Phil Savage has always called the Senior Bowl home, even though he's worn a bunch of different hats while coming through the front door. This week, clad in green and white garb along with his easy Alabamian smile, he said:
"It's been a back-to-the future kind of week for me."
Savage went through the résumé that always brings him back to Mobile, AL, at this time of year. He grew up practically in the shadow of Ladd-Peebles Stadium, then returned for the Senior Bowl as a Cleveland assistant coach, a Baltimore scout and as the Browns general manager. From 2013-18 he served as executive director of the college all-star game/week.
"I've been here in a lot of different capacities," he told newyorkjets.com's Ethan Greenberg, "and to come back as a New York Jet, I've been wearing my Jets gear with a lot of pride this week. It's good to be home but it's also good to represent the Jets."
Savage, whom Jets GM Joe Douglas brought in as a senior adviser last offseason, explained a little of what all of the league's scouts are going through in this week before Saturday's 71st Senior Bowl kicks off on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m. ET.
"The rosters are split up by position, so each of our scouts has certain positions they're responsible for," he said. "Definitely in a venue like this, you can feel like your eyes are going all over the place and you don't see anything. But we've tried to be specific with the assignments with Jon Carr, our college scouting director, and Rex [Hogan, assistant GM] leading the charge there, divvying up the work. We feel like we've gotten good coverage in that regard. Then the interviews have taken place for the last three nights, trying to match the player to the person."
The bowl, Savage reminded, billed itself during his tenure as "the first leg of the Triple Crown," this particular triple including the NFL Combine and NFL Draft Weekend. A lot of fans focus only on how the senior thoroughbreds look during the week and during the game. But Savage, being a veteran Senior Bowl watcher, issued a proviso.
"It's a piece to the puzzle but it can't be the biggest piece to the puzzle," he said. "Certain players will come here and excel that maybe didn't play as well during the fall or vice versa. And then you get to the Combine and maybe they don't run as fast as you hoped they would. The easy players to evaluate are the ones you see in the fall, then you see them at the Senior Bowl, then you see them at the Combine and it all lines up. Most of the time it's not a straight line like that."
And that is how Savage sees the art of scouting:
"We're trying to figure out, are we getting the player we saw in the fall, are we getting the one that's shown a lot of progress and improvement during the week of the Senior Bowl and seems to have upside, are we getting the guy that flashed at the Combine that hasn't done anything in his career? And that's really where you try to strike that balance and figure out who these guys are and where their value is in the draft."
Savage is new to the Jets but his and Douglas' paths crossed with the Ravens and he has every confidence "Joe D" is the GM to strike that balance for the Green & White, which has begun during his personal old home week in Mobile.
"Things have really stabilized," he said. "During the fall, there was no difference on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in terms of the work ethic, the approach, the processes that Joe references. So we were able to put that all in place. And between Rex and [vice president, player personnel] Chad Alexander and the guys in the office, you have that consistency.
"I think as a staff, there's been a lot of coalescing so to speak around Joe D and the Jets. I would think we're going to do very well. It'll be a common sense approach, very steady, and that's really what you want in player personnel."