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Old 04-27-2009, 07:21 AM   #1
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Default Pros vs. Joes...are fan opinions really worthless?

Twenty odd years ago when I first moved to Texas I lived in an upstairs appartment above an older man who used to scout for the San Francisco 49ers. He told me stories of bus trips in the 1970's staying in cheap hotels while he criss-crossed the country looking at players. He made less than most school teachers. It was very interesting...and it brings up a question:

Are fans universally uninformed, ignorant and clueless when it comes to recognizing future NFL talent they watch play on Saturday?

That's the prevailing logic used frequently as a fall-back reason to dispel the opinions of anyone daring to question what a local team does in the draft. We are after all..."not coaches" if this singular fact was sufficient to prove the point beyond all rebuttal and settle the issue. Don't question anything since you're not qualified to judge...guys who probably couldn't compete in many of the fields we work in are endowed with the traits of genius...because they're pros.

Few places outside sports allow for this same attitude. Most people won't hesitate to question doctors or lawyers if they think something's wrong. Polticians and ministers, auto mechanics, corporate CEO's, shrinks, sales people, IT techs, school teachers and bankers...none are considered immune from criticism. All have more industry specific knowledge than the consumers of their services.

When I was a kid I spent paper route money on Street & Smith, Athlon and Joel Buschbaum's Draft Report detailing the finer points of college prospects. Later I taped college games and laboriously worked my way through VHS footage running it back and forth like a film projector in a team meeting, looking for clues to who would and would not succeed. During the hundreds of hours spent watching the college guys play, like other NFL fans I identified favorites and sleepers. On draft day I carefully checked and rechecked each selection to see if they were worthy.

Depsite these crude tools, I actually did pretty well in predicting who would do well in the NFL...I remember doing this at 14.

Today we have a different game, and it's equipped with different technology. The web's changed everything. Street & Smith has been replaced by Google. The VCR's ancient history and digital video on the web is available for everything from the combine participants to guys jumping out of swimming pools and information populates the internet with thousands of sources of available. Dozens of scouting services and hundreds of reports are a click away. You can even download statistical analysis on convergent physical traits that offer scientific predictors of success for prospects. Two years ago after the draft I posted information that was outside the main press on our choices by searching through college student newspapers for data that flew beneath the radar. There is no such thing as a secret now, and if one exists it's almost always exposed sooner rather than later. We can find more information in 5 minutes than I could find in a month before the web.

On top of this, the words "crap shoot" has come to literally define the legendary failure that has come to characterize what professional teams find out every year; that no matter how much information they accumulate with multimillion dollar scouting budgets, it's still no garauntee they know what they're doing. Teams are frequently blinded by their own bias. Ownership interferes with decisions, often on the basis of money. Coaches listen to assistants who want a certain player for their own even if it's not the best for the team and even discount their own scouts opinions who have seen the players in action, or yield to temptation and pressure to win now rather than later. Only two teams in the NFL...New England and Pittsburgh...are currently thought to exceed the standards of most of their competitors. Yet somehow we persist in the notion that the "professionals" know what they're lowly fans can never achieve more than blind guesses.

The record suggests otherwise.

For every foolish decision made by an NFL team, hundreds of thousands of fans questioned it before hand, usually with their contrary opinions backed up by OTHER NFL teams who agreed with them. Guys passed by in the draft are reported on by fans who watched then in person and insisted they knew something. For every NFL scout there are hundreds of thousands of fans who also watch, observe, and utilize years of experience watching the game to form opinions, download millions of pieces of information and trade opinions on blogs and forums like this one in an ongoing international convergence of viewpoints that could easily be considered a think tank were it business or politics rather than sports being discussed.

Does any of this mean we're *just* as competent as the pros? No, I'm not suggesting that...but it does mean that fans are frequently more intelligent than given credit for by other fans, especially those who have watched the game over time. If you've been watching this game for decades, there's a good chance you have some decent knowlege and understanding of what it takes to succeed as an NFL player. Examine the resume of some NFL scounts and you'll find many times their experience covers only a few short years. Some had the approved degree...others knew the right connections or simply decided to look for a job in the NFL after they gained an appreciation for the game through experience just like the garden variety fan.

Bobby Turner's one of the greats at recognizing talent as his record here proves...he also thought enough of Maurice Clarett that Shanahan drafted him.

Nobody is above being open to critique...nobody.

Last edited by footstepsfrom#27; 04-27-2009 at 07:28 AM..
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:23 AM   #2
Steve Sewell
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