When the NFL Combine in its current iteration emerged, it was a great idea. But in 2008 the Combine has outlived its usefulness and relevance. Kind of like punk rock. I love musical analogies, so hang with me for a second.
When punk rock came to the forefront in the 1970s, it was a much-needed cold slap in the face. The Clash, The Sex Pistols, early Billy Idol and his Generation X, the New York Dolls, Devo, and others provided a refreshing and angry alternative to the scrubbed-clean, corporate and over-produced sounds of disco. It was edgy and counter-culture and gave people something that they were starved for.
However, other, non-punk musical artists caught on to the opportunities to rip-off punk riffs and sounds, and as a result the “alternative” offered by punk became perverted and misused by the mainstream, while becoming the mainstream. And as happened with the disco movement that was all the rage before punk - and hair bands, grunge and rap since – punk became meaningless as it assimilated into the pop mainstream.
Except for the Police, and maybe Billy Idol, that had the foresight to move on, the other punk bands were relegated to the scrap heap of musical history. And I know there are some punk anthems that still resonate to this day, they still don’t have the impact they had back in the day. Ostensibly, punk was ruined by popularity.
Billy Idol gave us “Day by Day” with Generation X, but he also gave us “Eyes Without a Face,” “Cyberpunk,” and the title song for the movie Speed.
The NFL Combine is like punk rock and has followed the same evolutionary path.
Back in the early 1980s, the “Tower of Babel” approach taken by NFL personnel people was streamlined and packaged to help provide talent evaluators with meaningful “measureables” by which to evaluate talent. It was a great idea and a necessary move to better-quantify the clues that were part of the talent hunt that culminate in the NFL Draft.
The Combine helped to standardize some things that needed to be standardized.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Indianapolis, which is now the home of the NFL Combine. What started out as a simple exercise to get some uniform medical info from the top-level draft picks – 163 guys in Tampa in 1982 – has morphed into a muscle-mill of NFL prospects. What started out as a somewhat obscure clerical effort, the NFL Combine is now marketed as “a vital step in achieving the dream of playing in the NFL,” and is now considered “must-see TV” by football fans and a “must-be-there” event for any kid with aspirations of playing in the NFL.