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Checkmate Scaling Blog/Tips to Identify Scouts at All Star Games and Stand Out from the Competition

Tips to Identify Scouts at All Star Games and Stand Out from the Competition

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

If you were to attend an all-star game in the early 2000s, scouts didn’t have to wear their team-logoed wind suits to know who they were. They were the ones with thinning (or no) hair, long in the tooth and (often) long in the waistband. In other words, they were riding out their final years in football as scouts, but they were coaches at heart.

This is because, In most cases, they were hired when a friend got hired to coach an NFL team and needed a trusty (and friendly) eye who knew a certain area extensively. More often than not, it was a former Big Ten coach who lived in Ohio, or a former SEC coach who lived in North Florida, or even an ex-Big Sky coach who lived in Idaho. These scouts were the voices of experience, and never arrived at a school without dozens of friends he could mine to gather information.

Those days are gone. These days, if you show up at an all-star game, you might not know the scouts from the players. More often than not, it’s because they were themselves on the field not too long ago. They’re far younger and often still in shape. This is true for a number of reasons.

  • ​Scouting departments have expanded significantly in the last 10 years. In the 70s, a team’s scouting department might have 4-5 members. Now, your average team has 20 evaluators between the college and pro staff, including the lower-level members like scouting assistants and interns. As staff sizes have increased, budgets have remained limited. Younger scouts demand less pay.
  • The Patriots under Bill Belichick have had a centralized evaluation model. Belichick’s plan has most often been to hire young and/or inexperienced road scouts, then ask them not to come back with opinions, but hard numbers: heights, weights, 40 times, arrests, suspensions, schools played for, positions played, injury histories, etc. As New England built a dynasty, other teams copied their model.
  • ​As scouts and executives have become more visible, there have been calls to create pipelines for scouts to climb the ladder to GM. This has led to more younger hires, often from Ivy League schools, often minority. It’s no longer the guy who was across the field from the head coach in his younger days. It’s often someone who was first part of a Nunn-Wooten Fellowship, impressed the right people, then got promoted. Maybe it’s someone who came from the league office. It’s very different from how it was a couple decades ago.

Here’s the bottom line: If you make the right relationships, you can grow with people as you grow. It’s no longer necessary to connect with someone who has four decades in the game and hoping for a smooth ride into retirement. As a young, rising person in the industry, this is probably to your benefit.

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