“Welcome to sunny Los Angeles and the opening round of the NFL Scouting Combine! I’m your host Jason Sehorn and tonight we’re going to find out which players will be joining us at the scouting combine finals in dreary Indianapolis for a chance to get drafted in the 6th round and latch on to the Jaguars practice squad!”
This scenario could become reality if the NFL has its way. The New York Post reports that the NFL is considering changes to the annual combine that would turn it into a sporting version of American Idol. The 10 regional combines would be turned into a competition in which players would fight for the chance to appear at the main combine in Indianapolis.
According to the NFL Network, that system could soon resemble “Idol” by having those lesser prospects duke it out at the regional combines for an invitation to join the marquee talent in Indianapolis or even a spot at the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.
There is also talk among league executives of taking Deion Sanders’ advice and having players compete head-to-head in certain combine events — perhaps turning the 40-yard dash into an actual race — in order to ratchet up the tension for TV purposes.
Of course the competition idea is the brainchild of Deion Sanders. If the NFL is going to do this, it might as well go all out. It’s not as though other shows such as The Voice and America’s Got Talent haven’t bitten the Idol format. Cheap imitation without attribution is the way of the television executive.
Let’s flesh out the format of the yet to be named show. First it needs a host. The closest the NFL can get to a Ryan Seacrest type host is probably Jason Sehorn or Jesse Palmer. Wait. Jeff Reed. They might experiment with a co-host who would get bounced after the first season à la Brian Dunkleman. Call it the Sean Salisbury reclamation project. Once the show has been established and Reed gets his legs, Salisbury can be removed from the picture. If he raises a stink, Roger Goodell would have no problem going full Peter Russo to silence him forever and claim his untimely passing was for the good of the league. You will go quietly into the night. His baby will not be turned into another dick pic scandal.
Next we need judges. Obviously Deion Sanders makes the cut. He’d be the one constantly comparing every contestant to himself and talking about how he would have done it better even though he wouldn’t make a tackle if his pre-nup depended on it in college or the NFL.
The panel of judges should be rounded out by Joe Theismann and Joey Porter. They give us the other essential elements of any reality show judiciary. Theismann plays the self-righteous, self-proclaimed “wise” man who judges players solely on whether he can set his watch to their haircut as opposed to their actual on-field talent. Porter plays the role of the loud buffoon/Paula Abdul who has to be settled down or allowed to ramble at length depending on the daily level of insanity. If he gets to be too much, Channing Crowder could replace him the following season with a negligible to negative increase in intelligent, coherent commentary.
The back stories of the players should only be explored if they’ve been in trouble with the law, suspended for violation of team rules, have over three children/baby mamas or played at a program where the head coach instituted the Bobby Bowden “Boys Will Be Boys” policy for exceptional players. These are the stories we want. This is the information teams crave. Just ask Jeff Ireland. No sob stories about a tough upbringing or family getting shot on the streets. The Alabama Four? Treat them like the West Memphis Three and get the real story about what went down that day. The kid who lost his mother, grandmother and brother to disease and the streets and was raised by his high school coach? Keep it moving and save it for Oprah or some sappy ESPN filler segment. Fine. We’re not heartless. Sprinkle some feel good in there but let’s not get carried away.
The players should compete individually as well as against each other in events of speed and strength. The Wonderlic should also be given but the format should be changed. No longer will it be private. It will now be administered in a quiz show format. Your host for this segment? Merrill Hoge. Yes. Poach Merrill Hoge from ESPN. How great would it be to watch him berate random players for absolutely no reason, curse Vince Young then get a Pittsburgh flashback and order Primanti’s into his microphone? “Why isn’t anyone answering me?? Smallman Street Fries on my sandwich!”
Forget amazing. The NFL Network has a chance to be the place where phenomenal happens if they do the regional combine competitions the right way. Keep hope alive.