Goofy NFL Combine interviews happen, but not when Rivera's in charge


So far at the NFL Combine, North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell revealed that the Eagles asked him to shoot a mini basketball into a mini hoop during their face-to-face meeting (he only made two out of five attempts) while Pittsburgh passer Kenny Pickett explained that one squad pushed him on whether he'd want to be a cat or a dog (he chose dog).

While those gimmicky exercises are certainly one way to gauge a prospect's ability to react to unforeseen circumstances — or, in Howell's case, expose their lack of jumper — Ron Rivera doesn't exactly partake in them.

Instead, the Commanders coach prefers to spend his time with the rising pros in Indianapolis by going the old-school route and watching film.

"While we've got them here, this is about what they know football-wise, so what we like to do and what we've done in the past is we bring game tape," Rivera told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay in a one-on-one chat on Wednesday. "Good things, bad things... Things that they can thoroughly explain and get into their game."

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Rivera then got into the types of questions he typically asks the guys who are talking to Washington, eventually listing out 10 different inquiries.


"Do they know what the personnel grouping is?" he said. "Do they know what this formation is? Do they know what the motion is called? What happened in this play? Is it a run or pass? Is it a play action? What's your assignment? What's your job? Hey, why did that happen? Who missed this?"

Anyone else just get randomly stressed out?

The players have practiced for everything before arriving at the Combine, including their conversations with teams and, probably, how to eat their scrambled eggs and drink from their water bottles. Like any audition for a job, there are various back-and-forths one can prepare for — which is exactly why Rivera enjoys seeing them reflect on their own footage.

So, though his line of questioning doesn't involve having to pick a side between the country's two most typical house pets, it does essentially measure the same thing: How a prospect handles an out-of-nowhere situation.

"You're looking for a reaction, you're looking for what they have to say," Rivera told Finlay. "Some guys will tell you right off the bat whether they know football or don't know football.

"We really feel good about using that technique," he continued. "I think you get more answers that aren't thought-out or planned out, they're almost reactionary answers."