As if the juggernaut that is the NFL couldn't get any bigger or do anything to become more popular to help try and quench the thirst for the most rabid fans in today's sports culture in the United States, they went ahead and created a monsoon in what had been a desert.
There's a reason that the NFL draft has become the grandiose event that every NFL fan marks on their calendar. There's a reason the start of free agency is discussed at every water cooler at work for weeks leading up to the time at which the clock hits 12:01am. It's because the NFL has become that big, that popular, and that important to fans that get emotionally tied up into their favorite teams.
What the NFL has decided to do is give fans access to coaches' film and the All-22, basically meaning that for $70 you can access the game film for the 2012 season on NFL.com and follow each specific player on each specific play. It's like those replays that you see sometimes when there's a penalty called on a certain player or a great play is made and you see the replay of just that guy. That's the All-22. But now YOU have the control to watch EVERY play that YOU choose from this viewpoint.
For the longest time it was only certain members of the media that had access to this kind of film. Bloggers, fans and other media were only able to see the basic view that you'd see regularly on television. Looking for this kind of video before was like looking for rain in a desert. It's not that you can't learn something from re-watching plays at this angle from the whole field-view from the sideline. But it's a whole lot easier to see the picture of what a certain player did on a certain play when it's focused on just that guy, or from the end zone.
This kind of access is going to create a whole new wave of information and knowledge from fans for their teams. There are some media types out there that believe that this is going to be a huge problem. Mike Freeman of CBS Sports thinks that it was a huge tactical error by the NFL to give fans this information. He believes it's going to lead to more second-guessing of coaches from fans that aren't knowledgeable enough of the game to understand what they're seeing. Obviously Freeman doesn't think that fans have the humility to know what they don't know.
You don't have to know everything about football and the X's and O's of the game to be able to take something away from this kind of access to film. I manage the Arrowhead Pride YouTube channel and will be putting out weekly videos that could very well use clips from the All-22 videos we're talking about. I know what I don't know but I do know enough to be able to take some things away from watching these plays over and over.
I personally watched every play of every game the Chiefs played last year at least four times. I charted stats and made notes of things I noticed. I didn't do this so that I could question the head coach as to whether or not he did the right thing. I did this to learn more about what's going on when things are successful and when they aren't. It wasn't so that I could point a finger.
This is going to make anyone with a platform to talk about football have to step their game up a little bit. I don't think guys like Pat Kirwan, who's made it very clear recently that if you haven't played or worked for a NFL team then you couldn't possibly know anything about football, guys like him aren't going to lose their jobs anytime soon because of this decision. But they do have to deal with fans that now have access to coaches film who might be able to contradict a point that's made by any of these specific analysts, and have some backing in doing so. I don't think it's a bad thing that fans have the opportunity to try and learn more and generate more than a one-sided conversation with the guys who have worked and played in the NFL. To say it's going to be anything more than that before it happens is a little ridiculous to me.
It's going to be easy to show Tyson Jackson two-gapping from an end-zone view to get a real idea of what it looks like to play that specific spot in Romeo Crennel's defense. You'll be able to see if the running back made the right read as to which gap to go through and whether or not the defensive end had his head on the correct side of the offensive lineman as to trick the running back into taking the wrong gap. You'll be able to see the full route that a wide receiver runs and how well he gets off press coverage. It's these things you'll have access to that you didn't before.
It's going to improve the game from the fans point of view and help educate those with a thirst to learn. It's not that I will know more about football necessarily, but I will keep describing what I see to facilitate discussions and now I will have more to describe.
For a good majority of fans it's probably not going to change anything, but it will lead to deeper and better conversations amongst fans as a whole as the education of football will quickly become more widespread for those who thirst for this kind of knowledge. Education not on an expert level necessarily but on an informed-fan level.
The NFL brought rain to the desert with this decision and it's here, and we're ready.