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Falling Through The Cracks

job and reputation on the line whenever he recommends someone no one else is high on, the unknown certain to create anxiety. The same risk is taken when he takes a stand to "kill" a player a coach is enamored with. A scout who says what he believes rather than what he is "supposed to say," is a very valuable scout. 

These decisions can make or break a scout's career. All of the staff remembers everything that is said and who recommended whom. Nowadays, teams even tape these conversations so there is nothing mistaken after the fact.  

The evaluations are hashed and rehashed until all participating are near brain damage. In one meeting for the Broncos when I was an assistant there, I counted 57 people in this one large classroom intently tuned into each discussion. There are so many different ways to describe whether the player is ready for prime time. 

I used to entertain myself by visualizing figuratively how a player is described:   

  •   "He runs like he's ducking bullets!" 
  • "He is good in a small box." 
  • "He can't play with his knees bent." 
  • "He's on his heels when he runs." 
  • "He has trouble keeping his feet under him."     

About three weeks before the draft, once all of the written and verbal reports are in, videos have been exhausted and a couple of one-on-one player meetings have been held, the "slotting" begins. 

Every player that is even remotely being considered has his own magnetized name plate, complete with school, position, size and a couple of critical grades easily visible from the back of a room. 

The plates are then mounted in order from projected greatness down to possible back-up player. It is not slotted by a position of need for the team. It is based purely on the player's value at his position against another player either at that same position or another position. The best football player is slotted ahead of the best player at a position the team is weak on. 

Tony Romo went to the combine to get studied, but did not get drafted. Was it because he was from a small program or that he does not meet the "perfect size" for a quarterback? What needs to be addressed is not how he fell through the cracks, but that he did fall . . . and still made it. 

This does not happen often. Dallas has had some crown jewels: Take Dallas legends Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson. Neither must have impressed scouts, and consequently were not drafted. But given a chance, they willed their way to NFL careers - both great players but they were not the norm.  

They represent the great human celebration of accomplishment of overcoming adversity and compensating for perceived inadequacies in one area by excelling in others. It's hard as a scout to put his job on the line by recommending a player who falls below the minimum standards in size and quality of competition.  

The intangible traits ingrained in a football player might be the very most important grade that is overlooked. Because the game is so very emotional, the fight in a man weighs heavily on his performance. But, it cannot be quantified. 

Literally, I guess you can measure the size of a man's heart, but from that heart floods out an immeasurable amount of passion. Trained properly, that funneled desire manifests itself in a fire, fight and force that fuel him and others around him to accomplish greatness. 

If I were scout, I'd sum up Romo with: "This guy is a JEDI Master."                         

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