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Defining Talent

While watching the NFL Draft, I started reflecting a bit on the ruins of our 2010 season and thinking about the debates that raged as that debacle unfolded with respect to talent, coaching, development and how those things interplay in individual player performance and evaluation.

Talent is actually a pretty slippery concept. On the football field and in the corporate world. I've noticed folks often tend to confuse talent with potential, talent with an expression of raw numbers, talent with scheme.

Consider the fluidity of its expression. In Alabama's schemes, Texas Tech's Eric "The Elf" Morris is a nearly useless player. He effectively has no talent. In Mike Leach's acid trip of an offense, he is talented. At least that's what 149 receptions for 18 tds in his final two season suggests. Talent is not universally applicable.

Similarly, defining talent retrospectively as the number of stars a high schooler had as a senior as it often is on recruiting boards - three to five years after they've been in a program - is a little like hiring a college graduate based on their SAT scores. That's what players were. Or could be. In other words: potential. Talent is what players ARE. And that's not even getting into star inflation program bias, the groupthink of the evaluators (300+ guys in Texas are FBS potential - yet the same Top 25, in almost identical order, prevail across the board no matter the pay service - really?), or the meaninglessness of projecting talent as if all systems are apples to apples.

I'd like to create a working definition of talent - a common vernacular - beyond the Potter Stewart definition of "I know it when I see it." Because it's pretty clear one does not exist.

Here's my attempt at a unifying definition:

Talent is the expression of your developed potential within a scheme.