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Shane Scannell: A Day in the Life of a Pro Scout 

A detailed chronicle inside a day in the life of an NFL scout through the lens of Bucs' Director of Pro Scouting Shane Scannell

Shane DIL

A life behind the scenes in America's favorite sport. 

Countless hours sitting in front of a monitor and meticulously scouring over film to find players and tendencies to exploit. Trips to numerous stadiums across the country to evaluate team trends and personnel groupings from the vantage point of the press box. Over 3,000-plus player profiles written, and 32 advanced reports logged. Thousands of air miles acquired. All for a sport that captivates and a logo that embodies home. 

That is the life of an NFL pro scout, and it never ceases. It is ingrained. As the Director of Pro Scouting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Shane Scannell lives that unheralded routine. However arduous the grind may be, Scannell is manifesting a dream. He developed a voracious passion for football in adolescence, fueling a pursuit of scouting. Scannell plays an integral role in the origination of the Bucs on the field with a rigorous regimen, but his work rarely garners attention. He is one of the people behind the curtain. 

"It started when I was in college and basically since I was a kid," Scannell explained. "I wanted to be in football in some way. Growing up I had a lot of false hope where my dad was 6-foot-4, 280 pounds and he was a captain at Notre Dame. So, my goal was to play, but when I got to high school, I realized, 'Ok, I will never be big like that.' So, I ended up playing Division III football at Wesleyan. I have always been obsessed with the draft and the player acquisition process and the personnel side of things. I kind of knew this was what I had always wanted to do, I just did not know how to get in. So, I was in college, and I sent out a bunch of cold emails and I was lucky enough that Jason [Licht] got back to me and I played out the interview process. I ended up getting hired as a scouting assistant." 

A native of Mawah, New Jersey, Scannell played high school football at Don Bosco. He played collegiately at Wesleyan University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology. While attending Wesleyan during a two-year span, Scannell had an internship for a corporate contractor recruiting firm. He thrived in the role, illuminating quality candidates for a vast array of job descriptions. Essentially, companies would hire Scannell to find driven job candidates. The hiring manager would describe the intricacies of the role, the types of candidates the company wanted to fill the vacancy, and the traits they coveted in employees. Scannell would select candidates that fell into the desired classification, sell them on interviewing for the role, prep them for their interviews and then he would get paid a commission if one of the candidates he brought forth got hired. That job did not guide Scannell to scouting professionally but it instilled the governing framework that has become the compass to navigating life in the NFL. Scannell was able to take that meaningful experience to expediate growth in his current role in football. With the Buccaneers, the coaching staff tells the personnel side the types of players they want at each position on the roster, and it is Scannell's job to go out and find them. That tedious process builds the foundation of the franchise's future. 

Engrossed by the game, Scannell bet on himself after graduating, sending out emails to various teams for an open door to the mecca of sports: the National Football League. After hearing from Bucs' General Manager Jason Licht, Scannell started out as a scouting assistant in 2015, aiding with player evaluations, draft preparation and free agent workouts. He spent the next five seasons as a pro scout for Tampa Bay, before being promoted to assistant director of pro scouting, a role which he served in for two years. In 2023, Scannell was elevated to director of pro scouting. He now enters his ninth season, driven by the rewarding hustle. Scannell is responsible for extensive scouting of upcoming opponents, analyzing players from every NFL team, organizing player workouts and evaluating free agent prospects. He always wanted the life, but it is impossible to fully grasp the personal sacrifices until it becomes reality

"Finding a way to be efficient with your time to get it all done is the biggest challenge," said Scannell. "There is a lot of information that goes into the advanced report, and you are still doing all the day-to-day roster management in conjunction with that. You may have the advanced report, but you still have to have guys lined up to bring in to work them out, go to the workouts and sometimes run it if the coaches are not there, then decide who to sign, cut someone, and then call the agents. You have the advance which is the big time-chunk, but then you still have the everyday things. Being detailed in the note-taking process and in the film study process is key." 

Scannell analyzes not only a player's play on the field but also his character makeup and personality traits for a comprehensive examination. That process of thinking envelops the mind, making it difficult to mentally check out and engenders a perceptive nature. John Spytek, the Buccaneers' assistant general manager, often says, "A good scout sees everything." That - as one would expect – leads to merciless yet playful banter in the office environment for scouts. If someone in the scouting department gets a new haircut, a new pair of shoes, has a personality variation (or is the subject of a story on the team's website), Scannell and the rest of the football crew notices, leading to subsequent good-natured ribbing. Proceed with caution is the name of the game in their clump of offices inside the AdventHealth Training Center. 

Now, with nearly a decade of experience, Scannell has his intricate and comprehensive note-taking process down to a science. During film evaluation, which can morph into 15-hour days, Scannell searches for nuances and mannerisms at every position that could create advantageous matchups for the Bucs on Sunday. Then the sensory input is placed into five categories: strengths and weaknesses, a one-line quick-hitter, a detailed summary and a future report (quantifying a player's fit with the Bucs if they are a free agent). For every successful play that happens on the field or advantage gained, incessant hours are spent by the pro scouts gathering intel in order for it to occur. Nothing is done by happenstance, but rather, a calculated approach fashions success.

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 08, 2021 - Shane Scannell of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the Lombardi Trophy at AdventHealth Training Center Indoor Facility. Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

"For defensive backs, you are evaluating the same thing for all of them," Scannell stated as an example. "We look at their athleticism, their speed, their instincts, their tackling. There are certain things that you look for in all of them. 'Are they fast?' If they are not fast, then our guys can go vertical on them. 'Will they tackle?' If they won't, then we can run at them or throw screens, forcing them in bad spots to tackle. If they cannot find the ball downfield, then you take opportunity shots at them, maybe some back-shoulder or in the red zone, maybe that is someone you attack with a fade with Mike Evans or Chris Godwin.

"Then for the linebacker position, there are guys that are better against the run and some that are better in coverage. You might want to run at a certain guy because they are not getting off blocks, but that same person might be the biggest liability in coverage, so you take advantage of them by throwing at them. You look for the typical traits at every position. For receiver, some struggle to get off press coverage. If you play off [coverage] and give them a free release, they can take advantage all day. So, you say, 'Ok, with these guys, we should have Carlton [Davis] or [Jamel] Dean on them at the line, let them use their size and strength to get physical with them.' But, then, some might be really quick and fast, and if you play off coverage on them and let them run routes all day, then it is going to be a long night for us."

Although the task is time-consuming, unglamorous and rarely recognized externally, it holds the power to impact gameplans and the outcome of games. Scannell's analysis provides a tactical blueprint of how to attack the opponent. Not only does he have to know each opponent intimately, along with the other teams in the NFL for potential free agent acquisitions, but he must know every single nuance of the Bucs' roster, its personnel and beneficial strategic nuances like the back of his hand to optimize growth on the gridiron.

Two weeks before the Bucs play an opponent during the regular season, Scannell and the other pro scouts begin the process. Scannell sits down and watches three or four games – depending on the week - to detail the characteristics of each player's skillset and the team's overall tendencies and formations. Then the Sunday prior to the actual matchup, he travels to the upcoming opposing team's game to evaluate the things not unveiled on film, including sideline operation, pre-game warmups, tempo and injury designations. From the release package of a receiver to the physicality element of a defensive back, every element is cataloged to cultivate a thorough examination. Following the game, Scannell gets back on a plane, committing to memory what he observed, and returns to Tampa Bay. On Monday morning, he updates the advanced report based on the eye test and inked observations, then presents the findings to the coaching staff.

"Alex [Smith], Sean [Conley] and I split up the advanced scouting reports. That sets our schedule for the fall around the advances. We split up every team and if we are playing one of our teams, we have the advanced scouting report for it. So how it goes, basically two weeks before we play them, we start working on that team. What that entails is watching tape and building reports for every player – strengths, weaknesses, how they can hurt us and how we can attack them. We identify position matchups for us: This is who we should throw the ball at, this is who we should run the ball at, and then the flipside is, these are the people who can hurt us and wreck the game. What we are looking for when we are preparing the report in the writing aspect of it is the personnel groupings: Who is the nickel? Who is the dime? If they are in 11 personnel, do they have different tendencies out of it? We work on that during the two weeks leading up to it and then on Saturday, we travel to that team's city, go to the game and then when we are at the game, we get the stuff that you cannot get on film. So, their tempo, the sideline operation, where they signal for different groupings, which in turn, helps the coaching staff to get their personnel groupings to counter on the field more quickly.

"We look at injuries. Sometimes, the injuries on tape are obvious and sometimes a guy will limp around on the sideline, and it might not be something serious but something to note. They may play with the injury the following week but not be 100 percent. Then we come back on Sunday night after the game, come in first thing Monday morning, update the advanced report on everything we just saw and then we present to the coaching staff on the report. We meet with the offense and defense and say, 'This is everything we have worked on over the past couple of weeks and this is what we think.' We give them everything: Injuries, tempo, personnel groupings and then we finish up talking through the players with quick-hitters – 'This is the corner to throw at and this is the safety to throw at.'"

During the preliminary preseason slate, the workload escalates. Scannell, along with the other pro scouts, have to form an opinion on every NFL club's 90-man roster to cross-reference with that of the Bucs. Scannell gathers an estimation of each team's final 53-man roster, along with the projected 16 who will make the practice squad. Then, he turns in his preseason scouting reports and grades on each player into a 'Preseason Board' in Excel, mirroring that of the team's consequential Draft board of player rankings. Afterwards, the staff meets weekly to discuss the preseason teams, who will potentially be cut and who could be worthy of a claim or a practice squad spot.

"Basically, we have to have an opinion on every player who is cut," Scannell describes. "Because then, 'Is it someone that we would want to claim? Is it someone we want to pursue for the practice squad? Is it someone we want to add to the emergency list to work out at a later date? Or, is it someone that we have no interest in?' That is the biggest part of the preseason and the other aspect of that, before we get to the games during the first three weeks of training camp, we get to know our team. There are all of the rookies, the rookie free agents and all the guys that we have not seen yet and then we form an opinion on who we think should be on our team before we start watching the preseason games. Because, every report that we put into the system, we are comparing players to people on our team. Saying, 'Is this safety better than the safety we have,' or 'Is he worse?' Then, we make a decision from there."

How instinctive?

How athletic?

What are his coverage instincts?

How do they match up versus competition?

Is he a wrap-up tackler?

These are the perpetual thoughts that creep into Scannell's mind like a movie trailer on repeat. Mental stamina is a prerequisite for the role, as long days cycle through every year during the 18-week NFL season.

The entire country is Scannell's office and knowing the roster of every NFL franchise, including the Buccaneers, is his mission. He must understand the complex nature of all 32 clubs, while also examining them through the modern-era lens, staying abreast with the evolutionary trends. The gratification comes when an observation from tape and subsequent note placed in the advanced report culminates in a momentum-shifting play for the Buccaneers – the stamp of internal validation. Scannell personifies the adage, 'unsung hero.' The job is demanding but the reward is unquantifiable. For Scannell, like so many in his profession, the position is inspirational. He works tirelessly to contribute to something greater than himself.

A life behind the scenes in America's favorite sport.

TAMPA, FL - August 07, 2022 - General Manager Jason Licht, Director of Player Personnel Mike Biehl, Buccaneers Legend Ronde Barber and Assistant Director of Pro Scouting Shane Scannell during 2022 Training Camp practice at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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