The NFL’s annual scouting combine gets underway today in Indianapolis, with offensive linemen, kickers, punters and tight ends working out in front of the largest media contingent in the history of the event. We’ll keep tabs on what goes down as the Combine moves forward, but we’re not overly excited about it.
Why? Because the Combine is mostly smoke and mirrors. And let’s face it: the Combine is as boring as the state of Indiana. The majority of NFL Network’s live coverage is devoted to talking heads like Jamie Dukes blabbering on about anything that pops into their noggins. It’s nauseating.
Because the NFL is untouchable, the thing still gets wonderful television ratings. But that doesn’t mean the event and the coverage of the event don’t have room to improve. Here are several ways — some realistic, some completely unrealistic — to make the Combine experience better for fans everywhere:
Mic up players: Find the kind of guys who are sure to entertain, like Auburn’s Nick Fairley, and wire them for sound. Cover them the entire time, HBO 24/7-style, and air a half-hour wrap each day. Three or four players would be all you need.
Make the Wonderlic live: Have players take the test on live television. It only takes five minutes. Turn it into a real competition, a la “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” or “The Weakest Link.” Who wouldn’t watch this? What’s that? The players would never allow it? Whatever…
Don’t hold it in Indianapolis: Who holds an event in Indy in February? Are you kidding me? The Combine would be so much sweeter if it were held in South Florida or Southern California or Texas. Anywhere with sun. How ’bout Arizona? The Cardinals have a state-of-the-art facility with a retractable roof to account for rain. And if it’s in a sunny, coastal area, involve beaches and sand. Just make it happen.
Simulcast coverage with the Lingerie Football League Combine: If they don’t have a Combine, get them a Combine.
Involve robots: If Watson can compete on Jeopardy, why not involve a robot or two in the events at the Combine? That would bring in a slew of new viewers. Man vs. machine: it doesn’t get any better than that.
Play actual football: As has been pointed out a thousand times, the Combine doesn’t accurately measure future success in football because most of the drills have nothing to do with the sport. How often does an NFL player have to run 40 yards in a straight line? The Combine would be far more interesting if they’d work in some seven-on-seven drills.
Hand out medals: Gold, silver and bronze, just like the Commonwealth Games and several other major international sporting competitions that don’t immediately come to mind. They need to make this thing more competitive.
Involve Ines Sainz: A big part of the Combine is team personnel trying to see if players can handle the media and the spotlight and the media spotlight. Have Sainz there in a wedding dress. What could go wrong?
Get players to live tweet: This would be a super-duper way to help the league’s future stars gain exposure. The NFL could promote the verified Twitter accounts of participants who choose to tweet as they go about the events.
Gymnastics: Where’s the pommel horse? I want my Combine to have uneven bars and flying rings. Think: Vince Vaughn in Old School. I can’t explain why this would help teams get a feel for how good players will be.
Speed walking: This one’s obvious.
Heart-rate monitors: Watching guys run the shuttle would be much more entertaining if you could see how exhausted they were. I think.