Lions Gab: Brian Xanders in place to overhaul Lions' scouting schemehttp://www.freep.com/article/20130130/S ... 9/sports01
11:15 AM, January 30, 2013 | Comments
By Anthony Kuehn
Detroit Free Press Special WriterAnthony Kuehn is the editor of the Detroit Lions blog Lions Gab. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Detroit Free Press nor its writers. Get in touch with Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lionsgab.
I decided to put the mailbox on hold this week, after getting some questions and seeing the reaction to the Lions’ move to hire Brian Xanders.
First, Xanders is not going to replace Martin Mayhew. He is going to report to him. Second, Xanders is going to help build an internal scouting system for the Lions, and this is where the questions start.
No, the Lions don’t have an internal scouting system. That does not mean they don’t have a scouting department. That does not mean they don’t scout players. It is not the main reason the Lions have had some bad draft picks.
The Lions actually helped create the NFL’s first scouting service in 1963. It was called LESTO. That stood for Lions Eagles Steelers Talent Organization. In 1964, the Bears joined, and it became BLESTO, then BLESTO-V, when the Vikings joined years later. Currently, the Giants, Redskins, Vikings, Jaguars and Bills use the service, as well as the Lions. Several other scouting organizations formed throughout the years, but now only two exist. In 1977, the three main scouting services combined their player workouts, which created the modern-day NFL combine.
Twenty-seven of the 32 NFL teams use BLESTO or the National Football Scouting organization, with the other five relying on in-house staff only. So as you can see, the Lions are not behind the times nor understaffed nor any of the other misconceptions being thrown around.
NFL scouting services serve a very simple purpose: They help teams gather tons of information with a minimal commitment. Each team in the service is required to commit at least one scout to the organization, and those scouts work as a team to build player biographies and personal profiles. They also build a rough ranking of players and publish the data in reports. These reports then serve as a starting point for the individual teams’ scouting departments, as they try to scout several hundred players in a single year.Lions coach Jim Schwartz worked under two of the greatest talent evaluators in the NFL -- Bill Belichick and Ozzie Newsome -- in Cleveland. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, they fired Belichick as coach but kept Newsome and several other coaches and front-office personnel on board, including Schwartz.
Belichick and Newsome both run their scouting services in-house, and both have won Super Bowls with that process. I don’t have any inside information on this, but my guess is Schwartz has been pushing for the Lions to bring things in-house for a while, since that is how he cut his teeth in the business. This could be the source of the tension between Schwartz and the front office that was talked about several weeks ago. It is not certain that the Lions will no longer subscribe to BLESTO, but early indications point in that direction.
Xanders helped the Atlanta Falcons build a scouting system, and he has experience in pro and college scouting, as well as coaching. So his addition is not a sign of potential turnover. It is, in fact, the opposite. If the Ford family didn’t think Mayhew and Schwartz were the right men for the job, they certainly wouldn't be making a huge investment in building a new scouting system.
This new system will not be in place for the 2013 draft, and since the bulk of player scouting already has occurred, Xanders’ impact on this draft will not be as dramatic as many think. He will come into the scouting process and help evaluate players at the combine and review film. He will be in draft meetings and help build the draft board. And he will be in the draft room on draft weekend. He won’t be building the new scouting process until after the draft has concluded, so the major changes won’t be in effect until 2014.
These changes will help bolster a front office that is better than fans give it credit for. Draftmetrics.com just did an analysis of all 32 teams' drafts over the last 10 and five years. The Lions ranked 31st in the 10-year period (2003-12), as many fans would expect. However, in the last five drafts, the Lions rank 10th in the NFL, ahead of teams such as the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Lions' front office and coaching staff did a remarkable job rebuilding an 0-16 team and taking it to the playoffs. The late Tom Kowalski always said getting a team from bad to good wasn’t the hard part; it was getting them from good to great that was difficult.
The Lions accomplished a lot in three years, then took a step back. They have made some coaching-staff changes, some front-office changes, and they will make several roster changes. Lions fans need to deal with the fact that organizations that consistently win don’t clean house every three to five years, they learn from their mistakes and move forward. Fans should've be upset if the Lions kept the status quo after taking a big step back. But the team actually made some changes and heavily invested in the future, just like the best organizations do.