I’ve been giving it more thought the past couple days, and if the teams are looking to pinch a few pennies, I have a suggestion: The league should take over scouting for teams.
Brown’s post reminded of a 2003 article in Harvard Business Review by Nicholas Carr called “IT Doesn’t Matter.” (Here’s an excerpt.) Carr’s basic argument was that firms’ IT capabilities no longer offer a strategic advantage.
According to Carr, the ubiquity of low-cost business enterprise systems has turned IT into a commodity that firms had to invest in as a matter of course, as opposed to trying to achieve meaningful differentiation. In other words, IT investment is now a matter of keeping up with competitors, not a way to get a leg up on the competition.
If Brown’s thesis is correct, then the situation NFL teams face regarding their scouts seems analogous to the IT value proposition. Each team’s scouting department is really no better than the next, yet the franchises continue to sink money into talent evaluation, producing little marginal benefit. (In fact, in so far as too much information could create “paralysis by analysis” in war rooms, the investment in scouting may be detrimental.)
However, as Brown notes, the collective wisdom of the scouting crowds does have something to offer. That raises the issue of whether or not teams can somehow harness that intelligence in a more efficient way.
Traditional businesses, for instance, can turn to vendors such as Microsoft that provide low-cost, effective IT products to suit almost every need imagineable. Thus, firms don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to implement an IT infrastructure.
While some outside consultants do exist, NFL teams don’t really have many alternative scouting options. In terms of scale, what is available externally could probably serve as a complement to the scouting franchises already do, rather than a replacement.
But, say the league set up a large-scale, centralized scouting service for all the franchises to share. Assuming that the usefulness of the league scouts’ analysis wouldn’t drop significantly, teams could cut their scouting departments and realize significant savings. Theoretically, as the number of available positions for scouts shrinks, the general quality of talent evaluation might even improve.
So, we’re talking about the same–possibly even better–analysis for a fraction of the price. It’s a home run, right?
Truth is, it will never happen. The people calling the shots for NFL franchises aren’t going to give up that kind of authority. They want to believe that they have the power to turn around their teams’ fortunes with their ability to identify late-round sleepers and The Next Big Thing.
Hope they’re having fun, because it looks like money down the drain to me.