So here’s a good one: the Cleveland Browns liked Sam Darnold as the best QB prospect after watching all of last fall’s college football season. Then, once they got to meet and wine and dine these guys, they changed their mind to favor Baker Mayfield. Why? Well, “efficacy” says the Browns VP of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith.
“And he had a trait that some of the good ones have. I call it efficacy. That includes the power to effect other people. I thought that of all the quarterbacks I watched, he stood out far and above the other guys. When he walked into a room, you knew he was there.”
So when it comes to actually PLAYING football vs. how a guy interviews and projects himself, you go with the latter, not the former. Okay, got it. I’m sure on 3rd and 9, in the 4th quarter of a one-score game on the road in Pittsburgh, in a driving rainstorm with a playoff berth on the line, that Baker Mayfield’s “efficacy” will carry the moment. Maybe he’ll just look into the eyes of his teammates in the huddle and say “hee hee” and the magic will happen.
Now look, it’s quite possible that Mayfield ends up being not just better than Sam Darnold by light years, but also the best QB in this draft. But if he’s not, god help the Browns now. They will have taken a guy who snowed them with charm and bullshit when they went to dinner.
The argument against not taking players to dinner to get to “know them” is that if the player you draft ends up murdering somebody execution style in the back of an industrial park, the fanbase is going to scream: “How come you didn’t do your homework!”
The argument in favor of not taking players to dinner to get to “know them” is that just about any asshole can “ace” a dinner in which your agent and media coach has taught you all of the right things to say. And if you are a real charmer, who can draw up a nice tight “Spider-2 Y-Banana” on a cocktail napkin, then a front office might just fall in love with you and abandon all reason.
I believe NFL teams would fare better in the long run, if they did very little face to face with prospects, and instead just evaluated the tape from college and talked to coaches. Human instincts are notoriously poor when it comes to judging whether somebody is a “good person” or not, in part because the person putting on a facade is usually more skilled at putting on such a fake look because they’ve been doing it for a long time.
Plus, what do you have as a pre-conceived notion about a person/player? Because that matters as well. When a guy comes in who you think is a douchebag – say, Mayfield – and then he charms and impresses you with good manners, respect, and some smart answers… what does that do to you? It makes people melt and think: “Man, I really misjudged this guy!” Then you start to question your own abilities to assess somebody.
When in the end, all you are trying to do is project whether he can play football at the pro level. Yeah, the off the field stuff matters. Sorta. Kinda. But short of violence and drugs, the guys who can play on tape, can do so because they are dedicated to their craft and have put in the hours.
No charming dinner with the coaching staff and scouts, is going to change that.
DAILY CZABE LINKS
Browns Alonzo Highsmith Confirms: It Really Was About Mayfield’s “Hee Hee”
How GM John Dorsey Kept the Mayfield Pick Super Secret Until (Almost) The End
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