Coaches Play Key Role in Evaluation
INDIANAPOLIS – Last year at this time, as Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur put it, he was in “scramble mode” assembling a new staff and putting together an offense to match the strengths of a group of players he was just beginning to know.
With the getting-to-know-you phase behind him following a 13-3 season that reached the NFC Championship Game, the coaches are helping the scouts get to know this year’s group of draft prospects.
“They’re very much a part of the evaluation piece for us,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday. “Here at the Combine, the big part for me that’s really, really important is the informal interviews.”
This year, the league revamped the Scouting Combine process. While many of those changes – namely, the primetime workouts – were meant for television ratings, other changes have gained an early approval from Gutekunst. While the number of formal interviews are down from 60 to 45, the length of time for those interviews is up from 15 minutes to 20. Moreover, more interview time has been created. As Gutekunst described it on Friday, each position group will have a block of time with just the position coaches and the players at that position.
“They sit down with them; they talk a lot of football with them,” Gutekunst said. “So, their impressions with the guys after we get back after being down here are very important to me. If they don’t match up consistently to what our scouts had on the road, it allows us to go back and dig a little deeper and figure out what that player is and how he fits for us.”
Gutekunst also will give the position coaches a select group of players to study. It’s not necessarily a top-10 list but a group of players that he is seeking more input.
LaFleur will get involved, too. While he’s got plenty on his plate – he needs to hire a receivers coach to round out his coaching staff and he’s trying to trim the verbiage so quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to spend so much time in the huddle calling the play – he’ll “pick and choose” the prospects he’ll examine.
As a former college quarterback and former quarterbacks coach, it’s no secret which players he likes to examine.
“I love looking at quarterbacks,” he said with a smile. “You can never look at enough quarterbacks. That’s certainly an area that every year you take a little bit more of a look at.”