As the spread offense continues to evolve, and things like RPOs become more and more common, and coaches get more and more creative, the job of NFL talent evaluators becomes more and more difficult, and a piece from The State points out some of the challenges that the NFL is facing.
San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke notes in the piece that, “The college game is quite a bit different than the game we play, especially on the line of scrimmage."
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians took that analysis a step further at the NFL combine by noting that NFL coaches are having to teach things that they've never had to teach before.
"The athletes are much, much better, but the fundamentals are worse than they've ever been." Arians explained.
Arians could be referring to a number of things there, but think about the number of college football programs that have their offensive lineman consistently get in a three-point stance, or the number of tight ends at the college level that actually play with their hand in the dirt. Programs that do that are few and far between, making the evaluations of those positions difficult, and forcing NFL coaching staffs to teach some things that they're not necessarily used to.
That begs the question; Do college coaches have a responsibility to prepare guys for the NFL? Or does their responsibility lie more in putting their players in positions to win as many games as possible?
Our audience knows better than anyone that the bottom line for college coaches is that they're paid to win games and, to a certain degree, create excitement. So while slinging it around and playing out of the shotgun 80-90% of the time may muddy the waters for NFL scouts trying to evaluate talent, the NFL has the choice to either adapt, or keep whining about it.
And every year in the weeks leading up to the combine and the draft, their decision on that matter is crystal clear.
The article in The State recommends that a minor league NFL system may provide an answer of sorts for the NFL by creating a league of similar schemes, but it seems like every off season a new league professing to be the NFL's minor league system pops up, and it usually fades away within a season or two due to a lack of funding or a lack of interest (or a combination of the two). So until they have one actually pan out and plant some sustainable roots, NFL coaches and personnel guys will have to continue to rely on the college level as their feeder system.
Football is rare, because it is one of the only sports where schemes trickle from the high school level up. High school coaches get super creative to maximize the talent that they have year to year, and then college coaches take note and put their own spin on it. But many of those great ideas and schemes get left on the cutting room floor at the NFL level. The NFL has just been historically resistant to changes in schemes.
Sure, some stuff gets adapted here and there, but when you're pulling guys from some of the most explosive offenses that football has ever seen, I will never understand why NFL guys refuse to adapt to the personnel that they're investing millions of dollars in.