I am Superman.

If there’s a more BS stat in college football than players’ 40 yard dash times, I’d sure like to know what it is.

At Southern Cal’s NFL Pro Day, RB Chauncey Washington was timed in 4.35 seconds on the 40 yard dash. As Adam Rose noted, if that time were accurate, “… Washington shouldn’t be entering the draft — he should be entering the Beijing Olympics.”

After all,

… According to research done three years ago by the San Diego Union Tribune, the fastest 40 time ever clocked on a track is 4.38 seconds — by somebody who was cheating:

[Ben Johnson] is believed to have run 40 yards faster than any human in history. Johnson is best known for injecting copious amounts of steroids and winning the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul in 9.79 seconds, only to have his gold medal and world record stripped after failing a post-race drug test.

Timing officials have since broken down that famed race into 10-meter increments, and Johnson was so preposterously fast that he went through 50 meters in 5.52 seconds and 60 meters in 6.37 — both under the current world records at those distances. He went through 40 yards that day in 4.38 seconds.

You wonder why people get sucked into this kind of nonsense. Well, maybe not, after you read this quote from Pete Carroll:

… When asked about what players can do to impress scouts, Pete Carroll said, “We hope they display that they can really compete.” But he added, “You can compete all you want. If your numbers aren’t right, it doesn’t matter!”

Carroll also pointed out that “there isn’t one thing, it’s a combination of things.” That was echoed by former Trojan assistant and current New Orleans Saints assistant Ed Orgeron.

(h/t The Wizard of Odds)

4 Comments

Filed under College Football

4 responses to “I am Superman.

  1. There are so many things wrong with this little meme. For starters, taking the fastest 100 yd dash time, chopping it down to 40 yards, and then calling it the world’s fastest 40 time is silly. They’re two different races. The first 100m of the world’s fastest 200 is not considered the fastest 100m time.

    Second, consider the fact that track and field starts with a gun. This requires reaction time. The 40 is timed on movement, completely eliminating a pretty major portion of the first 40 yards of Johnson’s run. Even if you assume a .10s reaction time (which would be pretty phenomenal) you’re still talking about Johnson being able to run a 4.28 bump that to a far more reasonable .14 and you’re talking 4.24, and that’s taking the easy way out.

    Short distance sprinters spend a lot of time training to reduce their start reaction time, football players don’t, so it’s likely that Washington’s 40 time would be increased by MORE than .14… up to .25s or more.

    In short, this is a reporter trying to make some waves by skewing data and comparing apples to oranges.

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  2. Pete, I understand the point you’re trying to make here, but if I read you correctly, it sounds like you’re saying that Johnson’s 40 time was measured from the start. The article doesn’t make clear which portion of the race was measured.

    I still think the underlying point is valid. The 40 time claims we see being made by high school football players many times verge on the ridiculous.

    Besides, we really shouldn’t care what someone’s 40 time is in an absolute sense. It’s a player’s relative speed on a football field compared to his opponents that counts in the end.

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  3. Chuck

    Agree with the point you’re making. Forty times are a pseudoscience at best in the world of high school/college/pro football.

    But, as it takes approximately .3 seconds to react to the gun, it’s not really an apples to apples comparison.

    Forty times in football are done on first motion. This also means that the timers usually don’t even start the stopwatch for a similar .3 second time. That’s a differential of about .6 seconds.

    Were Ben Johnson timed that way in the manner that most high school kids are timed, he would have clocked something in the upper-mid 3’s. I’m not expert though, but that’s just an addendum. The article overall makes the point that these times lack context and consistency.

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  4. Dawg 05

    I’ll always fondly recall Deangelo Hall and his supposed 4.1 forty being burned to the endzone by Hines Ward wearing only one shoe.

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