Today was the big meeting for all the Sports Agents during the NFL Combine. So, I got up early and met as many agents as possible that represent punters and kickers. I finally got to meet many of the people I had been talking to over the phone for the last month. I collected and gave out a lot of business cards! It was a excellent time to network!
After a couple hours I proceeded over to the RCA dome where the Kickers, Offensive Linemen and Tight Ends were being highlighted. As I walked thru the hallways at the RCA Dome I met many of my old coaching friends and acquaintances. As a matter of fact, I saw Joe Bugel who is one of the all-time great Offensive Line Coaches in the NFL for several great Head Coaches which include Joe Gibbs. We both live in Fountain Hills, Arizona and live about a mile apart.
A round of golf is definately in our near future.
It was about noon, so I decided to grab a quick sandwich. In the sandwich shop, there was Scott Studwell Director of College Scouting for the Minnesota Vikings. It's hard to go anywhere here without seeing someone I know, or someone I'd like to meet.
Scott and I go way back, when I was the Special Teams Coach for the Minnesota Vikings. We sat and had a great conversation about our Viking days together. We were soon joined by Carolina Head Coach John Fox. The three of us talked for about 30 minutes about various subjects.
Scott asked Coach Fox, "what are you doing over here so early"? Coach Fox replied “I like to watch everyone and kicking is a part of it”
I like it when Head Coaches pay attention to the Kicking Game. Way to go Coach Fox.
We then started discussing the topic of, how does the combine decide which punters and kickers get invited to the combine. Scott explained the process. He said it had to do with votes.
Last night at our dinner most of the Special Teams Coaches didn’t understand the process either. However, there was one general consensus, expressed by many of the Special Teams Coaches there, and that was, whoever is deciding or voting on the combine kicking personnel, was not doing a very good job. And I expressed that to Coach Fox and Scott Studwell.
It was time to get to the dome for the 1:00 P.M. kicking workout!
This is my 15th year checking out the talent at the Combine, so I am understandably curious what the talent pool will look like this year.
Head Coaches, Special Teams Coaches, Personnel Managers, and Scouts were seated all around the RCA Dome with stop watches and clip board with charts in hand waiting to see this year’s group. They started with the punters. 1st Punter, 2nd Punter, so on until the last punter.
The two combine long snappers, snapped balls to the punters. The punters tried to hit four of their best punts down the middle with good hang times. They then tried punting three balls directionally, 1st to the right and then to the left. Each player punted a total of 10 balls.
Everyone was charting: get offs, hang times, and distances.
The Snappers were being timed for speed of snap and accuracy. This group as a whole, struggled! Kickoffs were next. This was a combination of punters and kickers.
Each player kicked 5 balls, straight down the middle of the field, trying to get their best kickoff. Distances and hang times were recorded. Next, each player tried to directional kickoff 3 balls to the right and then to the Left. For the field goal kickers that don’t have a cannon of the leg, this is their chance to show coaches that they can kickoff with accuracy to the corner and pin a Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs Pro Bowl type return man into the corner.
The Last group was field goals kickers. They started with the elevation drill. I hate this drill and I have expressed this to many coaches and Combine personnel. This is stupid drill! Most of the kickers change their field goal technique just in order to get the ball up quickly and to be successful during the drill. I will never let any of the kickers I've coached do this drill!
I personally would give the kickers more field goals, and throw out the elevation drill. My thought is that Kickers and Punters should NEVER do any drill that might give them bad muscle memory.
The kickers now start kicking field goals with a snap and hold. There is a 10 foot net put at the line of scrimmage that the kick must clear to go thru the goal post. This is to simulate the defensive line getting their hands up to block a field goal. Each field goal kicker takes 3 kicks with a snap and hold! They start on the left hash, with a 30 yard field goals. They moved back in five yard increments and alternated hash marks, kicking 3 more field goals. The ended the day, with 3 kicks at 50 yards right down the middle. Each kicker get 15 kicks. The kicker from Louisville and Wisconsin had good days!
The two snappers did an excellent job snapping all day.
However, I didn't feel the same way about the Kickers and Punters. This was by far the worst group of punters and kickers the NFL Combine committee has assembled in years. This was not only my reaction, but also, the sentiments of at least 12-15 Special Teams Coaches and Scouts sitting around me. I have attended the Combine for 15 years, and some coaches have been in the league longer. In my opinion, there were only 2 or maybe 3 kickers, at most that have a chance to get into a NFL camp.
And I know many of the NFL Special Teams Coaches are very frustrated with the selection committee and the process, and they should be. Now many of the teams and coaches will be forced to spend thousands of dollars to go to various Colleges around the country to work with punters and kickers in an effort to find the talent that should have been invited to the Combine.
What a waste of money!
NFL coaches want the BEST! That's why they come here. But for some reason, when it comes to the kicking specialists at the NFL Combine, the evaluation process is falling short of that goal.
There’s vast room for improvement, but that’s just one voice speaking!
Friday night at the Marriott Hotel, I was talking to an agent, when Vikings Head Coach; Brad Childress came over to talk this agent. Coach Childress had worked with Jill Mc Bride’s father, Ron Mc Bride at the University of Utah a while back. Sometimes, it helps to be in the right place and the right time. I had not planned to talk to Coach Childress because they have excellent specialists. Somehow the conversation turns to Power Point, and Coach Childress’s eyes light up. He wants to know more about my power point package. It’s late and we agree to meet on Saturday or Sunday, when we have more time.
I had never met Coach Childress before, however, he seems to be a really a nice guy!
Stay tuned for Coach Zauner Blog at the Combine
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