INDIANAPOLIS – John Schneider. Ted Thompson. Reggie McKenzie. And now John Dorsey.
They call the annual evaluation of prospects for the NFL Draft that is winding down in this city the Scouting Combine, but this year it also could have been dubbed the Wolf Pack Reunion Tour.
Schneider (Seahawks), Thompson (Packers), McKenzie (Raiders) and Dorsey (Chiefs) are general managers in the league. But they also have something else in common: Each began his career working for former Packers general manager Ron Wolf in Green Bay. And three of them have spent time with the Seahawks – Schneider, who was hired as the team’s GM in 2010, also was director of player personnel in 2000 before eventually returning to the Packers; Thompson was vice president of football operations in Seattle from 2000-04 before returning to the Packers; and Dorsey was director of player personnel with the Seahawks in 1999 before returning to the Packers after the 2000 NFL Draft.
All learned the scouting biz from Wolf, and each obviously was an honors graduate.
“Talk about a great mentor,” Schneider said. “Ron was really just an unbelievable guy to learn from, and we learned so much from him about work ethic, and never being complacent with your team at all, and never stop asking questions during the draft process.
“We learned so much from him.”
And there they all were one day last week, huddled in the hallway that leads to Lucas Oil Stadium – exchanging congratulations and stories, as well as comparing notes on some prospects.
“I’m certainly happy for them, they’re all really good friends of mine,” said Thompson, who eventually inherited the mentor role after Wolf retired in 2001. “We’re not going to have a reunion this week, so to speak, but we’re very good friends.”
Sorry, Ted, but with the time-consuming task that is the Combine, those few moments together are as close to a reunion as you’re going to get at this time of year.
Because Thompson was the first to step into a GM position, he also has assumed the lead-wolf spot in this Pack. And with that comes some pride.
“We put some people in position to take on more leadership and it’s next man up,” Thompson said of having to replace those who have moved on from the Packers’ front office. “But we’re very happy for all those guys that have gotten good jobs, and they’re going to do a great job around the league and kind of carry on probably much the way Ron Wolf taught us all.”
But all this kumbaya camaraderie goes only so far in the keeping-it-close-to-the-vest profession that is making personnel evaluations.
“You’re always bouncing ideas off people and trying to figure out the right thing to do because sometimes it gets lonely when you’re the person making that pointed decision,” Thompson said. “We have friends in different positions like the ones I’ve talked about – John Schneider, John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie.
“There are conversations going on so you kind of bounce things off each other, but nobody really tells the truth. So you have to discern what’s truth and what’s the untruth and what’s the truth he’s trying to get me to buy into so I’ll believe the untruth.
“It’s all a mess.”
Honesty might normally be the best policy, but in the biz where Schneider, Thompson, McKenzie and Dorsey have risen to the top, a little deception also can go a long way.
These principals of all things player personnel aren’t the only ones asking questions of prospects at the Combine. The players also take part in 15-minute Q&A sessions with the media.
Two of the more repetitive questions involve which teams the players have met with during their stay here, and which opponent was the best they faced during their college careers. The first is ridiculous, because each player meets with as many as 20 teams. So the fact that there was a meeting does not necessarily indicate interest in drafting that player, it’s simply part of the process. The second can be revealing, however, if you get Player A to say the right thing about Opponent B.
Of all the things I heard people say on those topics the past four days these are two of my favorites:
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock was asked during his Sunday afternoon recap if he saw anyone who stood out that might fit with the New England Patriots – a twist on the which-teams-have-you-met-with question.
Offered Mayock: “I don’t look at it that way yet. To me, I’m looking at the kids and I’m not trying to fit them to teams. We’re not even into free agency yet, so I don’t really fit them that way at all at this point.”
Presented with the best-opponent query, BYU defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah said, “I’m always hesitant to answer that question. I think I would give it to the Oregon State right tackle because I got held a lot in that game and it was never called. So he did a good job.”