New San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio isn't using the lockout to further evaluate the players he inherited.
"I have really not watched a lot of tape of the guys," Fangio told reporters at the NFL scouting combine.
This came as a surprise to me. Why not get as much information as possible? I filed away the quote and asked 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh about it during the NFL owners meeting this week. The answer he provided can be useful in limiting our own evaluations of players.
"Vic's point is a truism in that you don’t know how they were always coached," Harbaugh said. "You can see them react on a play, you can see them do a technique, but you don't know exactly how that technique was coached, you don't know exactly what they were coached to do. So, you can watch the tape, but you can't make a permanent judgment on somebody because you don't exactly know what they were supposed to do."
Some evaluations are easier to make. We can often see, for example, when an offensive tackle has trouble blocking a defensive end in pass protection. But it's much tougher to blame a specific defensive back for a coverage breakdown without knowing specifically what coaches asked players to do on the play.
"Going into a new place, I really try not to watch a lot of tape other than I want to form my own opinion," Fangio said at the combine. "I don’t know what they were being told, what they weren’t being told, I don’t know what the circumstances were."