How I Broke My Collar Bone, or Why 40-Yard Dash Times Tell You Nothing About NFL WRs

This post may not be completely appropriate for MCM because it isn't about the Titans, but we have many intelligent football fans here. I want to see what you think about my theory.


But before my theory, please enjoy some necessary information in the form of a narrative about me.

I have loved football ever since I was 6 but have never played tackle football at any level. The summer before my 8th-grade year I went to a football camp, had a terrible experience, and decided playing football was not for me.

About 3 years ago, as I entered my 20s, I began to regret that decision. Concurrently with that regret, I developed an obsession with the game. To satisfy my seemingly-limitless curiosity about football I decided to officially make my foray into coaching this year.

I'm currently a volunteer assistant coach at Montgomery Bell Academy, home of the 2007 Division II-AA State Champion Big Red Football Team, here in Nashville (many thanks to Head Coach Daniel McGugin and his staff for welcoming me into their program; it's a tremendous honor).

This morning I and the defensive staff were working with the LBs and DBs on coverages. We coaches stood in as the offensive skill players, and yours truly was lined up at WR.

You should know that before Tuesday, June 22, 2010, (AKA the day before yesterday) I had never participated in a football practice at any level other than as an observer at Titans training camps. Consequently I've spent the past three days trying to assist where I'm able and otherwise trying not to look foolish.

Part of my efforts have centered on conducting myself as professionally as possible, both to set a good example for the students and to demonstrate my aptitudes to the staff. That effort, when I was asked to line up at WR and run a post route, translated into me running the route as hard and fast as I could.

The fourth time I took off from the line I turned my head towards the QB instead of looking ahead, tripped over my own feet, fell down, and broke my left collar bone. Can you say "EPIC FAIL"?

It's now been a few hours, a visit with an orthopedist, and a pain killer injection since my most recent demonstration of how bad I am at taking a fall (I had to get stitches after splitting my chin open trying to Slip-N-Slide . . . in a hallway of a dormitory). In that time my thoughts have successfully moved on from "Broken Bones Are Uncomfortable" back to "Football".

Anyway here is my theory: For the purposes of evaluating the overall football skill of any one Wide Receiver, especially for the NFL, a timed 40-yard dash provides no useful information.

So what? I know what I suggest doesn't blow your mind, reinvent how you think about the game, or strike you as a particularly original idea, and it shouldn't (If it does, that's ok too). But I think I may have a new explanation, at least for a lay audience, of why that theory is true.

Let me make clear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that guys with low 40 times aren't fast; they are. But to be a quality WR, especially in the NFL, one does not need to be capable of sprinting 40 yards in a straight line in less than 4.4 seconds. Every coach would love a receiver with that kind of speed, but if I were an NFL GM I would only draft him if he exhibited many other skills and behaviors, such as


  1. quickly learning new things
  2. previous in-game experience reading defenses and adjusting routes
  3. wanting to improve as a player and person
  4. willing to block as often as possible
  5. catching almost any pass thrown within reach
  6. having experience in multiple roles as a receiver i.e. lining up on both sides of plays and playing as an inside, middle, and outside receiver
  7. not dominating his competition just because he was faster than the guys covering him


Speaking of being faster, anyone who runs or has coached a runner knows that in order to achieve maximum speed in a sprint or run you must concentrate on throwing your arms backwards and forwards during each stride. This is an easy task to do well in running clothes, but in pads your shoulders have restricted ranges of motion. Even though you can still run fast you won't be able to run as fast as you could otherwise.

But that isn't important in the NFL. Everyone's fast, in pads and out of them. Find the 40-time of the slowest WR from any year of the Scouting Combine and his would still be much faster than mine or yours.

So why doesn't 40 time matter for WRs specifically? Because there are only two situations when in a WR is sprinting in a straight line for 40 yards: 1) when he isn't going to get the ball, or 2) when he already has it. In the first situation the WR is running a Seam, Go, or Fade route for the purposes of drawing a man-to-man defender up the field and/or a deep safety's attention to open up a pass to another receiver underneath. In the second situation the WR caught the ball more than 40 yards away from the endzone and is outrunning defenders that lack the angle to intersect his path.

But what does NFL Combine Receiver 40 times have to do with the story of how I broke my collar bone, consequently necessitating that I type this post with the one hand that can reach the keyboard?

Like the receiver in the first situation, I knew I wasn't getting the ball. We weren't even using a ball in the drill; just going through the motions with the students. But I didn't know that running a Post at a full sprint while staring over my shoulder tended to make me trip over my own feet.

I possess a tremendous amount of Xs-and-Os football knowledge (good for play calling), but have no experiential knowledge as a player. Had I played I would have figured out that I shouldn't run a Post the way I did a long time ago.

Instead, at 23 years old and running my fourth Post route ever on a football field, I broke a bone because I didn't know better. I'm figuring out how that's going to make me a better coach.

I've connected a lot of things about football I'd never before put together. The result so far is this post.

And now we know why Al Davis shouldn't have drafted Darius Heyward-Bay where he did: speed may kill in football, but it isn't the key. That's why the Titans shouldn't be concerned about DHB when the Raiders come to town in Week 1.

Well what'd'ya know? This post was about the Titans.

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