With hundreds of players, coaches and media members descending upon Indianapolis each March, the Scouting Combine has existed, in some form, for over 40 years. While the Combine began with good intentions, providing an entry point for draft hopefuls looking to showcase their talents in front of scouts, the novelty has worn off in recent years, with players subject to excruciating interviews, enduring invasive, at times dehumanizing questions from evaluators who judge them as harshly as show dogs vying for podium status at Westminster.
While others may treat it as harmless fun, a gathering of the nation’s top draft prospects on the heels of similar festivities in Mobile (home to the annual Reese’s Senior Bowl) and various stops along the Pro Day circuit, DeMaurice Smith, who has represented the NFLPA as executive director since 2009, sees it much differently, lamenting the Scouting Combine as an exercise in exploitation.
“As soon as you show up, you have to waive all of your medical rights and you sit there and endure embarrassing questions,” said Smith, as transcribed by ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss. “I think that’s horrible.”
Troy Vincent, a former player who now serves as the league’s executive vice president of football operations, expressed a similar sentiment weeks earlier, condemning the Combine as a “slave auction” at the NFL's recent owners’ meetings in Texas.
“Would you want your son to spend hours inside of an MRI [machine] and then be evaluated by 32 separate team doctors who are, by the way, only doing it for one reason? What's the reason? To decrease your draft value,” Smith argued, presenting the cynical view that Combine participants are setting themselves up for failure, with little to gain and everything to lose. “We're now in an era where we know exactly how fast these guys can run, how much they can lift, how far they can jump, do all of those things. Why do we insist on them showing up in Indianapolis? It's not for anything physical, right? It's for the teams to be able to engage in intrusive employment actions that don't exist anywhere else."
Far removed from its humble beginnings, the Combine has devolved into a made-for-television spectacle, a needed content-driver amid one of the slower periods on the league calendar. The NFL does its best to dress up what is essentially a track meet run by college seniors in their underwear, but buried beneath all the pomp and circumstance is an event that has probably outlived its usefulness, serving as a convenient excuse for gossiping executives to spend the week gladhanding and schmoozing over late-night cocktails at St. Elmo’s.
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