IRVING, Texas -- Every year Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones says the same thing: the most important pieces of information he collects prior to the draft come from the book given to him by the scouts after the college football season ends.
Makes sense. The book is filled with the most relevant football information available. It's not bogged down in all-star game practices, combine stats and other minutiae that develop over a four-month lead-up to when teams actually make picks.
But why do we hear so many stories of coaches' influence -- present and past -- on Jones after picks are made? Could it be scouts protecting their own interests? Sure.
We've heard Jacob Rogers (second round, 2004) was a Bill Parcells pick, and he never played a down for the Cowboys. We've heard that Jason Williams (second round, 2009) was a Wade Phillips pick and Robert Brewster (third round, 2009) a Hudson Houck pick and Stephen Hodge (sixth round, 2009) a Joe DeCamillis pick -- and they were all busts. If you remember a "Hard Knocks" episode from 2008, Jason Garrett was bully on Felix Jones in the first round. When the Cowboys took DeMarco Murray in 2011, Jones gave Barry Switzer a big tip of the cap.
Too many times Jones appears influenced by the last voice in his ear. An argument can be made that the owner and general manager talks to too many people, especially those outside the building.
There is an old saying around football that players play, coaches coach and scouts scout.
Some teams keep their coaches all but out of the draft process. Cincinnati relies on its coaches because of a smaller scouting staff. Most teams lean heavily toward the scouts.
That's not to say there is a separation of church and state between the coaches and scouts.
"We're all in this thing together," San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said. "And coach (Jim) Harbaugh, I've got a lot of respect for his ability to evaluate talent, just as I do with all of our coaches, so it's a team approach. Now, the coaches aren't sitting in the draft meetings with us, but at the same time there is a stage when they are brought into the process and that stage starts with the combine."
Coaches simply cannot be as exhaustive as scouts when it comes to the draft. During the season, most of their college football knowledge comes from watching games on Saturdays. They might know the names, but they don't know the stories behind the names.
The combine represents the first time the coaches are free and clear from their other duties, whether the club made the playoffs or didn't make the playoffs. There just isn't enough time to play catch-up, but there is value in what coaches bring to the draft process.
"I have always used the saying, 'Scouts help you bring the information to the bridge, and without the coaches you can't cross the bridge,' " said Miami general manager Jeff Ireland, who was with the Cowboys from 2001-07.
Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings benefited from an organization-wide meeting with scouts and coaches last year to go over the characteristics necessary to play in their offensive and defensive schemes.
"By getting everybody on the same page, we identified guys as a Viking fit," Spielman said. " 'Is this guy going to fit what we need him to do in his particular position?' There are guys that are very good football players but they may not fit from a scheme standpoint."
With the Cowboys returning to the 4-3 this year, new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli will have Jones' ear as to what they want in players to fit their scheme. There are plenty of scouts in the building, such as assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski, who were with the team before the move to the 3-4 in 2005 and also know what a 4-3 player looks like.
"Coaches that come into our ranks that haven't been here before I'm pretty sensitive to," Jones said. "I like their input. They've been in a lot of draft rooms, so I'm particularly interested in spending a little time getting their reaction as we go as to how we do this compared to the teams (they have) just come from. That's not backstopping Tom (Ciskowski) or backstopping Stephen (Jones). That's just something you would ask."
At Monday's pre-draft news conference, Jones said he relies on coaches' information in part because they know the players already on the team best.
"On the other hand, the ones that really rule the day are scouts," Jones said. "They spend a year or more looking at and evaluating these players. They're pretty much the meat on the bone, the scouts."
Who knows? Maybe Switzer won't get a shout-out this year.