DMN: Archer: The mystique of the 40-yard dash

Discussion in 'Draft Zone' started by Cbz40, Mar 18, 2007.

  1. Cbz40

    Cbz40 The Grand Poobah

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    [SIZE=+2]The mystique of the 40-yard dash

    http://www.**************/sharedcontent/dws/img/03-07/031840yardduo.jpg AP
    Texas' Aaron Ross (left) and Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson run at the NFL Scouting Combine.

    As NFL teams go about the evaluation process for the draft, many numbers will dot scouting reports. No number is more glamorous, hyped or examined than a time in the 40-yard dash. For the 327 players who were in Indianapolis last month, to those not invited to the combine, the 40-yard dash time can represent a chance at a new life or the chance to begin their life's work.

    • Special Report: The Short Run

    [SIZE=+1]Since Paul Brown's days, fleet feet have been a sure way to get on NFL's fast track
    [/SIZE] [SIZE=-1]01:06 AM CDT on Sunday, March 18, 2007

    [/SIZE] [SIZE=-1]By TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News
    [/SIZE] By the time you finish reading this sentence, Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston would have finished running 40 yards.
    Houston may have run himself into the first round of next month's NFL draft.

    At the NFL scouting combine, Houston ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash, making him one of the fastest defensive backs. Mix in how he performed against top receivers, such as Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett, Tennessee's Robert Meachem and South Carolina's Sydney Rice, and Houston is projected as a first-rounder.

    "I've been the fastest in elementary school," Houston said. "Middle school, I was the fastest. High school, I was the fastest. I went out there in 11th grade in clothes, and I saw everybody running, and my coach didn't want me to run because I think I twisted my ankle. But I still ran with clothes on and still ran a 4.34."

    As NFL teams go about the evaluation process for the draft, many numbers will dot scouting reports. No number is more glamorous, hyped or examined than a time in the 40-yard dash.

    For the 327 players who were in Indianapolis last month, to those not invited to the combine, the 40-yard dash time can represent a chance at a new life or the chance to begin their life's work.

    The 40 time is magical. It can become legendary, such as when Deion Sanders ran a 4.29 on a supposedly slow RCA Dome turf and continued all the way into the locker room or when Arkansas quarterback-turned-receiver Matt Jones stunned everybody with a 4.37.
    Scouts looked quizzically at their stopwatches and then at each other to compare times. Jones' time helped him become a first-round pick by Jacksonville in 2005.

    "I'm glad the Saints didn't put too much emphasis on my 40 when I came out," said Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, the former Cowboys linebacker taken in the third round by New Orleans in 1985. "It's a tool. It's another thing for us to measure, grade, evaluate. I think at the end of the day you're looking for football players that produce for you on the field."

    But teams have been – and will continue to be – enticed by 40 times.

    The history

    Paul Brown, founder of two NFL franchises, is credited with many innovations, from the playbook to the draw play to a radio in a quarterback's helmet. In addition to his on-the-field successes, Brown's off-the-field ideas played a part in his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Another of Brown's legacies is the 40-yard dash.
    Coaching at Ohio State in the 1940s, Brown was looking for players to cover punts. He figured the average punt traveled 40 yards, so he had his players timed. The fastest covered punts.

    Some 60 years later, the 40 remains one of the most important tools in professional football, serving as a way to compare running backs, receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen to defensive backs, linebackers and defensive linemen.

    In the early '60s, the Cowboys began timing college players in the 40 in the evaluation process.

    "Our biggest thing was we had to get accurate information into the computer, so the more information you got the better results you got," former Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt said. "So we had a chart made up that if a player was X height and ran a 4.45 he'd get 40-plus points. If a player was X height and ran a 4.6, he might get 10-plus points. To me, what the [40] does is it becomes something of a tiebreaker or it's something that alerts you to a player that can be pretty good."

    The training

    In the last 15 years, players' preparation has changed. Combine testing has become a cottage industry. One of the first questions players ask prospective agents concerns preparation for the combine.

    The agents generally pick up the tab, and if a player is not chosen in the draft or picked later, the agent ends up losing money.

    Some players remain at their colleges. At Ohio State, they work with three-time Olympian Butch Reynolds. Most go to performance centers across the country to prepare for the combine, from the vertical leap to the 225-pound bench press to the interview process. NFL teams are becoming so turned off at the preparedness of the players that they look at the combine more for the medical records than anything else.

    Disney's Wide World of Sports hosts Tom Shaw's Performance Enhancement. Chip Smith and Robby Stewart run Competitive Edge Sports in Duluth, Ga. Athletes Performance Institute has facilities in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Tempe, Ariz. Center for Human Performance is in Phoenix.

    In a testimonial on the CES Web site, Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher said his 40-time was lowered from 4.69 to 4.49 in three months of work with Smith, helping make him a first-round pick.

    The splits

    There are races within the 40-yard dash. Scouts line up at 10 and 20 yards, as well as the finish to document times.
    The 10-yard time measures a player's explosiveness. How quick can a receiver get off the line of scrimmage? Can offensive and defensive linemen fire off the ball? The 10 can help answer those questions.
    For linemen, teams will be more interested in the 10 than the 40. As Hall of Famer Mike Munchak, Tennessee's line coach, said, "If my guys are running 40 yards, we're in trouble."

    Munchak is not a big believer in the 40 for linemen, "unless it's just extreme one way or the other. If he runs a 4.8, that's something that would make you go, 'Wow,' or if he's a 6.0 or slower, then that's something you notice. I think it's more the quickness you see on tape, how well he gets out of his stance."

    The 20 can measure the recovery speed of a cornerback or linebacker. It can also help determine a receiver's separation on intermediate routes. Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson, the top-rated receiver in this year's draft, was timed at 1.55 seconds after 10 yards and finished with a 4.35-second 40. Impressive for any receiver but more so because he weighed 239 pounds.

    A player who runs a 4.6 might be as fast or faster as the 4.4 guy because of his closing speed. Yet the snap of a finger – or even less – can determine if a cornerback is fast or slow.

    "It's been like that for years," Syracuse cornerback Tanard Jackson said. "Nothing's going to change it. But I'd still like to think the decision-makers want a football player. They want a guy with speed, especially at the position I play, but the film is the film. They want a football player."


    The names of players with slow 40-yard times who have become legends are endless. Jerry Rice was timed in the 4.5s, but he set an NFL record for receptions and rarely – if ever – was caught from behind.

    Emmitt Smith became the NFL's all-time leading rusher despite being timed electronically at the combine at 4.7 seconds. Penn State's Blair Thomas was timed that year at 4.4 seconds.

    The New York Jets took Thomas with the second overall pick in 1990. The Cowboys took Smith with the 17th pick. In six seasons, Thomas ran for 2,236 yards. In 15 seasons, Smith ran for 18,355 yards.

    "You can get too carried away with straight line speed because change of direction is so important in this game," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "Guys that run with their feet a little further apart, even running backs sometimes, aren't as fast but their change of direction is quicker."

    To Phillips, former Pro Bowl linebacker Chris Spielman is the perfect example of a slow 40-yard time not equating to the type of player. Coming out of Ohio State, Spielman was timed at 4.85 seconds, slower than some offensive linemen at this year's combine, but he played 10 seasons and went to the Pro Bowl four times.

    "He was so instinctive and anticipated things," Phillips said. "A lot of times, it's the shortest distance between two points. You figure out where that point's going to be and you get there."


    Before the RCA Dome changed turf surfaces to FieldTurf in May 2005, many players chose not to run for fear of slow times. Sometimes that was at their agent's request. Sometimes it was the request of the player's coach.
    Depending on the surface, some NFL teams will add or subtract time. If a player runs on a rubber track, teams will add. If a player runs on grass, some will subtract. Most scouting reports will note the surface and weather conditions.
  2. Achozen

    Achozen Sounds From The Lair

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    Good read!
  3. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    Shredding the myth of 'you can't teach speed'.
  4. Rack Bauer

    Rack Bauer Federal Agent

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    You can't teach speed. You can teach someone the proper technique to run a sprint though. The improved technique hasn't made him a better football player. The way you run on the field is not the way they teach you to run the 40. IMO he would of been the exact same player even if he hadn't gone to that place. It made him faster on a track... he was already fast on the field.
  5. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    Teaching proper technique, as you say, is teaching speed. That's exactly how it was put in a discussion of track coaches I was listening to.

    They used an example of a world class sprinter(who's name escapes me) who could never beat another runner. Does he settle for being #2 the rest of his career, or is there something that can be done to change it?

    After a coach went over hours of tape, he concluded, believe this or not, his legs were going too fast for the rest of his body, out of synch if you will. By making an adjustment in his stride, to be more in tune with his body, the sprinter indeed became faster.

    It was unanimous among these track coaches that you could teach speed...I'll go with that.

    I didn't infer it made Urlacher a better football player, just that he was taught to run faster, which he was.
  6. Clove

    Clove Shrinkage

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    Excellent read. I know that I didn't play highschool ball, but out of shape when I played semi-pro ball, I ran a 4.6 40. Somehow, I was always opened deep, and when I came out of my cuts, I seperated from guys as if they were standing still.

    So football speed can fool some folks. I've never really let a 4.4ish type guy get past me on defense, I took proper angles and closed in with care. Bottom line is, unless you have no quickness at all, a football player is a football player.
  7. neosapien23

    neosapien23 Well-Known Member

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    I know everyone says 40 times are overrated, but they are not overrated when it comes to the CB position. I do not know of many good corners that have below average speed.
  8. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    The simple fact that you or I couldn't go out and sniff a 4.5 even with months of training should tell you that you can't teach speed. Any way.....even if you wanted to say that you can teach proper technique, thus teach speed, its all relative. If everyone just leans the proper way to run, then it still makes the people who are naturally fast, FASTER. So what you shave a few tenths off of a second.....if everyone else does the same, does it even matter?
  9. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    Again, I'll stick with an expert's analysis.

    You're taking extreme one is going to teach me to run a 4.5...but they can teach me to run faster. That is my point, that is Urlacher's point.....anything beyond that is just being argumentive for the sake of being argumentive.

    And no.....teaching one person to run with a certain technique would not apply to everyone. My example was of a singular runner being taught to be more in tune with his the faster runner apparently already had that ability. Once the slower runner applied what he was taught, he not only beat his nemisis, he went on to set a record.
  10. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    You are arguing that 1 track guy had improved speed from a better technique. But heres a question. Was he slower because of a poor technique or faster because of a great technique. I would lean towards him having a poor technique, which is supported by the fact that record setting track times are not a daily occurance. Because if it was solely technique, then you could produce record setters each day.

    But then theres the big out...."Same technique won't work for all people". But why is that? Because some people just have different "achilles heels" that prevent them from being top tier runners? Highly unlikely. It doesn't work because most people just don't have the ability in the first place and no amount of technique coaching will make up for that.

    Going even further. After a player is drafted, how often do you think they actually work on improving their 40? How often do you think they go out and get specific technique training?

    Any way you want to slice it, you can only run as fast as your god given ability allows you to. No matter how much you want to improve your technique, if you don't have the genetic make-up in your body, it just doesn't matter.

    Running technique helps your 40 time look good and thats about it. As would repeated training at any one specific thing for an extended period of time. What it doesn't do it make your natural ability any greater. Doesn't make you any faster when you step on the field and its time for what god has given you to shine. It just doesn't. If it did, then you would have teams paying top dollar for "Technique Specialists" who would come in and produce Primetime speed players.

    But, whatever you wanna believe, you are entitled to. Personally, I just don't think you can teach speed and you especially cannot teach Football speed. And to think that you could even translate a striaghtline improvement across all areas is nuts. IMO, teaching someone how to sprint is not teaching them how to be faster, its teaching them how to sprint.
  11. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    You can't make a lineman run like a RB.

    But people can train to run faster....and apply that to the field.

    You can get some nerve conduction velocities up by training muscle and brain.

    Training for speed can develop muscles used in running to run faster.

    You can get better but you're not going to change your spots.
  12. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    No, I'm not arguing anything. I'm using an example. An example given by people that have professional knowledge of such things. Regardless if he was poor...he was taught...he did learn.

    The big out 'bout this....not everybody can learn everything..or we'd all be rocket scientists. Different 'achilles heels'? Yeah....different abilities...since when is everyone the same? I know some Spanish.....I can be taught better Spanish...but maybe never be able to apply my Spanish as well as you because of the God given ability I have for comprehending such things.

    Who cares, and how is this even remotely relevant to the topic at hand?

    I told you you were taking it to extremes, and you haven't let me down. You can be taught speed, doesn't mean all can be taught, like anything in life. Some can be, some can't be.

    Yes they do hire speed specialists...

    I can sing...a God given ability...but it took a voice coach to fullfill my abilities to the upmost. Voice Coach=teach...teaching to sing. Speed Coach=teach...teaching speed.

    Thanks for allowing my given right to believe what I want......again, I'll take the word of people in the business over an internet board anytime. The bold at the end should read....teaching them to sprint faster.

    And they do...and sprinting faster is what the thread is about...the 40 yard dash.
  13. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    Here's a 'Speed School'....what could they be teaching?

    Getting Faster Working on Speed
    Speed is also something that you can work on during the off-season. We have talked about going out for track and learning to run properly with good balance. Athletes in a track program consistently improve their times from the start of the season until the last track meet. They achieve this gain in speed by improving their conditioning, their flexibility, their start and their running technique including the proper positioning and movement of the upper body during the run. These are all things that carry over to the football field.

    Get this. I believe that a coach is only successful if the athletes that he trains achieve more than that same coach. And, I call myself a success for that same reason. In 13 years of teaching athletes to run fast, I have had the privilege of coaching a State Champion, numerous State qualifiers and place winners, countless Conference Champions and college scholarship athletes - even a future Big Ten Champion.

    If you are an athlete serious about running fast then these closely guarded secrets can work for you too.

    Here's why: Do you know that 99% of athletes could run faster if they only knew these "missing links" of speed training?

    I don't know about you but I was floored when I learned that even elite athletes can learn to run faster... if it works for them, think of what this information can do for you.

    Even better, whether you were born fast or not, you can run faster 40's in no time flat with these easy to follow speed training tips. You can put yourself ahead of your competition once you have been taught the right way to run fast.

    Weight lifters have help train and teach to lift heavier weights. Why is it hard to understand coaches can teach you to run faster?
  14. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    Haha....those people are selling something. What would you expect them to say? That their stuff doesn't work? I bet you have a kitchen full of magic bullets and other Ronco products just hoping it will make you a world class chef.
  15. Rack Bauer

    Rack Bauer Federal Agent

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    No, it isn't. It's helping someone reach their potential, not teaching them to do something they couldn't do before.
  16. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    Helloooo.did you miss this part of the article CB posted?

    Hey I'll be sure to inform any of these guys they've been wasting their time.:rolleyes: I see you're taking on water...going down with the ship...resorting to inane responses.

    It's teaching someone to reach their potential...and potential is just that..something you haven't done.

    But let's say I take your guys limited point of view....

    No one can teach anyone how to jump higher.
    No one can teach anyone how to jump farther.
    No one can teach anyone how to run longer.
    No one can teach anyone how to lift heavier.
    And of one can teach anyone how to run faster.

    Tomorrow I shall approach the track coaches..and inform them that their kids have topped out their abilities..and there is nothing they can teach them...because 2 guys on the internet said so.
  17. 5Stars

    5Stars Here comes the Sun...

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  18. Rack Bauer

    Rack Bauer Federal Agent

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    Obviously jackrussell doesn't understand the difference between TEACHING and improving.

    Of course you can get someone to IMPROVE their speed, but you can't turn a 5.2 into a 4.2. IMO that would be TEACHING speed, which just isn't done.
  19. jackrussell

    jackrussell Last of the Duke Street Kings

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    Keep dancing around the fact my point has been 'teaching to improve their speed,' to 'become faster'. And I do understand the professionals that state this to be a fact...against those that haven't a clue. And I do understand those athletes going to these 'speed' centers to 'learn to improve their speed,' to learn to become faster.

    Speed is 10 MPH...speed is 100 MPH.
    10 MPH is slow...100 MPH is fast.

    Do point out where I said you could make a slow person fast....


    Still waiting....

    I didn't did I........what I did say is you can be taught how to become isn't that what I've been saying...or are you out of realistic dialog and must continue on this word dance to evade the fact that....

    Yes...a person can teach someone to jump farther...
    Yes...a person can teach someone to jump higher...
    Yes...a person can teach a person to run longer...
    Yes...a person can teach someone to run faster...

    Denying all these things? Makes you wonder what coaches and trainers do.

    As the original article points's about shaving the tenths of a second off your time...something many athletes pay others a good deal of money to teach them how to do.

    That's a fact...that's what they's all right there.
  20. Rack Bauer

    Rack Bauer Federal Agent

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    Uh huh, whatever you say. :rolleyes:

    You can teach someone how to run, but you can't teach someone to be fast. Period.

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