Overall, the Combine was a fantastic experience and we picked up a lot of information, found out more about the prospects in this year's draft than anyone probably needs to know (except you, of course), and have plenty of material and insight for the coming months... right up to Draft Day 2007.
One thing that I noticed in particular is that you tend to get more information and find out more about someone by talking to them in person and looking them in the eye. And, in the case of Gaines Adams and Jamaal Anderson, finding out exactly how slight their builds are.
There's a reason that every company on the planet conducts face-to-face interviews before they hire anyone. It's amazing what you can pick up just by watching someone's body language, observing how they respond to different questions, getting a sense for their speaking ability and how they carry themselves.
Obviously, none of these guys are going to be up for Toastmaster of the Year and that's not why they're there. But one thing that a lot of fans, owners, coaches, and members of the media forget is that football players are people, just like you and me. They're bigger, they're faster, they're considerably more athletic, but they're still people.
Which is why it was disheartening to see some members of the media complaining about the fact that the players didn't have any crazy moments or create any "hot sound bites" that could be used and distributed across the Internet and all major TV outlets. After all, these guys are people that are interviewing for jobs right out of college. Did you step too far outside the box when you were interviewing for your first job out of college? When you were interviewing for any job? Did you talk about the gravity bong you had your senior year, or the fact that your roommate set the unofficial World Record for "Most Keg Stands in One Night"?
Nope. You kept it vanilla. Talked about how you were just looking to get started, how you thought you were a great fit and would be an asset to the organization, and how you wanted to start at the ground floor and work your way up, hoping to make a career out of working there. And, seriously, how many people are still working at the same place that hired them right out of school?
My point is that, in today's NFL, there's so much talent, so much competition, and so much pressure, that a lot of success and failure is determined by coaching, intangibles, character, and football intelligence. And you can't find that just by looking at the tape. Or by seeing what type of vertical leap or 40 time or broad jump a prospect has.
One of the key aspects that separates the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers of the world from the Raiders, Lions, and Cardinals of the world is the ability to judge those types of traits and identify guys that have them. Successful teams seem to be able to see through all the noise, all the vanilla sound bites, and find guys that fit their team from a size, athletic ability, and character standpoint.
I met a lot of guys over the past few days that fit that profile and I never would have understood had I not been there and looked them in the eye. That knowledge is going to be passed down to you (with some analysis, obviously some 40 times, and discussion of game film) over the next two months.
Should be a lot of fun and, hopefully, Arizona will come out of it with the right group of guys.