The bane of the NFL’s existence, the NFL Draft Combine, begins in mind-numbing boredom this week. As recently as a few years ago, the combine was nothing but a figment of fans’ imaginations — times, reps and distances printed in a paper or quoted during the draft. Now, it’s part of the NFL’s attempt to be relevant for 366 days of the year. (Don’t forget it’s leap year!)
The combine is reminiscent of the draft in that for years no one figured it would make for entertaining television. Unlike with the draft, however, they were right. While the draft has the built-in drama of a schoolyard pick and hopeful fans believing this is going to be the guy who changes the direction of their franchise, the combine is about as interesting as watching injured football players go through rehab.
How awful is the combine? Let us count the ways:
1. Entertainment: I’d rather be forced to watch college football signing day, the Pro Bowl, a regular-season NBA game not involving the Warriors, a continuous scroll of Kanye tweets and a recording of a Coldplay concert, all showing on one screen while I’m locked down Clockwork Orange style, rather than sit and watch the combine.
2. Value: We don’t even know how much teams value it. It seems to me that if you had 42 games of tape on a player (the amount you’d have for a healthy junior, with 28 for a redshirt junior and 56 for a senior, give or take), that would take infinite precedence over a standing broad jump. I mean, can you imagine this discussion going on in NFL war rooms?
Scout: “He comes off the edge like a freight train. When he played [an All-American tackle] last year, he just man-handled him. Man-amongst-boys type of thing. He’s healthy. He’s energetic. And his coaches say he just soaks up everything you tell him. Dude just loves to put on the pads.”
Scout 2: “I don’t know. His vertical and shuttle were weak.”
3. Boredom: Do you know what’s more boring than watching a guy do reps of 225 on the bench press? Guys doing a standing broad jump. Do you know what’s more boring than watching a guy do a standing broad jump? A guy doing the vertical jump. And do you know what’s more boring than a guy doing the vertical jump? NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL.
4. The Marquee Event Sucks. Just like at the Olympics, the sprints are the “best in show” at the combine. Unlike the Olympics, that’s solely because everything else is awful at the combine, so the slightly-less-awful 40 wins by default. That doesn’t mean it’s not terrible, though. The easiest way to tell the combine isn’t a made-for-TV event is that the 40 consists of guys just running 40 yards without competition.
Imagine watching the Kentucky Derby but with only one horse running at a time. Who’d watch that, right? Yet in that case, there’d at least be mile splits to compare and lengths to monitor. The 40 is a gunshot race. It’s over before you know it and if you didn’t have an onscreen clock or announcers you’d have no idea what the difference between a 4.3 and a 4.5 was. There’s a reason Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps race people. It’s because it’s enjoyable.
And anyway, why the 40? It clearly benefits the handful of players with a track background (it’s all in the start) and has no practical usage beyond combine comparisons. Make the guys run with the ball. Make them run crossfield. Make them do anything but run in a straight line. Granted, we all know the correlation between speed and receiving abilities, which is why all those 1980s and 1990s Raiders receivers are in the Hall of Fame.
5. Can It Be Fixed? Yeah, end it. Complete fix.
But that’s not going to happen. So if the NFL is content with the ratings it’s getting for the combine, then Princess Elsa it and let it go. (Sorry, I’ve had a sick baby for a week. LOTS of Frozen which, incidentally, I’d rather watch for the 75th time than watch the combine.) If the league wants to bring in new viewers, however, here are some possibilities:
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Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII
“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”
The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.
Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.
Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.
Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.
Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.