Here's the thing about scouting college football players for the NFL draft. It's based on fear. Scouts cover their tracks. They hedge their bets. Their evaluations all read, 'Yes... but....' Yes, he can move the team down the field, but he doesn't have an NFL arm. If the player makes it, the scout will say, 'Well, I told you he had potential,' or if he's a bust, the scout will shake his head and say, 'See, the arm didn't hold up, just like I said.' There are more negatives than positives in most scouting reports. It's a wonder the teams can find enough people to play.
Intangibles, the look scouts see in a player's eye or a certain feeling about him, are for late-night, third-drink talk at the hotel bar. Unless a scout feels very secure in his employment, he won't load up his reports with intangibles. It's too easy to be wrong. And that's what terrorizes the scouts -- the fear of being wrong all by themselves, the big error, the No. 1 pick that was a total bust. And on draft day 1979, a lot of scouts were wrong about Joe Montana.
Eighty-one choices were made before the San Francisco 49ers took him near the end of the third round. A lot of teams made a mistake. Thinking back, what were the negatives on Montana when he was coming out of college? Strength of arm? Sure, he couldn't knock down buildings. So what? The Hall of Fame is filled with quarterbacks who didn't have a cannon.
Look at the little decisions that might have changed the course of history. What if, for instance, the Pittsburgh Steelers had decided that neither Mike Kruczek nor Cliff Stoudt were the eventual successors to then 30-year-old Terry Bradshaw, and the team had drafted Montana? Instead of four Super Bowl victories by 1980, would the Steelers have gone on to win five? Six? Seven? Who knows?
Tags: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, football