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February 9, 2010 @ 5:40 am
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Wyche: Combine Is Important, But Only One Piece Of The Puzzle

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Former Bucs head coach Sam Wyche has joined PewterReport.com as a regular contributor. Wyche will share exclusive insight and analysis from his coaching and playing days in the NFL. In this installment of WYCHE'S WORLD, Wyche takes fans inside the NFL Combine.
Sam Wyche is a regular, exclusive contributor to PewterReport.com. In his monthly Wyche's World column, Wyche will share expert insight and opinions regarding the Bucs and the NFL based on his previous playing and coaching experience in the league.

Wyche played quarterback for Cincinnati (1968-70), Washington (1971-73), Detroit (1974), St. Louis (1976) and Buffalo (1976) before embarking on a successful coaching career in the NFL. Wyche is most remembered for coaching the Bengals from 1984-91. The pinnacle of his coaching career came when he helped the Bengals reach Super Bowl XXIII. Wyche's final stint as a NFL head coach was in Tampa Bay, where he coached the Buccaneers from 1992-95.

Since his tenure with the Buccaneers ended, Wyche has served as a sports analyst for CBS and NBC, worked with Buffalo as a quarterbacks coach, coached high school football, established himself as a successful motivational speaker and made a name for himself in politics in South Carolina where he holds a seat on the County Council in Pickens, S.C.

Wyche also serves as a spokesperson for The Rally Foundation, which aims to help children's cancer research and encourages you to visit the website.

The 2010 NFL Combine will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from February 24 to March 2.

Depending on the team, the importance of the NFL Combine as it relates to the whole body of work that goes into preparing for the NFL Draft is probably about 5-10 percent. There are two parts of the combine that are very important; the medical physical and the personal interview, where the coaches can bring to life all of the footage and reports they are reading about a particular player.

Being a head coach at the NFL level requires a lot of hard work and long hours, but every head coach has to know the players that are in the hunt in each draft. He has to know everything about the players, especially the ones that are projected to go in the first three rounds. The head coach won't necessarily look at all of the film other people have looked at, but he will look at enough film to be very familiar with a player, and then he'll bring everybody in for a meeting where he will have anything from a mock draft to just a discussion about each player.

In some aspects the head coach has an advantage because he hasn't watched all the film, so he might come into the combine more objective, and that might allow a particular player to catch his eye in the combine workouts or interviews. That actually happens all the time, maybe even as many as four times per day. If it doesn't happen you're probably not paying enough attention.

The 40-yard dash is important, but watching the 40-yard dash is more important because you can see how fast a player gets up to full speed, which is more of a football skill. Football involves a lot of change in direction, so the 40-yard dash doesn't measure much unless a guy gets behind everybody on a catch or run. You use the 40-yard dash as a way to measure his pure speed. Speed is important, but you can't put too much stock into it. It's one of the main factors that you put into the evaluation process. Some guys actually play faster than their 40-yard dash time, and other guys play slower.

There really is no purpose to having offensive linemen run the 40-yard dash at the combine. They don't quite operate in a phone booth, but the linemen operate in much tighter quarters. The most important thing for them is how quick they come out of their stance and are in a braced position to protect or pull. For example, you would get a much better feel for this if you timed a guard pulling around a defensive end and getting around a cone that is 15-18 yards downfield. That would be a better measure of how they'll play football.

The thing you have to be very careful about, and all coaches are vulnerable to this, is not falling in love with one player. Sometimes there are three guys at one position, and you visit one of them on campus, and because he was a good guy and you had a nice lunch with him you fall in love with him. Then the other two players maybe don't get receive the same type of evaluation process. You have to be very careful not to beat yourself that way.

I was in on as many player interviews as I could be, which was probably about 90 percent of them. Occasionally, time wouldn't allow for you to interview every one, so you had to do it in his hotel room or on campus at another time, but I'd say in 90 percent of the interviews the head coach is there.

The line of questioning varies by the player and position, but you generally start off with softball questions, like where you're from and what his hobbies are. It helps the player relax a little bit and be himself as opposed to putting on a front.

From there, you ask specific questions about football. If it's quarterback, "How did you call a play in the huddle? Give me an example. If the weakside linebacker bursts to the outside what coverage does that tell you is coming?" That helps you gauge his football knowledge.

It's also important to ask the player about his love for the game of football. "Do you love the game? What else do you want to do in life?" Some guys come into it and really want to be a doctor, but want to play football a few years until they receive their degree. What if the player has career aspirations in baseball and football? "Which sport do you love the most and really want to play?" That's all very important to know heading into the draft.

Now, how do you tell when a player has been trained and his answers are rehearsed, or if the player is being genuine? That's where good scouts come in. Instincts are part of that as well. After you've conducted enough player interviews you can typically tell by how many clichés a player uses versus how many honest, sincere, from-the-heart responses you get.

John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp all stood out because they were top picks, but they each stood out for different reasons.

Lynch was very articulate, so you could tell he was going to be a smart defensive back and could be the quarterback back there on defense. Sapp had a reputation for having some trouble in college, but it didn't take long being around him to realize he was just a fun guy that probably like most college kids stepped over the line at some point and got a reputation. Brooks just shined through. He was such a high character guy, and you like to have those types of guys on your team.

All information is important information when it comes to the NFL Draft, but when it comes to the NFL Combine it's important to remember that the players aren't in pads or uniforms, they're not in a competitive situations because it's not a game and you're getting a look at a player which brings him to life, which is how I like to refer to it. The combine allows you to get a good feel for a player's chemistry on the team and learn a little more about him. Beyond that, be very careful.

By Sam Wyche as told to Pewter Report editor-in-chief Jim Flynn.


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