The NFL Scouting Combine is a lot like speed dating—appearances trump substance. Executives make snap judgments about prospects. Players are valued by physical measurements and statistics. The fastest football players are like the most attractive girls at a bar waiting to be picked up by rich suitors who will drop them without hesitation the moment they find a more attractive—or faster—replacement. When it comes to the NFL, the corporations have all the power. Not just the league and teams, but the sponsors as well.
Accepting these truths about NFL business makes adidas’s promise to sign the prospect with the best 40-yard dash time to an endorsement deal smell like a desperate grab for headlines. The news, first reported by Darren Rovell at ESPN.com, seems particularly strange considering NFL players aren’t allowed to wear adidas gear during games; rules only permit Nike and Under Armour apparel. Would sponsoring the fastest player help adidas slice into the NFL money pie? Probably not, even if that player was good. The fact that the contest is predetermined for a single skill rather than an overall body of work is dumbfounding, since speed does not guarantee ability.