Shaw: 'As an NFL coach, the first film I looked at was a player's bowl game'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday May 01, 2017

Before you think loads of players are going to start skipping bowl games, David Shaw is here to say they’re a big deal to NFL coaches — especially for players outside the top tier.

Sure, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette didn’t play in their bowls and were top-10 picks, but they were part of a small, select group that could afford to do that. A former NFL assistant himself, Shaw said the bowl game is a huge part of the evaluation process, and it can make a big difference for guys outside that top caliber.

When I was an NFL coach, the first film I grabbed for every player was their bowl game, because I wanted to see what they were like when they were fresh. It wasn’t the middle of the season,” Shaw said on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference. “They had two weeks to prepare and get ready, sometimes a month off. I want to see them when they’re at their best, playing somebody they don’t really know, and that was my first point of evaluation. I know a lot of guys still do that. The bowl games matter, they count for the NFL.

“Now, if a guy is a superstar and has two or three years of film, it probably won’t hurt them. But some guys make a lot of money off those bowl games. They get drafted a half-round or whole round earlier because of what they do in a bowl game or game like the Senior Bowl. Those things are important. Anybody who’s thinking about not playing in one, they’d better get some really good advice, because some guys are potentially going to make a bad decision because they don’t think it matters. For some guys, it really does matter.”

It’s also worth remembering McCaffrey and especially Fournette were banged up. It’s hard to predict a trend will happen more until healthy players choose to sit out.

Shaw was then asked if he thought the idea might trickle down to high school, with players sitting out of All-American games. Shaw didn’t speak much on that specifically, but remembered someone once saying, "If you want to be a football player, I play football." As he put it, there’s a difference between making a smart business decision and dismissing the idea of a game. The players who just think they don't matter, they're probably not in that top group anyway, and it could hurt them.

“Saying, ‘This game is not important for me, and I don’t need it,’ is different than saying, ‘I don’t need it to further my career,’” Shaw said. “The McCaffrey situation is that, I’ve put so much great film out there, I’ve broken so many records, playing in this bowl game won’t change my draft status.

“… I’m not a harbinger of doom that this is going to be something that ruins all the bowl games. I think it’s going to lead some guys to make some bad decisions, because they’re not in the same position Christian McCaffrey was in, but they’re going to think they are and hurt themselves, draft-wise. But I think there are also going to be some guys. Myles Garrett says, ‘Of course I’m playing in the bowl game. These are my best friends.’ There are going to be a lot of those guys, as well.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to