Bricks, paper clips and the Browns

NFL scouting seems to get more and more interesting every year.

Consider the case of Arkansas center Travis Swanson, who admitted at his combine interview that he patterns his game after Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack.

If Mack leaves the Browns via free agency, Swanson would be a legitimate candidate to be drafted in Mack’s place.

Swanson went through the usual questions in his media interview, saying he's laid-back and likes all kind of music and plays guitar. All that stuff. Then he talked about an interview with a Browns scout at the Senior Bowl.

“I got asked to name all the things I could do with a single brick in one minute,” Swanson said.

A brick.

“That kind of threw me off,” he said.


Not that it hasn't been studied. A PowerPoint online titled “Creative Thinking Techniques -- Forty Uses For a Brick” by a gentleman named Sandy Cormack goes through many different ways a brick can be used.

Among them: Bug whacker, ballast, desk paperweight. The point is to "empty your mind of the 'usual' ideas" and go from there.

Except it's still a brick.

Swanson did his best.

“I think I said, 'You could use it as a doorstop. You could start to build something,' Swanson said. "I think that’s about all I got."

Which isn't bad actually.

Then came the combine, where Mike Silver of NFL.com reported that at least two players were asked in their interview how many different things they could do with a paper clip. Yes, the team that asked was the Browns.

Naturally, there is a website for that as well.

Xrysostom.com relates a paper clip can be used as a cherry pit remover, a hymn marker (for organists) and a miniature slingshot. Yes, the last one is a bit bizarre.

Another site that titles itself Innovation IQ has another list for the paper clip, which includes worm hook, DVD drive opener and marshmallow sticks (?). It also says the paper clip can be used to make alphabet letters.

OK, then.

All this is well and good, and may in fact tell a Browns scout the ingenuity level of a player, and how quickly said player can think when confronted with something odd. It’s quirky, but has a point.

This is also not unique to the Browns, mind you. Teams are always falling all over themselves to find new ways to garner information about a player, and every team finds a way to ask a unique question.

But it reminds me of the day I was covering a baseball game and a scout relayed a story of sitting in the stands and striking up a conversation with a fan who had his own sabermetric charts on every player. The fan had pages of stats, with all kinds of analysis and categories he had devised. Some of it was interesting, the scout said.

But then he looked at the guy and asked where the category was for “CHP.”

What’s CHP, asked the fan?

Can he play?

Presumably that's at least the starting point.