I recently attended the Senior Bowl practices down in Mobile, AL. While sitting in the stands on Tuesday I was looking around during a break in the action. There were two Titans scouts to my left. There were a pack of Giants scouts to my right. Both Titans scouts were in their fifties. Several of the Giants scouts had gray hair. The Eagles have a young group of scouts in comparison.
Afterward, I asked a few friends what they thought of that. Were the Eagles scouts too young overall? Was there any real benefit to having older guys? There is no real definitive answer because there are so many unknown factors. Scouts just scout. They don't make picks. They don't coach the players. They simply identify talent. I've heard tales from some scouts of coaches or general managers coming into the draft process in mid-April and changing things. The draft board is set. Plans are made. Then you've got a coach who falls in love with a guy and demands that the team take him. Does anyone really think Eagles scouts really had Jon Harris with a first round grade back in 1997? That was all Ray Rhodes.
Draft problems could mean bad scouting, poor choices, and/or poor coaching. It isn't easy to identify what is what, in terms of problems. It is very tough on outsiders since we don't really know how things went down. Who do you blame for the Bryan Smith pick a few years back? Andy Reid approves all moves. Tom Heckert was the general manager and guy who set the draft board. Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator who was pushing for a pass rusher and approved. Pete Jenkins was the defensive line coach who really pushed for him. And somewhere in the mix was the area scout who did the initial report. Who screwed up? There is no right answer. That's just an example of the many layers that are involved in some picks.
My point here isn't to find specific fault with a part of the process so much as it is to wonder if there isn't something to be added by having an older person in the mix. I don't care if he is a scout or executive. Phil Savage is a consultant, but spends most of his time in Alabama, where he is the color analyst for Alabama football games. I don't really count him.
Ryan Grigson is off to run the Colts. The Eagles still need to fill his position. I assumed they would go from within, but nothing has happened yet so maybe they will look to the outside. If they do promote one of the scouts, maybe they could hire a scout from another team to come here as sort of a senior scout. There is also the possibility that a scout or other executive will leave when the draft is over to go work for Grigson in Indy. If that happens, then the team really ought to consider adding someone experienced.
This has nothing to do with Howie Roseman in terms of evaluation skills. This is all about experience. Someone who has been in the business for a long time has made his share of mistakes. If he's still in the business, he must be fairly competent, meaning that he was able to learn from his mistakes. There is a player in this draft named Janoris Jenkins. He played cornerback at Florida and looked like a sure first round pick. He got kicked off the team about a year ago and finished up at North Alabama. I don't question whether Roseman can evaluate his tape. I would love someone who has been around the block to help in assessing the situation. Is Jenkins a complete turd that the team should avoid at all costs? Is he a kid that the new Florida coach kicked out to make an example of? Can you trust him after paying him big bucks?
This is where I think experience is so helpful. An older scout or personnel executive can think back to other players in the past. He can compare Jenkins to Pac-Man Jones. That's clearly a player you would avoid. What about Laveranues Coles? He was kicked off Florida State's team, but really was a scapegoat in that situation. He ended up being a long time NFL player and never had one incident in the league. Heck, he actually became a high character guy and team leader. Roseman wasn't around for those situations. He can still study them, but that's not the same thing as having been a scout who actually had to make an evaluation of those players.
There is another benefit to adding an older person to the mix. Roseman doesn't have a network of scouting buddies. Most scouts are former players. Grigson played at Purdue. He could hire someone that played college ball with him. He could hire someone that he knew from his time in the CFL. Or he could hire someone that he befriended while on scouting trips for the Eagles. Scouts run into each other as they visit schools across the country. They develop friendships. They build up a network of contacts and buddies. As scouts leave here to take promotions elsewhere or to go work for a friend like Grigson, the Eagles will need to find replacements. Someone who has been in the business for a decade or more can make calls to some of his contacts. He can find out if there is a good young scout for a team that is being underpaid and that the Eagles could steal away. Or maybe there is a scout who isn't happy with his current team and would love to switch.
The other element that could be helpful would be adding someone from the outside who could lend his two cents on matters. The Eagles need to draft better. An outside set of eyes could talk about what he liked and what he didn't from recent years. The problem here is that as a new hire, the guy might not be comfortable saying anything critical. I don't know Roseman at all. I'm not sure if he's got thick skin and can really be tough on himself or if he's a high maintenance guy with a huge ego. I did appreciate some recent comments from him where he seemed to acknowledge that the team needed to identify poor picks and improve them in the future. There are some personnel guys who immediately go defensive and start lecturing the media and fans about how they don't know what really goes on. While football is more complicated than a lot of people think, it is still football and not brain surgery or splitting the atom.
The Eagles need to add one person to the personnel department. I hope they make that a person with at least a decade in the business. I get the feeling the Eagles have a pretty good set of scouts, but something is missing from the formula. Go get somebody who needs Grecian Formula so that he can bring experience and wisdom to the draft room. Can't hurt, right?
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One thing I did appreciate about watching the Eagles scouts in Mobile is that they worked. Some scouts were in the stands chatting and catching up with old friends. The Eagles guys were generally down by the field and were either with coaches or were alone. They were studying specific positions.
I spoke to one scout and asked him about a player that I wondered if the Eagles might have interest in. He said he hadn't watched the guy at all. The scout was focused on his one group of players. Might have been linebackers or it might have been safeties for example. I don't know what group it was, but I liked the fact he hadn't paid attention to peripheral things. As he told me, he would watch the practice tapes when he got home and work on other positions at that point.
One final note...most NFL scouts are young. A couple looked like college kids. That has really changed in the last decade or so. It used to be that scouts were older. Now teams are finding younger guys. There is a lot of travel and men with families can struggle with being on the road for half the year. Young guys don't have that issue.