It’s officially the offseason for Kansas City Chiefs players after the completion of Sunday’s Pro Bowl, and many are taking a break from business as usual. But for NFL scouts, including two former Chiefs associates who still call Kansas City home, this is the busiest time of year.
Pat Perles is in his third season as a national scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Perles worked for the Chiefs from 2008 to 2012, first coaching linebackers then as an assistant offensive line coach. Shawn Barber, who played as a linebacker for the Chiefs from 2003 to 2005, is currently a scouting intern with the Philadelphia Eagles. A 10-year NFL vet, Barber played for the Eagles in 2002 and 2006 under then coach Andy Reid, who has been the Chiefs coach since 2013.
A native of Detroit, Perles grew up in Pittsburgh, where his father, George Perles, coached for the Steelers. Pat Perles later played for his father as a linebacker at Michigan State University before joining the coaching ranks with stints at his alma mater, the University of Toledo, Syracuse University and North Dakota State. He also spent time in the Canadian Football League before moving to the NFL with time spent at the St. Louis, now Los Angeles, Rams as well as the Chiefs under then coach Todd Haley.
Barber played college ball for his hometown team, the University of Richmond in Virginia. He was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1998. During his NFL career, Barber also played for the Chiefs, Eagles and Houston Texans before coaching at Baker University for two years. In addition, Barber serves as the Heads Up Football Ambassador, a USA football program that focuses on promoting safety within youth football, with fellow former Chief Anthony Davis.
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The scouting business means long hours on the road watching prospects in games, evaluating their skills and writing up reports so decisions can be made when it comes to the NFL draft. Those evaluations go beyond the field as well.
“I also gather information on him as a person – what kind of student is he, what kind of a citizen is and what motivates him on and off the field,” Perles said. “You are part talent evaluator and part private eye in a sense.”
Building relationships is also important.
“You go to campuses and there are certain things the people there won’t tell you or can’t,” Perles said. “Knowing what information you should trust and what information you shouldn’t trust is important.”
Perles is one of two national scouts for the Bucs to go along with six regional scouts. He spends 10 days at training camp each season then mostly heads out on the road.
“We watch practice and get an assessment of our strengths and weakness and reaffirming what an NFL player looks like,” Perles said. “When we leave (camp) and we start our travel. We go to schools the director of player personnel sends us to. … Basically through Thanksgiving we are traveling every week. I would leave Sunday or Monday and come home Thursday or Friday to see my family.”
Barber followed a similar schedule as a paid scouting intern but was not on the road as much as Perles.
“I did evaluations of the current team on the pro side – the current players. I evaluated all new players who came in and I shadowed their regional scouts at some of major college games,” Barber said. “I shadow Mike Bradway (assistant director of college scouting), see who he is talking to, what he observes … in order to observe the process firsthand to see what a scout does for the college ranks.”
Barber has been traveling to Philadelphia one week each month to meet with the scouting staff.
“I get to sit in on all the personnel meetings, I get copies of transactions. … Philadelphia has given me access way beyond the normal internship. They have done a great job of allowing me to observe the process.”
The postseason is as busy – if not more so. There’s traveling to the bowl games to get a second look at players. Perles recently traveled to Tampa in preparation for the NFL Combine, which begins Feb. 28, and the draft that starts April 27.
“We come together as a group and talk about the majority of them (players), those with draftable grades,” Perles said. “We will try to come to some consensus. … There’s lots of subjectivity to it.”
Barber will be back in Philadelphia to prep for the combine. He’s has already been to the combine once in his post-playing career, shadowing Chiefs general manager John Dorsey last year.
Barber’s stint with Eagles came through the NFL Transition Program. His scouting internship is through the Nunn-Wooten Fellowship, created by the NFL in January 2015 for former players interested in a career in professional scouting. It is named after two men known as gurus in the scouting field — Bill Nunn, longtime personal director for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and John Wooten, a former NFL player and front office executive. All 32 teams see the applications and can pick one to bring on board if they choose.
Barber spent a shorter internship with the New York Jets at training camp and has balanced the internships with his work as the uniform inspector for the NFL at Chiefs home games and his charitable work.
While Perles will continue on with the Buccaneers, Barber isn’t sure what’s next after he completes his scouting internship. He’s enjoyed the learning process and reuniting with college teammate Joe Douglas, the Eagles vice president of player personnel.
“I am committed to being in Kansas City, (but) as an ex-player, I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing,” said Barber of scouting. “In scouting, there is a whole different language, but to be able to watch film, sit around with a group of scouts and go back to a player’s college film and talk specifics and paint a picture with your words and have another personnel guy can read it and understand it, that’s the goal.”
While Perles work takes him across the country, Kansas City is definitely home.
“The Chiefs brought us here and we just fell in love with this place,” Perles said. “This allows me to stay where we live but also be involved in football and the game I love.”