He hasn’t been on the job for a calendar year, but crediting solid people above him and a quality staff of talent evaluators, Chuck Cook knows he’s landed in a good place as Director of College Scouting with the Buffalo Bills.
“Buddy (Nix) called me right after the 2011 draft and I felt like I was going to have a good offseason and he called me and I had to put my book together with my thoughts and what I had pulled from Kansas City in my 11 years as a director there. And then I went to Miami. So I had to integrate all that experience into being a director again. I dove right in.”
Assisting Nix and Assistant GM Doug Whaley in the day-to-day operation of the personnel department on the college side, Cook didn’t have to implement very much.
“Coming in Doug (Whaley) was great,” said Cook. “I’ve got two bosses over me that really know what they want. Quick decisions makers and I came in with my program and basically I didn’t have a lot to institute.”
One thing he did add to Buffalo’s scouting operation was a practice of cross reference scouting where area scouts have an additional responsibility after evaluating all the draft eligible talent at all positions in their region of the country.
“They had not done cross check by position,” said Cook. “They had done it by area pretty much. Now we’re doing it by position, and Buddy had done that in San Diego so he was familiar with it. That’s where I give our scouts a little ownership. After they scout their area, they’re assigned a position group.”
So for example, after Bills national scout Darrell Moody scouted all positions, he was assigned the quarterbacks this year as a position.
“He’ll stack them, write reports them and that’s our position cross check grade against our area scouts grade,” said Cook. “Here at the Combine they look at those guys from their assigned position and the ones that aren’t here they grade off tape.”
To take it a step further Cook has Chan Gailey’s coaching staff review tape of the top 25 prospects at their respective positions to cut the evaluation process even finer. It’s another way to sift out a consensus on the best prospects in the draft pool.
Cook and Whaley also put their time in on the college scouting trail this past fall. The pair basically split the country in half and scouted some of the top talent coming out this spring.
“I don’t just go in there and do the top guys though,” said Cook. “Me and Doug when we went in to schools we did everybody on down to the projected undrafted free agents. If you can find a guy that gives you high reward with a low investment it’s worth your time.”
Cook didn’t have many new rules for his scouting staff. Instead he offered reminders on what most scouts know already when out on the recruiting trail and in the pre-draft meeting room.
“My deal is keep your mouth shut and your ears open,” said Cook. “Don’t give any information. Listen because you can get information and collect it, but don’t give out any information that can help anybody else out on our investment of time and energy.
“The main thing I’ve tried to instill in these guys is to have a vision. You’re our eyes and ears on the road. We’re depending on them to go out there and what they see that day is right, so you’re not wrong if somebody else gets different exposure to a kid at a different time of the year. The main thing I want them to be is clear on what they saw. Don’t backslide, but still be flexible to see an extra game.”
Excessively thorough, Cook feels at home in Buffalo with scouts that harbor the same work ethic. It’s why less than a year into his tenure with the Bills he can’t think of a better post to be holding.
“Basically the situation I walked into was there was a group that had two good drafts and I just make sure our reports are clean and our scouts have a vision, which they do,” he said. “I just want our scouts committed and do what Buddy wants them to do, which is state their opinion when we’re in the room. We had a great February meeting prior to the Combine. The scouts talked about their area and their commitment on guys and their vision on where the guy is going to play. That’s all we want from them and we take it from there.”