Matt Waldman’s RSP Film Room uses his 50-yard touchdown pass by 2019 NFL Draft prospect Gardner Minshew II to discuss the importance of defining your evaluation criteria before scouting players.
Imagine you’re a head coach for an NFL team that needs a quarterback. During preliminary meetings with your organization’s scouting director and general manager in December, the three of you have agreed that a quarterback with a strong vertical game is a priority within the first three rounds.
Your involvement in the pre-draft process doesn’t include preliminary scouting and board building. The scouting direct and general manager only bring you into the process after they have identified five passers who fit the criteria.
You review the scouting reports they provide on these five passers and you see various summaries of vertical passing talent:
- “Possesses an accurate deep arm and an aggressive mindset to attack defenses vertically.”
- “Delivers the ball within a range of 50 yards up the sideline.”
- “Displayed the arm strength to throw the fade to the opposite sideline 52 yards against Wisconsin.”
- “Has the arm strength to deliver the post 40 yards on a rope.”
Being the diligent coach you are, you take these reports, access the film on each, and meet with your offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Three players in, you and your staff are not happy because none of them can throw the deep ball.
How can that be? The general manager and scouting director are respected football men that you’d never think to question their acumen for the game.
The problem is when it comes to evaluating football talent, most people have it backward. They’re focused on how to spot players and give little thought to the structure of their evaluation process — if they even have a process. In the example above, the issue is lack of well-defined criteria shared by the scouts, front office, and coaches.
The scouts defined arm range and accuracy differently than the coaching staff. The scouts saw completed passes 35-45 yards from the quarterback’s throwing point against Cover 1 and Cover 0 and that was enough to qualify the passer for the big board.
The general manager went along with the scouts and it wasn’t discovered until later that he was counting yardage depth of pass from the line of scrimmage and not the pitch-point.
You and your staff had two tiers for the long passing game — vertical (29-43 yards) and deep (44+). You were looking for deep passing that included the ability to deliver pinpoint post routes that split Cover 2 at the deep range stated above.
None of these passers met that criteria despite this being an essential part of the offense your coordinator wants to run because it fits the skills of the rest of your offense.
The lack of well-defined criteria for scouting often leads to scenarios of miscommunication that can lead to the acquisition of players who don’t fit the team’s needs. While it’s important to have different voices and ideas in the room, they should all have a clear and common understanding of exactly what they’re seeking.
It’s why one of the first things any evaluator of talent should do is define his performance criteria. Even if you don’t implement changes to your criteria once a year — or longer — this should be a continuous process throughout the career lifetime of the evaluator.
And if your employers don’t do this, it would be helpful if you figure out how the key people in your organization define what it’s seeking from the position. If you can’t define the skills, techniques, and processes you’re studying in writing, you lack a clear understanding of what you’re seeking.
Many organizations don’t want to engage in this work because it requires a lot of extra time away from current tasks that are more pressing. However, it’s exactly this fundamental process that sets the groundwork for efficient and insightful evaluation that the entire organization can embrace.
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