guys Running the 40 - Pure, unadulterated speed is just fun to see. Watching guys in their athletic primes assault the records each year for speed is a rush. When the receivers, running backs, and defensive backs pin their ears back and sprint up the sideline, we all pay attention. You can see how fast they are. You can tell they are flying. This is an area where guys impact their draft status the most I think. Guys who are supposed to be fast that fall short of expectations slip. Players who are far more blisteringly fast than previously thought rise. Teams fall in and out of love with these guys. If Russell Okung runs a slower than expected 40-yard dash, he is still going to be a top pick. But if a cornerback or running back being targeted for his speed comes up short, that is going to cost that player some serious dough.
3) The coach who administers the 40-yard dash - It is the same dude every year. Prize for the first person to tell me his name. In case you are wondering who he is...it is the guy with the great moustache who lines up the athletes at the front of the 40 yard dash and plays the role of sports psychologist for the guys who are clearly jumpy and nervous. He is great. You'll inevitably hear him say something like, "I just want you to get your best time," or "Calm down...calm down...you gotta hold it before you release...you got it?" I can't think of another face that I am more used to on the administration side of the combine.
4) Clip Show- The Combine is like Sportscenter on steroids. Sure, you have to endure all the "highlights" of offensive linemen and even kickers from all over the place. But the film on some of these athletes is simply amazing. The highlight reels for the elite defensive ends, for example, are generally stunning. Watching a 6'5", 275-pound dude break down his opponent to the tune of ridiculous sacks and behind-the-line tackles is fun. And they dig up the clips for guys who are not featured regularly on ESPN College Gameday. The steady diet of high-octane performances that capture the entire collegiate careers of these players keeps me tuned in and grabs my imagination as I wonder how (and if) these games translate into the pros.
5) Great background stories - I remember last year watching the reel for James Casey, a guy out of Rice. He had retired from professional baseball in 2006 and enrolled at Rice to pursue a career in football. He played SEVEN different positions in one game once against Southern Mississippi and accumulated rushing, passing, and receiving stats in both years he played at Rice. He lasted until the 5th round, which if I recall was about where everyone pegged him. But I know fans around the league that were tuned in were all imagining this guy on their team.
6) Jon Gruden - I am sure the guy has his detractors, but I am not one of them. When you are moving from the high jump to the body fat test, you need a guy on the set to keep the energy up. I am pretty sure he is going to be there again this year. Last February he was great. He is quickly turning into one of the more entertaining personalities on the air and his style, while repetitive at times, is certainly capable of injecting some life into an otherwise dull event like the Combine.
7) The Combine is a HUGE help to me for drafting my team on Madden- Of course there will be rookies in the Madden game that everyone knows will be good right away. But what about the guys who are iffy at best but have one or two crazy attributes that you could pick up at the end of the draft? A good example of what I mean: Michael Ray Garvin (cornerback out of FSU.) He was invited to the Combine last year but did not run. When they talked about Florida State (as they do), his name came up and his speed was mentioned. So I tuned in to his pro day scores. He ran a 4.24 40 yard dash. He went undrafted in the NFL and has bounced around as a free agent since, but I picked him up on my Madden team and he can absolutely fly. Same with offensive linemen. If you see a mediocre prospect destroy it on the bench press, you can be sure that in the Madden game, his strength is going to be high. Take a flier on him and coach him up.
8) Inter-league subplots- Even when there is nothing to report, when the camera pans to the stands and Bill Parcells is sitting in a section of the stadium alone with Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, and Bill Belichick, let the aimless conjecture begin! Of course, this exact scenario has yet to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that deals do get done at the Combine. It is fun to read into what these guys might be discussing, because they might actually be discussing a trade. They might be exchanging queso recipes, or making fun of a fat lineman. You just don't know.
9) My 9th reason can only be explained via picture:
10) It's the NFL...and it is just enough to hold us over to the start of free agency- Come on...you just finished watching two weeks of ice dancing, figure skating, and cross-country skiing. You mean to tell me you aren't ready for the NFL to wash all that away with fresh storylines, live coverage of mildly interesting action, and a toasty lead-up to the start of free agency?