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Is The NFL Combine Worth Watching?

Jason Barrett

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The bane of the NFL’s existence, the NFL Draft Combine, begins in mind-numbing boredom this week. As recently as a few years ago, the combine was nothing but a figment of fans’ imaginations — times, reps and distances printed in a paper or quoted during the draft. Now, it’s part of the NFL’s attempt to be relevant for 366 days of the year. (Don’t forget it’s leap year!)

The combine is reminiscent of the draft in that for years no one figured it would make for entertaining television. Unlike with the draft, however, they were right. While the draft has the built-in drama of a schoolyard pick and hopeful fans believing this is going to be the guy who changes the direction of their franchise, the combine is about as interesting as watching injured football players go through rehab.

How awful is the combine? Let us count the ways:

1. Entertainment: I’d rather be forced to watch college football signing day, the Pro Bowl, a regular-season NBA game not involving the Warriors, a continuous scroll of Kanye tweets and a recording of a Coldplay concert, all showing on one screen while I’m locked down Clockwork Orange style, rather than sit and watch the combine.

2. Value: We don’t even know how much teams value it. It seems to me that if you had 42 games of tape on a player (the amount you’d have for a healthy junior, with 28 for a redshirt junior and 56 for a senior, give or take), that would take infinite precedence over a standing broad jump. I mean, can you imagine this discussion going on in NFL war rooms?

Scout: “He comes off the edge like a freight train. When he played [an All-American tackle] last year, he just man-handled him. Man-amongst-boys type of thing. He’s healthy. He’s energetic. And his coaches say he just soaks up everything you tell him. Dude just loves to put on the pads.”

Scout 2: “I don’t know. His vertical and shuttle were weak.”

3. Boredom: Do you know what’s more boring than watching a guy do reps of 225 on the bench press? Guys doing a standing broad jump. Do you know what’s more boring than watching a guy do a standing broad jump? A guy doing the vertical jump. And do you know what’s more boring than a guy doing the vertical jump? NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL.

4. The Marquee Event Sucks. Just like at the Olympics, the sprints are the “best in show” at the combine. Unlike the Olympics, that’s solely because everything else is awful at the combine, so the slightly-less-awful 40 wins by default. That doesn’t mean it’s not terrible, though. The easiest way to tell the combine isn’t a made-for-TV event is that the 40 consists of guys just running 40 yards without competition.

Imagine watching the Kentucky Derby but with only one horse running at a time. Who’d watch that, right? Yet in that case, there’d at least be mile splits to compare and lengths to monitor. The 40 is a gunshot race. It’s over before you know it and if you didn’t have an onscreen clock or announcers you’d have no idea what the difference between a 4.3 and a 4.5 was. There’s a reason Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps race people. It’s because it’s enjoyable.

And anyway, why the 40? It clearly benefits the handful of players with a track background (it’s all in the start) and has no practical usage beyond combine comparisons. Make the guys run with the ball. Make them run crossfield. Make them do anything but run in a straight line. Granted, we all know the correlation between speed and receiving abilities, which is why all those 1980s and 1990s Raiders receivers are in the Hall of Fame.

5. Can It Be Fixed? Yeah, end it. Complete fix.

But that’s not going to happen. So if the NFL is content with the ratings it’s getting for the combine, then Princess Elsa it and let it go. (Sorry, I’ve had a sick baby for a week. LOTS of Frozen which, incidentally, I’d rather watch for the 75th time than watch the combine.) If the league wants to bring in new viewers, however, here are some possibilities:

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Dan Le Batard: Sports Television is Playing a Different Game Than Skip Bayless Is

“If you liked that show in whatever incarnations that Bayless did it in, who do you put opposite him right now that you’d want to watch it the same way?”

Jordan Bondurant

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The spotlight has been on Shannon Sharpe as he prepares to exit FOX Sports and Undisputed with Skip Bayless, but there hasn’t been much talk about who will replace Sharpe on the debate show. On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Monday, Dan Le Batard threw that very question out to his audience.

“If you liked that show in whatever incarnations that Bayless did it in, who do you put opposite him right now that you’d want to watch it the same way?” Le Batard said. He noted that there was just the right dynamic between Sharpe and Bayless before things started going south. “Because you’re hanging on to a 70-year-old star.”

Le Batard, who is 54, pointed out that there are examples of debate shows still chugging along with older hosts. Pardon The Interruption on ESPN came to Dan’s mind, but the point is that the landscape has evolved even in sports debate.

“Kornheiser and Wilbon are still doing it, but Shannon Sharpe is here to play a different game. Pat McAfee is here to play a different game,” Le Batard said. “There is a different game being played right now. ESPN is slashing costs, there are going to be fewer and fewer of these jobs.”

Suggestions of Emmanuel Acho and Chris Broussard for replacements were thrown out there, but ultimately Dan wondered who would subject themselves to the situation of having to constantly battle a guy like Bayless.

“Who wants to work next to someone every day that they don’t like so much that they would on their way out the door say ‘Shannon Sharpe would like your tweet,'” Dan asked.

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Stephen A. Smith: I’m Thankful Pat McAfee is Getting Paid What He Is

“He negotiated his deal a few weeks ago, I negotiated my deal a few years ago – the situation is not the same.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Stephen A. Smith is ESPN’s top personality, and for a while he has been paid like it. But that will soon change as Pat McAfee joins the network.

It’s been reported that McAfee’s contract with ESPN to bring his daily sports talk show to The Worldwide Leader is worth $84 million. But McAfee has refuted that number.

Regardless, McAfee will likely become the new highest-paid ESPN talent. And Stephen A. is totally fine with that.

“You have so many people that are looking at what he’s getting paid, it’s no secret that even though you don’t know the numbers I make, it’s clearly more than I’m making,” Smith said on his most recent episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show.

“Number one, I don’t give a damn,” Smith added. “He negotiated his deal a few weeks ago, I negotiated my deal a few years ago – the situation is not the same.”

Smith has appeared as a guest on McAfee’s show, and has made it very clear that he actually admires and respects Pat for rising to the level he has in sports media and still remained largely free of any corporate creative control. He also said he was inspired by McAfee to branch out and start his own non-sports-specific podcast K[no]w Mercy, which has since rebranded to The Stephen A. Smith Show.

“I appreciate Pat McAfee,” Smith said, noting that his current contract with ESPN is coming up in a couple years and that he’ll have a chance to negotiate a nicer deal for himself. “You think I’m looking at Pat McAfee and I’m upset? I’m thankful! Thank you! Appreciate it bro, thank you very, very much. Today is your turn. Tomorrow’s mine.”

Stephen A. also said he couldn’t believe some of the hate Pat has received. Smith said an opportunity like McAfee has only comes about if you bet on yourself. He respects that, and he’s not going to rain on or hate on Pat.

“Hate on him? I admire what he has done, I respect what he has done,” he said. “So much so that I’m doing it. Thank you for playing a part in showing the way and the wave of the future.”

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Chris Chelios Won’t Return to ESPN

“The decision is directly tied to job cuts at the network.”

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Chris Chelios will not be returning to ESPN next NHL season. Front Office Sports reports that the analyst has been told his contract is not being renewed. Chelios becomes the first name related to ESPN layoffs to become public.

Front Office Sports reports that ESPN was not dissatisfied with Chelios’s performance. He joined ESPN in 2022 ahead of the network reclaiming part of the NHL’s television rights.

The decision is directly tied to job cuts at the network. Chelios fit the archetype that ESPN is reportedly looking at as it decides where and who to cut. He is a well-compensated talent with an expiring contract.

Layoffs at ESPN are part of a larger effort to reduce costs at the Walt Disney Company by around $5.5 billion. More than 7,000 jobs are expected to be lost across all sectors of the company.

Chelios is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, having won the title with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986 and twice with the Detroit Red Wings. He is also an eleven-time All-Star and three-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.

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