By qualifying athletes via the Combine, based on their "natural born" aptitudes for playing football, the league consistently filled team rosters with ONLY "good to great" players. How did the NFL accomplished this recruiting magic? In the science of statistics, there are graphical representations of data called normal bell curves.
As students of statistics know, the bell curve is used to represent the universe of probabilities of a given population being measured. Consider for a moment the population of NFL football recruiting prospects for the years 1920 and 2010 respectively. Now, visualize just beneath this NFL recruiting bell curve there are probability percentages of 68%, 95. 5%, and 99. 7%.
These percentages tell us the statistical confidence level that an NFL prospect will score "weak" vs . "strong" (talent-wise) or somewhere in between. In 1920, the NFL experienced a normal curve distribution of talent. That is, in the 1920s there was an equal chance (about 50-50) that a pro football prospect would be classified as weak or strong talent. This makes perfect sense and explains why Soapy Shapiro was able to qualify for the NFL way back then in a role that competed against players like Jim Thorpe.
Essentially, what the NFL recruiting process yielded then was an equal mix of weak, average, and strong player talent across the league. For this reason, the football talent in the NFL of the 1920s and 30s, on balance, was probably not much better than that of a top ranked, state high school, championship team today. Let's fast-forward to the NFL of 2010. Referring once again to the bell curve example, what you see for 2010 represents the extraordinary change in talent recruitment philosophy adopted by the NFL and implemented in the early 1970's via its NFL Combine.
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