And no, I'm not referring to ordering a number 8 at McDonalds instead of the usual number 1.
I'm talking about life in general, but more specifically, sports.
Anyone who has read or seen Moneyball knows the Billy Beane story - Beane was an amazing High School football/baseball player who ultimately decided to try his hand at pro baseball, since he had a chance to go straight from HS without attending college.
Despite all the hype the scouts heaped on him (sure-fire prospect, can't miss, perfect body for sports, can run, can throw, can hit, strong fast, blah blah blah) Beane flopped. He was a terrible baseball player.
So when Beane flunked out of MLB he asked for a front office job and ultimately became the GM of the Oakland A's. Using his knowledge that big, strong, fast guys aren't by any means a lock to succeed, Beane (along with Paul DePodesta) determined to find a more accurate method of predicting the likelihood of any particular athlete's future success.
Not gonna bore you with details, but for baseball players it boiled down to the ability to hit for power and to get on base. That's very simplified but you get the point.
The point is that regardless of what traditional scouts "saw" in HS/college players, their success rate was poor as far as predicting which players would make successful pros. Beane's criteria was much mroe valid and EVERY MLB team uses his methods today.
Again, by thinking outside the box and disregarding conventional "wisdom", Beane was able to hit on a much more accurate method of player evaluation.
All well and good. except that it's not necessarily translating over to other sports.
For example, the NFL still relies on archaic methods of player evaluation, which is particularly evident during the Combine. Scouts fall in love with Player A because he's really strong, or really fast. Player B, on the other hand is slightly slower than average so his grade is diminished.
Scouts/GMs are completely willing to override years worth of game footage simply off these stupid and oerblown measurables. And time after time it fails to pay off for those scouts/GMs.
Jamarcus Russell was a really big, really strong-armed QB prospect when he entered the Draft. Scouts/GMs didn't care that he wasn't a great college player; they just fell in love with his "upside". (translation: yeah, he hasn't been that good, but if he ever learns to practice and prepare himself it would bode well for him due to hsi size and strength)
We all know what happened. Russell was horrible and flunked his way out of the League.
And it's not just Russell. The Raiders have made a mockery of the Draft by constantly over-valuing fast players who NEVRE work out for them. Time and time again NFL teams have drafted foolishly because they just couldn't resist so-and-so's size and strength, or size and speed. Time and time again those players go on to horribly disappointing NFL careers.
But does anybody ever learn anything from those mistakes? Of course not. The Draft is big business and NFL people rake in the bucks off the Hollywood-esque fashion show that is the Combine and the Draft. It's all a big populatiry contest, and the winners are the best looking prospects. And fans love it. So much, in fact, that the NFL has stretched out the Draft into a three-day ordeal. It's all about the almighty dollar.
But the old method of player evaluation is not a smart way to run an NFL team if the ultimate goal is on-the-field success.
Teams have PLENTY of info at their disposal. There's game film, Combine workouts, competancy test scores, one-on-one interviews, private workouts, etc.
But NONE of those factors can change a prospects' draft position as drastically as Combine results, which also happen to be one of the least accurate player-evaluation methods.
Let's take a current example: Memphis DT Dontari Poe.
This is a guy who has a total of 5 sacks in 3 years of college play, so obviously rushing the passer is NOT his forte. Maybe stuffing the run, then? Nope; Memphis ranked 97th out of all FBS schools in terms of giving up rushing yards per game, surrendering 192 RYPG.
So what is it about Poe? Well, he certainly wasn't highly regarded before the Combine, but at the Combine he wowed the scouts. He's a big man (nearly 350 pounds) and he ran a sub-5.0 40 yard dash (4.98), and he also put up 44 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
So... those measurables somehow are much mroe important than the fact that he NEVER pressured the QB and NEVER stopped the run in college. In other words, against inferior (to the NFL) opposition, he got ran on like crazy and was not at all a threat as far as pressuring the QB, but one of that matters because he benched a lot and his 40 time was TWO HUNDREDTHS OF A SECOND under 5.00.
Freakin' crazy, I tell you.
How about another example; this time it's Stephen Hill, a WR from Georgia Tech.
Hill caught all of FORTY NINE passes for EIGHT touchdowns over the course of his three-year career at Ga. Tech. That's right, 40 receptions for 8 TDs. In THREE YEARS.
But... at the Combine he ran a 4.31 40 yard dash and has a 9 3/8" wing span, and now he's destined to be a first round pick in the Draft.
Never mind that nobody had heard of him before the Combine; he's a sure-fire first rounder now.
It's insane, I tell ya.
On the flip side of the coin we have Boise State QB Kellen Moore. Moore is one of the best collegiate QBs of all time, and despite playing at BSU he actually played some tough competition over his career, as Boise is notorious for scheduling TOUGH out-of-conference games every year.
Moore is the most winning collegiate QB of all time, finishing his career with a 50-3 record. All the while playing at Boise State, a school that NEVER gets 5-star recruits and rarely even 4-star. He's also one of the most accurate Qbs we've ever seen in college football, and for each of the last two seasons he posted a completion % of well over 70%.
But there is absolutely no chance of Mooe being drafted in the first round. Why? Because he's "too short". Moore is only 6 feet tall, and he unfortunately doesn't have any showy Combine numbers to inflate his value.
It's madness and it has to stop. If only the NFL had a Billy Beane/Paul DePodesta combo to try something new, to evaluate players using more efficient methods... to make the insanity go away.