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Polian's Take on the Combine
Combine preparation key to players' success, decision-makers frustration
By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
February 23, 2005
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian will spend hours questioning draft prospects starting Thursday at the NFL combine.
Sometimes, frustratingly, he already knows the answers.
The combine, which runs through Monday in Indianapolis, was once an opportunity for league scouts and decision-makers to see whether players could withstand the rigors of playing in the NFL on and off the field.
Now, Polian believes, the pre-draft event has become more of a game between a team's braintrust and the agents representing players.
"I can tell who has trained them,'' Polian said. "There's a situation there and as you listen to the talking points, you think you've turned on Chris Matthews.''
Being able to draw comparisons to a cable TV political talk show was not the way Polian envisioned the proving ground when the league's two biggest scouting services merged, turning the event into a marathon weekend of workouts, interviews, aptitude tests and medical checks.
But these days, it's all about preparation.
Many pro prospects stop attending classes when their college playing careers end and join agents who help set up training sessions. Nothing, seemingly, is left to chance.
Quarterback Adrian McPherson, one of agent Leigh Steinberg's clients this year, has spent the last four months working out with a personal trainer in California. He's not only prepared his body, but also his mind like high school students do for SAT tests.
"We bring in a former general manager to prepare for interviews,'' Steinberg said. "We give physicals with our own doctor so they're prescreened if there are any problems.''
Similar pre-combine workouts are now commonplace throughout the nation and may have helped some players improve their stock.
Last year, defensive end Igor Olshansky's weightlifting performance in Indianapolis helped him become a second-round pick of the San Diego Chargers. Olshansky started for AFC West champs.
What Polian dislikes is that the preparation has produced more canned responses and less candor.
"These kids have been well-prepared for the interview process,'' Polian said. "So we tend to put less stock in the interviews than maybe some other people do.''
Another complaint is that most of the top prospects don't participate in the running, throwing and myriad of other on-field tests in Indianapolis -- even after months of preparation.
Polian and his colleagues around the league have tried to assuage concerns by testing times on the RCA Dome surface and cajoling players and agents to get more players to work out.
"We've tried everything and nothing works,'' Polian said. "What a player is faced with is the question 'Do I listen to the agent?' Then he has to ask, if he waits for that personal workout, 'What do I do if I have a bad day?' "
The workouts in Indianapolis, and the evaluation process, are essential to NFL success.
Polian said he has tracked draft choices for 26 years and free-agent signees for 10, and his math shows there is a small but significant margin for error.
Average teams are right 50 about percent of the time. Playoff and Super Bowl teams make the right call 56 or 57 percent of the time. And those teams that keep drafting in the top 10 make the right choice only 42 percent of the time.
"You're dealing with humans, so it's not an exact science,'' Polian said of making the right calls. "But if you bat .560 in the personnel business, you'll be in the playoffs every year.''
The latest wrinkle for Polian and others to ponder are the interviews.
Questions are usually designed to probe a prospect's ability to reason, react quickly, and find out more about a player's background.
But if Polian starts getting the answers he expects, that may be all he needs to cut an interview short.
"The one thing I place less emphasis on is the interview because the other stuff is clear and measurable,'' Polian said. "I'm not a psychologist. But in the end, the important thing is how he plays football, not how you do in shorts and T-shirts.''
Pretty interesting to see the difference between how often average teams are right compared to successful playoff teams.
Originally Posted by gwallaia
God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.