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    Scouting the Scouts—-Evaluating the best evaluators in Pro football

    Those of us inside the football business who really know the game and who’s responsible for driving personnel decisions for various teams believe that figuring out which players to draft and where to draft them is one of the most difficult tasks in sports.

    Based on over 25 plus years as an NFL Scout and knowing the inside of how decisions are made, here are the best evaluators and drafters in the history of Pro Football.

    1. Bobby Beathard—Chiefs, Dolphins, Redskins, Chargers
    Beathard was largely responsible for the Hank Stram Chiefs roster which was loaded with hall of famers. He then moved to the Dolphins and built the roster for Don Shula. He ten became GM of the Redskins and built Super Bowl champions for Joe Gibbs. His last stop was San Diego where all he did was lead them to a Super Bowl. His greatest strength is his ability to see the big picture and assemble a team. He understood the importance of team chemistry and a keen understanding of a player’s personality traits as well as his football skills and athletic ability—and how it fit for his teams. He read people better than anyone I’ve ever scouted with. He had a knack for getting people to open up and getting the best information. Then using it to his advantage. He was without question the most modest person I’ve ever met in pro football.

    2. Art Rooney Jr.—Steelers
    When the Steelers were having all those great drafts between 1969 and 1974, he was the man in charge of the scouting department and had the final say. He was the champion for Penn St. running back Franco Harris and didn’t give an inch to Chuck Noll who preferred Robert Newhouse from U. Houston. He also did lots of the ground work for several other Hall of Famers—Bradshaw, Greene, Ham, Lambert, Stallworth, Swann, Blount, Greenwood and Webster. His 1971 and 1974 drafts are two of the best ever in league history.

    3. Bucko Kilroy—Eagles, Cowboys, Patriots
    Had a tremendous influence in the scouting profession. He was the best scout in the early Tex Schramm Cowboys days and took it around the league and taught it to many others. Scram has the vision and controlled the money, Kilroy had the eye for talent and Gil Brandt handled the paperwork in the office. Kilroy took his program to the Patriots and started to build the best roster in the league despite not winning a championship, much like the Bengals today.

    4. Jim Finks–Winnipeg (CFL), Vikings, Bears, Saints
    Was very successful building Grey Cup Champions for Winnipeg with head coach Bud Grant. he then moved on to Minnesota and brought Grant with him and built the great Purple eaters teams. Finks them went to Chicago where he built the great roster with Bill Tobin for Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan. Finks ended his career in New Orleans where he built a great roster for a previously moribund franchise. He is the guy that most other general managers consider the best GM ever when you take into account all the roles that that job entails.
    He was more of an administrator but had a keen ability to look at a little film and see a lot. He was the guy that pushed the hardest for taking Walter Payton for the Bears,

    5. Bill Polian–Chicago (USFL), Bills, Panthers, Colts
    Cut his teeth in the USFL with Marv Levy and they both moved on to the Buffalo Bills where he built them into 4 AFC Championships. Polian then moved to Carolina where he quickly got them into the NFC title game. Then on to Indianapolis where he ran the Colts with Jim Mora and then Tony Dungy, finally earning a Super Bowl title. He was more of a pro personnel evaluator (NFL talent) than a college scout, relying on his field scouts and organizing their evaluations. Guys like John Butler and Dom Anile really helped to make his drafts.

    6. Ron Wolf–Raiders, Buccaneers, Raiders, Jets, Packers,
    Was the major reason for the Raiders and Al Davis’ early success in the late 1960 and 70’s. Wolf became the first GM of the Buccaneers and the core group he put together got them into the NFC title game in 1979. He then moved to the Jets to work with Dick Steinberg before running the Packers and returning them to glory. Al Davis’ drafts were significantly better when Wolf was running it for him. Wolf felt Brett Favre was the best player in the draft and tried to get him drafted when he was with the Jets. He obviously then traded with Atlanta for Favre when he became Packers GM.

    7. Bill Tobin—Packers, Bears, Colts
    As good as it’s gets as a talent evaluator. He may have the best string of first round picks anyone has ever had for their career. It was he that set the draft board for the Jim Finks Bears, did a great job with his time with the Packers, built the Colts into a big winner and has helped his son, Duke, build the best roster in the league today in Cincinnati.
    Bill knows better than anyone how to build a winner. He is a low risk, high percentage drafter who consistently hits. He stresses toughness, competitiveness and character–and it has paid off. He is as straight forward as they come and unlike many in the business who seek media acclaim, he distains it an earned the gratitude of the entire league when he put the amateurish Mel Kiper in his place back in 1994.

    8. Dick Steinberg—Cowboys, Patriots, Rams, Saints, Patriots, Jets
    He was trained under Kilroy. When Kilroy went to New England, Steinberg went with him and eventually succeeded him when he retired. Steinberg built the Rams of the 1970’s then helped Kilroy put a that great New England roster together then onto the Jets where he didn’t have as much success. Dick was not an office scout. He was a field scout and when he went to the Jets he got ill and didn’t go on the road as much and the Jets suffered as a result. In the first four rounds of the 1977 draft, he drafted OLB Bob Brudzinski, S Nolan Cromwell, RB Wendell Tyler and QB Vince Ferragamo and got the Rams to the Super Bowl. With the Patriots, he drafted five defensive starters, including Andre Tippett in 1982 and drafted seven starters in 1983. This was the team that went to the Super Bowl in 1985 and lost badly to the Bears.

    9. Mike Holovak—Patriots, Raiders, Jets, Oilers
    When Mike went to Houston, the Oilers had traded away all their picks and were the oldest team in football. Within a few years, they had the most talented team in all of football. Poor coaching and ownership cost him a few Super Bowls. I spent many of draft days in the draft room with Mike and it was always a pleasure. He was instrumental with the early Patriots teams and did a great job with Al Davis in the AFL days helping him build a power before the Ron Wolf era. What people don’t realize is how well he did with the Jets. In 1977, he drafted OT Marvin Powell, WR Wesley Walker and DT Joe Klecko along with Dan Alexander, Scott Dierking, Kevin Long and Matt Robinson, whom they would up trading to Denver for first and second round draft picks. Not one person has ever said a bad word about him. Meek and talented, he has never gotten the credit he has deserved.

    10. Norm Pollom–Rams, Bills, Patriots
    Great eye for talent, he built the Rams and the Bills for Chuck Knox. He not only had a great eye but also had the guts to make tough decisions and stand up to his head coach when necessary. He drafted Greg Bell coming off an injury and subpar season and found guys like Joe Cribbs and Jim Haslett. he could quickly determine if a guy could play or not.

    11. Bill Walsh–49ers
    Of course, he was the main person responsible for the 49ers dynasty but before he got there he was very instrumental in the early Paul Brown Bengals where there was short handed with scouts and Walsh recommended such greats as ken Anderson and Isaac Curtis. He saw the big picture as well as anyone and knew which players would fit his system. He was always on the cutting edge. He turned a last place team with no draft picks into the team of the decade. His 1986 draft was one of the best ever. He traded down and got 8 quality players in six rounds without having a first round pick.

    12. Jimmy Johnson-Cowboys, Dolphins
    He didn’t have success at Miami due to his overall effort and focus. He was an even better personnel evaluator than coach. He had a great eye for talent and was a quick study who picked up the draft concept as quickly as anyone without much training. He one of the few coaches who understood the big picture. Johnson learned much from two excellent scouts in Dick Mansperger and Walt Yowarsky and administratively learned from Bob Ackles. People forget how bad the Cowboys had become and he turned it around quickly and effectively. Aided by the Hershall Walker trade no doubt but orchestrated it himself and had the vision for what it could do for the organization.

    13. Bill Belichick–Browns, Patriots
    What people fail to realize is how good of a job he really did in Cleveland. He inherited a bad roster and built it into a playoff team and Super Bowl contender before the owner picked up and moved the team to Baltimore. His record in New England speaks for itself. Make no mistake, Belichick makes all the decisions in New England and had for his entire tenure. Other make take credit for it and land other jobs on Belichick’s back but get exposed when they get into the head chair. He is extremely detailed and has a tremendous eye for players that have something to offer. He is the best Head Coach/GM combination guy ever in league history. Johnson and Walsh may have been a tad better as drafters but they missed most of the free agent era in the league. Belichick stands alone as getting the most out of talent in the modern free agent era.

    14.Sarge Mackenzie & Dick Gallaher–pre Super Bowl Cleveland Browns
    Both were the key forces in building the Cleveland Browns for the great Paul Brown. All the pre-super bowl Browns championship were built by these guys with Brown having the final say and setting down the cutting edge philosophy of his day.

    15. Jack Vainisi —Vince Lombardi Packers
    Built the Packers with legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Harnung, Taylor, Kramer, Davis, Nitchke and all the rest that line the hall of fame.

    16. Eddie Kotal—Curly Lambeau Packers
    Some people are not aware of how good the Packers were in the Lambeau years before falling off the map until Lombardi arrived. The list of the all time great in this era are too numerous to mention.

    17. Dick Haley–Steelers, JetsA consummate road scout, he was instrumental in building the 70’s Steelers with Art Rooney Jr. He had a super eye for talent and consistently drafted well. His role for the jets brought him into the office more as Dick Steinberg got ill and this limited his effectiveness as he couldn’t go out as much on the road scouting.

    18. Dick Mansperger–Cowboys, Seahawks, Cowboys
    The Cowboys were known for great drafts for years then the quality if the draft slipped for a period. It was when Mansperger left for Seattle. Then when he came back, their draft production spiked up again. When he retired, their drafts dipped down again until Jimmy Johnson arrived. He was Tom Landry and Tex Schram’s best evaluator and biggest reason for their drafting success, although Gil Brandt always took credit for all the Cowboys successes.

    19. John Butler–Bills, Chargers
    Bill Polian was a great GM but his Bills teams were built through the draft, including many small college stars. The guy responsible was Butler. Even drafting late after all those Super Bowl runs, they managed to build the best roster in the league and kept it going for a long time. Butler then went to San Diego and traded away the top pick to Atlanta who drafted Michael Vick. All Butler did moving down was to take LaDainian Tomlinson and with the extra pick they acquired in the second round took Drew Brees, who he had rated as a top 15 overall pick when everyone else had him as a second rounder.

    20. Carroll Hardy–Broncos
    Hardy built the Orange Crush defense in Denver when he had control of the draft. His first round picks included Riley Odoms, Otis Armstrong, Randy Gradishar and Louis Wright. But that was juat a start of what he did. He was the FIRST one to build a defense around speed before anyone else realized how important speed was. Every player on his defenses ran under 4.95 and every non-lineman was 4.7 or under. That was his trademark and everyone soon followed based on his initial success.

    Best talent evaluators today
    Bill Belichick—Browns, Patriots
    The only current league member on the all time list. See the report in the all-time list section.

    Ozzie Newsome– Browns, Ravens
    Learned the coaching and scouting game from the ground up, taking no shortcuts under Bill Belichick. It’s the reason he know what to look for and has the vision to build a team. Stands up and gets the pick right even when it’s not popular like the Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed picks, which were questioned by many at the time. He got those hall of famers right and many more.

    Dave Gettleman– Bills, Broncos, Giants, Panthers
    Started in the office in Buffalo, did a great job on the road for the Broncos, another great job as pro director for the Giants and his work in Carolina as GM has been outstanding as well. No short cuts with this guys. Is as thorough and prepared as it gets.

    Duke Tobin-Bengals–
    Low key behind the scenes guy just like his guy and is proving he has the same eye for talent. Great on the road and finding gems throughout the draft. has assembled the best overall roster in the league.

    Tom Heckert–Dolphins, Browns, Broncos,
    He handles the general manager role in Denver that John Elway gets the credit for. He worked well with John Fox in building the Super Bowl roster for the Broncos and was responsible for the pro signings of Talib, Ward, Ware, Sanders, etc. Another guy that earned his stripes as a young scout in Miami before growing and doing a very underrated job as GM in Cleveland. Had they stuck with him they’d be competing with the best in that tough division. Trains the scouting staff well for the Broncos and oversees all their pro and college personnel meetings.

    Ted Thompson–Packers, Seahawks, Packers,
    Learned at the foot of Ron Wolf and still spends much time on the road scouting, knowing there are no shortcuts in the business. Worked the pro personnel for Wolf then learned the college scouting game quickly and keeps the Packers relevant every year.

    Kevin Colbert-Lions, Steelers
    Colbert is another behind the scenes guy who learned the scouting trade the proper way in Detroit and help build a nice roster for Wayne Fontes along with Ron Hughes. He moved home to Pittsburgh and keeps the Steelers relevant year in and year out with his drafts.

    Pete Carroll–Seahawks
    Runs the personnel end and sets the tone an blueprint for GM John Schneider to follow. Best attribute is his people skills and his ability to find guys that fit his criteria for a football player. Not afraid to take chances.

    Scot McCloughan-Packers, Seahawks, 49ers, Seahawks, Redskins
    Started out as young scout with the Packers and has been groomed well. Moved to Seattle with Ted Thomspon then on to San Franciso to build the Niners for Harbaugh and Baalke. Now he is rebuilding the Redskins roster very nicely and if their own can continue to stay patient it will pay off.

    Steve Keim-Cardinals
    Groomed as scout and has worked his way up the proper way and has built a roster for Bruce Arians. He is not afraid to take chances or make mistakes. Great eye for talent.

    Andy Reid–Eagles, Chiefs
    Has a keen sense for how to build a roster and maximize a player’s ability. He sets a clear vision for GM John Dorsey on how he wants players evaluated. Likes to build with guys in the trenches and has done so successfully.

    Potential up and comers
    Jon Robinson- Patriots,Titans
    Off to a good start in Tennessee. Ran the pro personnel department in New England for the Patriots–the best run pro department in the league. Remains to be seen if he can be the guy but unlike other Patriots lieutenants under Belichick, Bill feels he has the goods to be successful.

    Ryan Pace–Saints, Bears,
    Did a great job for the Saints and is off to a very good start with the Bears working with John Fox to rebuild that franchise.

    Terry McDonough–Browns, Ravens, Cardinals
    Underrated. Did a great job for Ozzie Newsome at the Ravens and is really doing a fantastic job for Steve Keim with the Cardinals. Is bold and will push for guys who think will be successful even if the room is against them.

    Bob Quinn-Patriots, Lions,
    Another guy that learned from Bill Belichick. He is a good evaluator and even tempered. He has a big challenge to change around the culture in a bad organization.

    Jon Robinson and Bob Quinn were two of the guys O'Brien asked McNair to add to the Texan's front office.
    If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.

  • #2
    Life on the Road as an NFL Scout

    I have always felt that the two most under appreciated individuals in pro football are officials and Scouts. There should be a wing in the Hall of Fame for both because without them the game would not be as good.

    In the high glamour world of pro football, it is the players and coaches who get the lions share of the credit and the huge salaries. Not much attention is given to the gentlemen who find the players out on the road. Such is the life of an NFL scout. Long car rides, hurried flight connections, cheap motel rooms and fast meals are the norm as is lonely nights writing reports to the wee hours of the morning.

    Much like many other NFL personnel, a scout’s season begins with training camp. At camp, a scout’s responsibility is to evaluate his own team’s personnel as well as other NFL team’s personnel during the preseason. Teams are always scouring other team’s rosters for guys that might be let go that would be nice fits for bottom of the roster spots on their own team.

    During Training camp personnel meetings, coaches and scouts can learn to be on the same page as to what type of player is needed at each position. Teams that win are ones that find role players that fit your scheme but may not be a fit for another team. Frank Wycheck was a player that did not fit the Redskins scheme as an on line tight end but I felt comfortable that he would fit well in our scheme as a H-back with the team I was scouting for at the time (Oilers).

    In addition to scouting duties during camp, scouts finalize their fall college scouting schedule. Each team breaks down the country in regional areas and a scout is responsible for all schools in his assigned region. Scouts stay in that area year after year as they become more and more familiar with the programs and coaches in that area. It’s important that there are no gaps and that all prospects are looked at.

    There are two scouting organizations that are used by NFL teams, better known as scouting combines. They are National and Blesto. There are a few teams that belong to neither scouting combine electing to handle it all on their own. The Raiders have always been mavericks in this regard and have been the only team to never take part in a scouting combine organization. They organizations are usually referred to as combines because the scouting information is combined and used as a starting base for all the teams belonging to the organization.

    Every school in the United States and Canada that plays football is covered and if there is a prospect worth looking at, they are put on a list and the member teams will look at the player during the fall and determine whether further scouting work is needed. The Scouting Combine jobs is more of a clearinghouse . It is their job to obtain background information on each senior prospect, both personal and football related. They also measure, weigh, time and test all senior players. Along with this a brief description of football playing ability is recorded.

    By having a verified height, weight, 40 yard timed speed, wonderlic mental test score, arm and hand measurement along with a brief description, you have a good idea if he is worth looking at as a team scout.

    The early part of a scout’s schedule, usually in late August, revolves around looking at small college prospects and major college 2 a day practices. With Colleges only being allowed to practice 20 hours a week during the season, not much hitting is going on during the regular season making it all the more important to seem them “go live” in 2 a day practices. If a small college player looks good on junior film or early fall senior practices, he might warrant a further look again in the fall.

    Once a scout gets into the meat of his fall schedule, the days are remarkably similar to each other. A scout will arrive at the football office by 8:00 am (earlier if coaches are in) and begin watching film on all the senior prospects at that school. Some time will be spent talking to the position coaches, coordinators, strength coaches, trainers, academic advisors and sometimes head coaches. Most college coaches usually enjoy visiting with scouts as their schedule permits. Football people tend to know each other and there is a lot of fellowship involved.

    Film watching will take place all morning and wind out around 2-3 pm when coaches need to use the film room to meet with their players before practice. It is at this time that scouts visit with the strength coach and trainer and sometimes the academic advisor. You have an hour or so to do this prior to practice beginning. After viewing practice, a scout heads onto his next stop (sometimes a good distance away) and proceeds to check into a hotel room, order room service and begin writing scouting reports on all the players evaluated that day. Report writing is time consuming and often keeps a scout up to 1:00-2:00 AM. The next morning comes early as he must be in by 8:00 the next day for another school visit with the same schedule repeated.

    In addition to having an area scout report to a school, a team usually has a cross checking or “over the top” scout that also visits the school. A Scouting Director may also visit giving the team as many as 3 to 4 exposures to the players at that school. By having multiple views on a player, a team gets a better feel for the prospect.

    Every team has their own scouting form but they are all similar in nature. They contain space for basic background information, physical characteristics information such as body type, height, weight etc. General information is usually required for every player such as athletic ability, quickness, agility, balance, height, weight and speed , strength and durability and instincts and intelligence. This information differs for each position. For example, athletic ability for an offensive lineman is quite different than a wide receivers athletic ability. Players are compared to others at his position.

    After the general information comes the position specific information. For example, when grading a running back, you have to describe in detail all the positive and negative characteristics for each specific category. For a running back that includes his start, inside running, outside running, run vision, toughness, ball security, run blocking, pass blocking, strength and power as a runner, elusiveness as runner, and hands.

    In all of these categories, you must describe in detail what makes them average, above average, below average, poor, good or great in all of these areas. Merely saying they are good tells nothing. Details explaining why is the key to a good scouting report.

    Certain schools restrict when scouts can make visits to their schools. This makes it difficult for the scout since you cannot get proper exposure to the school’s players and it also hurts the players at the school since they are not getting as much exposure to scouts as players at other schools.

    Scouts and NFL coaches do not get a chance to meet face to face with players until the all-star bowl games, Indianapolis scouting combine and spring school workouts following their senior season.

    After a scout finishes his fall schedule, there are usually December scouting meetings followed by all-star bowl games, the Indianapolis scouting combine, more draft meetings, and spring individual workouts at the college campuses. After the spring workouts, all scouts report to their teams facilities and are locked up in draft meetings until draft day. Upon completion of the draft, scrambling begins to sign undrafted free agents for a day or so. Scouts spend time at their team’s mini camps and begin compiling their list for next year after the scouting combines spring meetings in early May. At that time, tape watching begins to prepare for next fall.

    The importance of coaching and scouting staffs working together and being on the same page cannot be stressed enough. How another team evaluates a player does not matter. What’s important is how a player fits into your scheme and roles that you ask for of that position. Knowing how another team evaluates a player is important only for the sake of determining where a player may go round wise in a draft thus giving you an indication of where you would need to take him if you were indeed interested in drafting him for your team.

    The best organizations for the most part are the ones that work well together but keep their scouting and coaching departments separate. Coaches tend to fall in love or hold grudges against players for personal reasons and it tends to effect their objectivity. They like players that are easy to coach and that is often not the player with the most ability and long range potential. It’s important to evaluate the player and the person separately then combine the two to make the final personnel decision. Coaches will also look to the short term as to what will help them win now while scouts tend to see the big picture and future better.

    Whatever setup you team chooses to employ, the old saying about you can’t win without players is true. We’ll, always remember this. You can’t get the players without good scouts. General Managers and Head coaches are usually the ones speaking at the press conferences but it is the scouts that do the work for these gentlemen and are the ones that ultimately determine their success or failure.
    If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.


    • #3
      Belichick should be higher overall because he's working under a cap that Holovak and others didn't. And wasn't Holovak benefitting from work mostly done by Ladd Herzeg before him?


      • #4
        Originally posted by tko54321 View Post
        ...And wasn't Holovak benefitting from work mostly done by Ladd Herzeg before him?
        I think the author might disagree, but he could be a bit biased since he worked as a scout here for Mike.
        If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.


        • #5
          Angry Scouting Vet‏ @AngryScout
          "Keep working hard and good things will happen"? I've been a consummate pro & worked very guys I've scouted get promotions before me.

          I will answer any question to the best of my ability, and more importantly TRUTHFULLY. #NFLScouting

          I cannot stress enough...Bobby Beathard belongs in the Hall of Fame. 7 Super Bowls, 4 rings, completely constructed 2 teams to excellence.

          Takes a special breed w/ a rare combo of abilities to be a Scout. Watch people who don't travel try to function during pro day season. #NFLScouts

          Some guys try to help, but there needs to be more information made available.

          Not enough information is available for #NFLScouts. Salary info/range, open jobs, etc. Definitely need a union question about it.

          The #NFL makes more money than some countries. So remind me why it's OK to ask (already grossly underpaid) veteran Scouts to take pay cuts?

          It would be great if Scouting allowed its members to "police the business" the way hockey empowers players to. Accountability destroys snakes.

          Bobby Beathard should be in the Hall of Fame. Every bit as good as Bill Polian or Ron Wolf.

          Pure stupidity perpetrated by the money [grubbers] in the NFL.

          Absurd that teams can block others' attempts to interview guys for higher jobs. Contract or no, no one has the right to play God w/ guys' careers.

          "He's a scumbag & backstabbed/conned into a promotion, but you have integrity."... Last I checked, integrity doesn't pay for kids' college.

          When a GM/someone making a ton of $ tells a Scout that "$ isn't important" or they "never cared about $", their credibility goes in the toilet.

          NCAA football gets it. U win w/ players. Skilled evaluators find & stand on the table for them. Millions of $ spent/paid. U listening NFL?

          SHOULD be easier overall, given technology; however, too many geniuses/gurus, & "leaders" w/o good training/experience make it more of a PIA

          Is it harder to be an #NFL scout today than 10 years ago?

          Too many Scouts who don't belong to the butt kissing committee &/or aren't hype machine approved that are better than guys running teams.

          For an industry that prides itself on finding player talent ANYWHERE, there are way too many great talents IN Scouting that are overlooked.

          A group who sacrifices 100s of nights/yr away from their families AND put the talent on the field should be more appreciated. #NFLScouts

          #Scouting is an ART requiring skill, practice, & EXPERIENCE. If you believe otherwise, or "anybody can scout", you're part of the problem.

          It's sad how many cowards the media makes out of "leaders" in this league. Guys would rather make a hire for PR than WINNING. #NFLScouting

          No group is more underappreciated & mistreated in the #NFL than #Scouts. Everybody in this league makes $$$ hand over fist EXCEPT Scouts.

          One of the greatest, if not THE greatest lies ever told in this business..."Experience is vital." #NFL #Scouting #BS #Politics

          If you ever wondered why "angry scout" is angry... they are the doormats of the NFL.
          If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.