The NFL combine, the best new reality show

The NFL combine, the best new reality show

The NFL combine is basically a mystery to all but diehard football fanatics. If you don’t follow the NFL, you likely have never even heard of it. However, the NFL combine should be a huge spectacle. You have some of the most athletic people in the world trying to prove their physical superiority for the opportunity to make millions of dollars a year playing a game. It’s basically the premise of a reality TV show. 

The current NFL combine consists of six drills designed to test the athletes’ physical prowess:

1.     40-yard dash

2.     Bench press

3.     Shuttle run

4.     Broad jump

5.     Three-cone drill

6.     Vertical Jump

While these six tests are great for determining whether you should get a shiny gold presidential sticker or the less sought-after National Fitness Award, a lot of them don’t have a direct football application. To make it worse, they’re about as interesting as gym class. There are world records being broken at the NFL combine, but the event has the entertainment value of a preseason game. So how about we give the combine a facelift? We’ll do it like a strongman competition, weighting the events to give both the fast guys and the big guys a chance for a million-dollar cash prize. (For extra fun, we’ll let in five average Joes to compete with the athletes for a shot at the million.)

Luckily, we don’t have to start from scratch with this, because the NFL got a lot of things right. After our changes, every event should meet three requirements. They should be:

1.     Relevant to the sport of football

2.     Accurate measures of explosiveness

3.     Fun to watch

The 40-yard dash

We want fast football players, and 40 yards is pretty close to the distance the special teams players run at full speed during a kickoff. The exercise measures explosiveness, it’s relevant to the game (at least for those players), and it’s fun to watch.

Explosiveness ✔

Relevant ✔

Fun to watch ✔

Verdict: Let’s keep it

The bench press

I don’t really understand how this became a thing. I’ve never seen a football player lay on his back during a football game and start pushing people off himself. Once you are on your back in football, you’re down. (Or you’ve been thoroughly pancaked.)

Obviously, the combine has players bench to test their upper-body strength. The exercise basically achieves that goal, but it has one huge problem. The bench press favors shorter arms, and thus may not be the best measure of functional strength/football ability.

Additionally, but far less important, the bench press is a viewing nightmare. Have you ever seen a bench press competition on television that was fun to watch? People want to see both the lifter’s face and the movement. To achieve both, you have to film from directly above, and let’s be real: that sucks.

I’ll give the bench press a check mark for explosiveness, because the longer you hold it, the harder it gets. But it’s not incredibly relevant to football, and it certainly isn’t fun to watch.

Explosiveness ✔

Relevant ✘

Fun to watch ✘

Verdict: Let’s change it

How about overhead push-press?

This exercise is far more relevant to football, because the players are on their feet and get to use their legs. It measures explosiveness much better than the bench, and it’s more fun to watch.

Shuttle run

The shuttle run is one of the most important movements in the combine. It’s a great stat for finding a running back, wide receiver, or even a linebacker. The drill measures agility, which is right there with power as the primary attribute of a great non-quarterback NFL player.  The shuttle run shows coaches how fast a player can run the distances that make up every down in the pros, so we have to keep it. It isn’t great for viewing, but the combine is for accurately assessing football skills, and the shuttle run does that in spades.

Explosiveness ✔

Relevant ✔

Fun to watch ✘

Verdict: Let’s keep it

Broad jump

The standing broad jump is a great exercise and something I think you see far too little of in the gym. It is also a great test of explosive power.  Although it pains me to say this about such an underrated exercise, the broad jump doesn’t belong at the NFL combine.

It is a little bit relevant to football—you’re moving forward with power—but it simply isn’t the type of movement players make during a game, unless you count a hurdle as a broad jump (it isn’t). Unfortunately, the broad jump isn’t fun to watch either.

Explosiveness ✔

Relevant ✘

Fun to watch ✘

Verdict: Let’s change it

How about sled pushes instead? They demonstrate strength in the same muscles as the broad jump, and pushing people back is 50 percent of the sport. Make it a race like the CrossFit games, and we have ourselves an event.

Three-cone drill

The three-cone drill is the opposite of the broad jump, because I wish it didn’t belong, but it does. It looks silly as hell, but it makes perfect sense to include. The drill tests an athlete’s ability to change direction at high speed, which is quite obviously a big part of the sport.  It’s not overly entertaining to watch, but there are worse events in the Olympics. 

Explosiveness ✔

Relevant ✔

Fun to watch ✘

Verdict: Let’s keep it (but tweak it)

How about we make the cones way bigger, like NFL player size and weight? This would not only make the drill more relevant, but also more fun to watch. This way there would also be an apt consequence more a misstep, being dropped by a cone.

Vertical jump

More than half the players use their vertical jump on the field, so therefore it is very relevant to football, as long as you’re not an interior lineman. Jumping definitely measures explosiveness, but it’s just OK to watch.

There is a reason that slam dunk contests and the Olympic high jump are more interesting. For starters, neither involves bitch-slapping a giant toothbrush. (Picture)

I say we keep the vertical jump but change the way it is measured. How about we get a big glass board and give all the players stickers with their face on them. Each contestant gets three stickers, and whoever plants the highest one wins. That would be fun to watch.

Explosiveness ✔

Relevant ✔

Fun to watch ✘

Verdict: Let’s keep it (but tweak it)

High jump, slam dunks, or stickers—let’s make this one a spectacle.

 

Overall, I’m not suggesting changing the combine that much—just some little things here and there to make it one part spectator sport, one part skill test, and two parts awesome. Advertisers would pay way more than the price of the purse to be a part of this action. Not that the NFL needs more money, but they’re always interested in it.  Additionally, I would love to watch that show, it is the highest form of trashy reality television.

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