Interviews help coaches find the right fit.
I’ve been with six different NFL teams and have attended the Indianapolis Scouting Combine with all six teams to interview college prospects for the NFL draft. Interviewing is critical to have the best chance to find out if a candidate will be a good fit for the team.
Every team is a little different with the interview procedure.
One year when I was the Assistant HC and Defensive Back Coach with Green Bay, I was fortunate to sit in on every player interview. In all but one of the teams, the head coach sat in on every meeting. The GM National Area Scout and Director of Player Personnel were also in attendance. The respective coordinator and potential position coach handled the football Xs and Os aspect of the interview.
The normal procedure started with the GM or Scout gathering the prospect’s general information such as agent and phone number.
Occasionally they would ask about family just to get the prospect talking and comfortable. If there were any character issues or arrests, these items would also be addressed at that time.
Most often these interviews are not like an interrogation, but a conversation. The head coaches and GM’s usually have one or two questions to see if they can get a glimpse into what motivates the prospect and makes him tick.
One of my favorite head coach questions was when Mike Sherman, the Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers at the time, would ask the prospect if they had ever had a job. He would also ask if they ever missed work and why.
Prospects who had jobs were used to working.
Prospects who were reliable in those low-level positions were more likely to be reliable in the high-profile NFL.
Prospects who never had a real job may not understand the mentality of the NFL.
The X and O Interview
The X and O aspect of the interview then began with the coordinator and position coach.
Sometimes, video would be used to have the prospect talk through a couple of series of a game and the plays. It was a test for the prospect’s recall. Could they identify the play that was on the video and explain their reactions and the strategy of the overall scheme?
I liked the old-fashioned way of having them draw their basic play on the board. I was interested in not only their football knowledge or football IQ, but also how they would draw on the board.
Was the prospect: meticulous, precise, detailed, and neat; or quick or messy with all different sizes of the elements of the play design?
Messy diagrams identified players who had not diagrammed plays very often. That was an indication they weren’t passionate about the overall schemes of the game and would take longer to pick up the details necessary to produce at the NFL level. It could also be an indication that they didn’t have a real passion for football.
If they took pride in their diagram, they were normally players who did the little things — the details necessary to win.
I would also ask about drills. When prospects knew the drills, and could explain the coaching point of emphasis, they knew the fundamentals of their craft and had a foundation to build on.
Another key question is to ask the prospect what they thought of their coach. If they were quick to criticize, then that’s a red flag. Prospects quick to criticize others are normally the players looking for excuses or a way to place the blame elsewhere. The same thing is true if they speak poorly of any teammate.
There have been times I’ve seen coaches try to intimidate players by calling them out in none too flattering fashion for poor play or in an effort to see their reaction.
Coaches will say that an intimidating interview style is to see if the prospect can handle tough coaching and criticism. That particular style of interview can also backfire if the organization does select the prospect and he feels the position coach didn’t want him drafted. Coaching is built upon trust and that is not an ideal way to start to build trust between coach and player.
There have been some buying interviews where very little is learned about the prospect.
This would occur when the position coach wanted to show the prospect and everyone in the room how much he knew instead of finding out how much the prospect did. You only have 15 minutes per player so it’s best to have the player do the talking.
Interviewing questions and candidate responses are important whether you are hiring a babysitter, customer service representative, sales person or CEO. Getting the right people on the team is the beginning to creating a winning team.