INDIANAPOLIS -- Hey, know that thing we’ve asked you to find for us the past several years? Yeah, we want something different now. You can adjust on the fly, right?
That may be a little simple, but as I’ve watched the Titans turn over their coaching staff and the Texans revamp on the defensive side, I’ve found myself thinking that’s kind of what scouts in those two organizations have heard.
Texans talent evaluators who’ve sought 4-3 guys for their front are now charged with presenting fits for Wade Phillips’ 3-4. And Tennessee scouts will be expected to understand what wrinkles, big and small, Mike Munchak prefers and what traits in young quarterbacks that new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer values most.
“Scouts will argue with you, we all have opinions,” Munchak said. “They’ll say, 'I like this guy or that guy.' But I think the position coaches will stand up in front of the scouts when we are all back [together] in April and say, ‘Hey, here are our needs. We need a linebacker that does this, this and this, so this guy will really help us.’ I think it’s been that way; we’ve done a decent job of that.
“I think that’s the coaches' jobs when we are in those meetings, and that’s been my role in the past, saying, ‘You know what, that’s a good player, but he doesn’t fit with what we do on offense.’ So we don’t waste our time chasing something we don’t need. Guys people perceive as great players may not be great players for us.”
Key words and phrases: Same page, consensus, common ground. Expect to hear those a lot.
It’s hard for outsiders to imagine a team reaching a consensus on big decisions, where a GM and scouting staff and a head coach and his assistants all rank a group the same way. But Ruston Webster, the Titans' vice president of player personnel, said people can wind up in unison as they help put a team together.
“If you can’t come to an agreement on a guy, you do one of two things: There is one guy who pulls the trigger and says, ‘This is what we are going to do’ or sometimes it’s better to say, ‘OK, let’s find a guy we do agree on,’” Webster said. "I think we’ll find the best players we agree on and are on the same page with and we’ll be OK."
Disputes where a consensus can’t be built are not as frequent as some may believe, said Webster, who’s also worked in the front offices in Seattle and Tampa Bay.
Texans general manager Rick Smith rounded up his scouts during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala., for a meeting where he spelled out the needs for Phillips’ scheme.
“We had to get in a room and educate our staff about the things we’re looking for,” he said. “It’s not too difficult to get them caught up to speed. ... We’ve really opened ourselves up to some potential options that were not there before some guys who may not be the great defensive ends or the great athletes, may have a little more stiffness, but have some pass-rushing ability or a knack that way that fit in a 3-4 and don’t necessarily fit in a 4-3."
The Titans’ scouts will still grade guys the same, and the tweaking will come in meetings closer to the draft after combine and pro-day reviews, when scouts and coaches are in the same meetings.
And while we’re talking about new coaches affecting the kind of players their team looks for, it can work in reverse. The potential of a player can prompt a coach to tweak his system.
“You know what, he’s a special guy, you’re just going to make a change for him,” Munchak said. “A coach may say, ‘If I can get that guy, we’ll start doing this.’ Maybe not so much for linemen, but for a certain receiver or running back, if we get that guy or add that as an extra weapon, maybe we’ll tweak things.”
Jacksonville’s had no major staff changes, and general manager Gene Smith is not dealing with any alterations to what his team is looking for. He said that such changes can be difficult.
“I think it’s easier said than done, especially in your first year,” Gene Smith said. “Because you’ve already built a team to that point to fit a certain scheme. You adjust on the move, but it is a transformation and it does take some time.
“You’ve got to know what they want, and as scouts you try to build your roster to fit the scheme. Sometimes as a scout you’re just looking for a football player that can play the game -- instinctive, highly competitive. But I’m still a firm believer the players make the scheme.”