We hope it was a wonderful Thanksgiving for you and yours. Time to get back to work. Today, our focus is on the player evaluation profession.
Our deep dive into the numbers always yields interesting results. One thing we noticed this year was the growth at the upper levels of team front offices.
Since last year, the size of NFL scouting staffs (minus analytics personnel) has remained unchanged (an average of 18.3 staffers this year vs. 18.4 last year). However, the number of senior-level/executive evaluators has jumped by a whopping 33 percent since just last year (from an average of 2.1 per team to 3.1 this year). We’ve seen it in the growth of assistant GMs across the league as well as the numerous additions of senior personnel executives in the offseason preceding the 2021 season. Is this good news for on-the-road scouts seeking greater compensation?
Not yet. From our annual salary survey, we’re seeing flat numbers in scouting pay. However, total scouting budgets must be rising as the number of top-level evaluators grows. Will this top-heavy trend continue? It’s unclear.
The “road scout as information-gatherer” trend hasn’t slowed down, and as more and more new-guard owners enter the league, it’s unlikely to slow down. On the other hand, the potential GM candidates who follow the Patriots template have shrunk a little, as well. So it’s hard to predict the future.
Here are a few more points of interest:
· Average size of staff this year is 21.6 employees. That’s up more than three scouts since last year, when the average was 18.0.
· Of course, not all those scouts are breaking the bank. For instance, the average number of scouting assistants grew by almost a full scout since last year (2.5 this year vs. 1.8 last year).
· Average number of college scouts/executives is 15.1 vs. 3.2 pro scouts. Both numbers are up over last year (13.3/3.0).
· The Giants under new GM Joe Schoen surpassed the Browns to tally the most scouts and executives in the league with 33, two more than Cleveland. The lightest staff? You already know that.
· Of course, it’s harder than ever to judge teams’ pro vs. college scouting balance. For example, the Packers have not one pro scout listed and just one scouting staff member (pro director Richmond Williams) with “pro” in the title. However, senior staffers John Wojciechowski, Lee Gissendaner, Milt Hendrickson and Chad Brinker all pitch in on the pro side. Only one team (the Patriots, with six) have more pro scouts/executives.
· More scouts don’t necessarily equal better teams. The five teams with the fewest scouts are the Bengals, Commanders, Texans, Dolphins and Chargers. They have 25 wins between them. The five with the most are the Giants, Browns, 49ers, Ravens and Lions. They have 27 wins.
· The impact of analytics may be growing, and that’s borne out by the numbers. Last year, we found that teams averaged 2.4 data staff members per team, but this year, that number has risen by almost a full analyst to 3.3. Perhaps some of that can be attributed to the way we counted. Last year, we lumped everyone with “strategy,” “research” or “analytics” in their respective titles into the data pile, but might have missed a few. This year, we drew on the extensive list compiled in June by ESPN’s Seth Walder. Hopefully, our numbers this year are more reflective of the realities of NFL hiring practices.
· One unusual title is Mark Sadowski’s in Pittsburgh; rather than being a pro or college director, he’s “Director of Player Scouting.” Then there’s Keith Kidd in Las Vegas. As “Director of Scout Development,” he’s in charge of coaching up the young scouts on staff. It makes sense; the team has three player personnel assistants plus two other staffers with less than five years in the league.
There’s plenty more to gather from the numbers. See for yourself by reviewing all our totals here. In the meantime, here’s a look at what else we saw, heard, read and said about the business of college and pro football this week.
Catching Up: Mike Hickey, 76, scouted for the Jets and Patriots from 1971-1989 before departing for a career in stocks and bonds. We caught up with him last week.
· Where are you living and what are you doing now? “I’m retired, and I live in Portsmouth, R.I., right next to Newport. I do a lot of golfing and taking it easy at the pool.”
· Do you miss the job? What do you miss most? “No (laughs). After I left scouting, I went to work for Morgan Stanley, and worked for them for 20 years. I got to be a Senior Vice President, then retired.”
· Do you keep in touch with any of your former colleagues? “Well, most of them are dead. There’s fewer and fewer every day. It’s one of the tragedies of being young in the business: you’re young when you start off, and as you get older, they get older, and it’s something you don’t even realize. You make good friends that are older, but they don’t stay the same age. It was a shock to me, too, it really was.”
· Do you go to any live games (HS/college/pro)? “Yeah, I still stay in touch with a lot of the people with the Patriots, and I’m part of the Patriot Alumni Association, so occasionally I’ll go to a game, but with all the stuff they have on TV now, it’s hard to pass up a good seat in front of a big screen at home. But occasionally we go to Patriots games. It’s about 40 some-odd miles, but it’s still a long road because it’s still the same road that was clogged in ’71, and it’s still clogged today. Ingress and egress are very difficult. You have to get there very early, and even then, sometimes the parking lot has so much overflow that even with a parking pass you have to walk 2-3 miles, and it’s still a $50 parking fee. People along Route 1 have a nice way of supplementing their income. There is one other way to get in and out, but the only problem is you have to be a Foxboro resident, and now they have it blocked off. Some of them say it’s a lot better, but no, it’s not better. It’s just a (bigger) road now.”
· Are there any players you love to watch and/or feel close to due to your work in the game? “We get a kick out of watching (Chiefs QB Patrick) Mahomes and people like that. The QB up in Buffalo, (Josh Allen), there’s very exciting players to watch now. There’s also some tight ends, some very good players. But thank goodness the Red Zone channel has captured a lot of people. They did it mainly to help the gamblers and the ones in the fantasy leagues. I do neither, but it’s a great way to stay current with who’s doing what in the game. Everyone’s wondering how that (broadcaster) can stay there for eight hours without going to the bathroom (laughs).”
Review the latest from other former NFL scouts and executives by accessing our Catching Up archive here. Want to hear from a former scout, or know someone who may be interested in being interviewed? Let us know.
Tips for new agents: This week, ITL’s Neil Stratton was asked for advice on player representation for someone just getting started in the business. Rather than fire off a quick email or share a few links, he composed his thoughts in a blog that he posted this week. Whether you’re already certified or just thinking about it, make sure not to make these three mistakes, whether you’re focused on name, image and likeness, NFL contracts, general marketing or anything else.
Avoid costly mistakes: ‘Tis the time to spend money, and that’s got nothing to do with buying Christmas presents. Over the next 60 days, about two-thirds of all draft prospects who find representation for the ’23 draft will sign standard representation agreements. The issue for contract advisors is making sure they don’t sign the wrong players. The best way to reduce risk is to find out exactly what NFL scouts think about possible clients, and we’ve got someone who can tell you what you need to know. Blake Beddingfield spent more than two decades with the Tennessee Titans, and he never stopped evaluating players, which he does for us, a training facility, other leagues and even certain agencies. For $100 plus tax ($108.25), we can get a one-page report turned around in about 48 hours. All reports include strengths and weaknesses, final conclusions, and a round projection. Take the heart and emotion out of your decisions and let someone else help you cover your blind spots. All we need is a name, position and school, and we do the rest. Ready to get started? Let us know.
Know Your Scouts: Our series is over. We’ve looked at all 32 NFL teams’ staffs, updating all the titles, weeding out any former employees and adding a handful that we missed this summer. If you aspire to work in an NFL front office someday, you better know who you’re up against and where they came from. You also will want to know which teams hire scouting assistants and where they hire from. Every scout’s hiring year, title, a fun fact and more gets listed, college or pro. Don’t overlook one of our most popular annual features. Check out all 32 teams here. Also, don’t forget you can look at every move made – up, down, in or out – on our Scouting Changes Grid. You can access it here.
Next week: It’s time to get serious. Here’s what next the next seven days look like.
· We’ll replace our Know Your Scouts feature with a daily update to our Signings Grid, which will debut Monday. All the all-star invites, all the signings, all the combine invites, all the training locations, and probably a few more interesting morsels will go onto our big board by the time we reach the end of April. We’ll get started with it on Monday.
· Our Rep Rumblings will really get spicy next week as we anticipate a few coach hirings, player signings and dozens more all-star invitations. Make sure not to miss a thing.
· We’re working on our Zoom schedule for the month of December. We’re tentatively looking at Rookie Agent Zooms the first and second full weeks of the month, plus a session or two aimed at aspiring scouts. Our plan is to focus on training and all-star games in our two agent sessions. Stay tuned. Details are on the way. Also, the XFL Supplemental Draft is not far off. Are there details that agents need? We’ll make a determination and perhaps add something to the schedule if warranted.
· Maybe we’ll convey our Zoom schedule in this week’s Succeed in Football blog post, but probably we’ll have advice, thoughts or observations on the industry as it relates to scouting, player representation, NIL, or some other football topic.
That’s our game plan. It’s the most wonderful time of the year (even without the joy of the holiday season). Get on the “nice” list by joining us.