As I discussed last week before being raided by Pirates, The Peter and Dilbert Principles helped shed light on some of the Lions’ past management woes. But their application in the NFL is the exception, not the norm. For the most part, the NFL operates in an almost primal Darwinian fashion.
From the old Evolution versus Creationism debate, most of use are familiar with Darwin’s base theory of natural selection which has these main points applicable to football:
1-Overproduction-favorable conditions allow a population to increase in size. Environmental pressures in time limit the number that can survive.
2-Competition-Due to environmental pressures, the organisms within a population must compete with each other to survive.
3-Survival of the Fittest-The individuals who best adapt to the environment are the ones who will most likely survive. They possess variations that give that give them a selective advantage.
With #1, due to its’ popularity, the NFL grew in size and scope — first with the NFL-AFL merger, followed by expansion as recently as in the early 2000’s with Houston et al. However, the league is still capped at 32 teams with 53 man roster limits + Practice squad. This mean that less than 2000 men belong to the elite level that is an NFL football player each year.
#2 – Starting at the beginning, according to the research fellows at“How Stuff Works”, the following is how the pool of possible NFL players is winnowed down each year:
Almost every athlete that plays high school football dreams of one day playing in the NFL, but for most players that dream is never realized. The hard truth is that the NFL has a finite number of jobs, and only the most talented are selected to fill those positions.One million high school students participate in football annually, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Very few of those players, only one in 17, will even play college football.
It’s an even longer shot that a high school player will eventually play for an NFL team. Only one in 50 college football seniors are drafted by an NFL team, according to theNational Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). That means that just nine in 10,000, or .09 percent, of high school senior football players are eventually drafted by an NFL team.
[Note: Their math is off on the final percentage because they switched to high school seniors, but the numbers come out close -- Using their own numbers -- of roughly 1 Million kids playing High School Football this year, roughly 58,824 will play College football. Of those, only about 1,176 will be drafted or invited to an NFL camp (this also assumes 4 NFL draft years, including UDFA given tryouts). This means roughly 1.1% of the kids who start out playing football in high school will even have a shot at making an NFL roster. Hit the books kids, because with those odds you need a very solid fall-back plan]
Yes, it is that difficult. What that number doesn’t highlight that adds even more fuel to the fire is the number above represents the chance of being drafted — not who makes an NFL roster. Of those who do manage that (an even smaller number when you consider how few late round picks stick in the league) how many will be out of the league in 3 years or less? To be a productive member of the NFL in any capacity for anything more than a season is a penultimate of competition – much less to excel or be one of the best.
#3 The above, of course, seguays into the third applicable part of Darwin’s theory, and one of the most important for NFL Scouts: Adapatability.
Whether we like to think about it or not, the NFL game is much different than the college game. For those who watch both, the offenses are more wide open, running QB’s, lots of shotgun, and less talent overall. At the college level, (and even more so the high school level) the higher population of players means it is easier to excel with just physical tools and natural talent versus honing skills against an equal level of competition. Much as we disdain the Lions’ talent level the last few years, even they could have whipped most college teams using NFL rules.
If I am 6″ taller and a lot faster than everyone else, I can get away with things as a college WR that I cannot against guys almost as tall, and in some cases faster than I am. Darwin has winnowed the pool at the NFL level to where only the best remains…
There is also the fact that what makes a college star may not translate to the NFL. We have seen time again where players who are super-stars in college just cannot translate that success to the NFL. The game becomes too much for them. Sometimes, the very things that make a college “star” bust an NFL player.
NFL playbooks are often a bit more rigid; the team play needs to be there as seasoned players and coordinators will take advantage of someone who consistently leaves where they should be to freelance. It is the job of the coordinator to design a scheme to put a player in a spot to make plays — it’s up to the player to make them. In the college game, from what I have seen there is more a basketball-like tendency to let superstars be superstars and carry the day. In the NFL, any superstar can be shut down unless there is another option.
I got to thinking about this when I was reading an article and rebuttal about David Greene, Stafford’s predecessor at GA. Here is the line that struck me most from the article that I think was overlooked by the author, and many of his readers:
Greene never had Stafford’s physical attributes. But on the field, it was as if coach Mark Richt cloned himself and sent his copy into the huddle. Greene operated the offense to perfection. He even spoke in the same monotone voice as Richt.
Looking back, Greene was perfect for the offense being run and it showed. Everything was logically and naturally set up for his talent set. Then, when he went to the NFL, it wasn’t so. He had to move beyond his comfort zone — a place he never once had to leave in college — and do it on a play to play basis. The number of defense he faced increased exponentially, and the speed and number of decisions to make were too much for him. David Carr has had the same problem in his NFL career — just not quick enough with his decisions and thus is sacked more than average.
The transition from College to NFL is NOT one every player can make — only 1 in 50 get the chance, and about 1 in 100 make it at best. Of those, only about 1 in 100 truly excel. So really, the focus of the article was logically flawed. It compared the stats in college of Stafford and Greene. Stafford is not Greene, and honestly, was Georgia’s offense the “perfect fit” for Matthew that it was for David? Of course not — and it honestly doesn’t matter. What really matters is what about their personality, their character, their attitude, their ethics, their ability to learn, their willingness to learn. Similar to a college degree being required for a job application — athleticism is the minimum requirement. Now, what else have you got??
Can Stafford make the jump?? As you all know, I wasn’t really thrilled with Stafford’s selection before the draft, but I’m starting to warm up to it… more on that as we head into camp. Also this week: My “30 Lock” for the roster (post yours if you haven’t already!), Blind Squirrels, and more positional breakdowns.
Thanks for reading, and as always — comment away!