For years, coaches' tape has been considered the holy grail to NFL fans. Now, the league has resolved to include that tape as part of their NFL Rewind package (at, of course, a premium price) for the 2012 offseason.
Coaches tape or "all-22" shows the game from a wider, higher angle than television broadcasts. While TV tends to follow the ball, all-22 sees what broadcast misses—the off-receiver, the back safeties and the quarterback carrying out his play fake.
One look at Twitter or any fan forum shows that fans think this is pretty great. Meanwhile, team personnel—coaches, general managers and scouts—have long fought this move. Former GM, Charley Casserly, has voted against this move, saying:
I was concerned about misinformation being spread about players and coaches and their ability to do their job. It becomes a distraction that you have to deal with.
It's a calculated gamble for the NFL, but in the end, how much will it matter?
All-22 Tape Will Not "Make" Fans Smarter
All-22 won't make morons smart, but it will remove that bullsh*t line some that had access to it use to dismiss all else— Samuel Monson (@SamMonson) June 15, 2012
Anyone who tunes in to sports radio following their favorite team's loss knows exactly how dumb "smart" fans can be. Every coach, player, GM and waterboy gets second-guessed with little more evidence than preconceived notions on what they think should've happened.
This isn't saying that every fan is "dumb," just that there are far more armchair quarterbacks and work-from-home offensive coordinators than actual people who know what they're talking about. This isn't a phenomenon just among football fans. This happens everywhere.
That specific group of fans will not suddenly acquire critical level thinking that will earn them front office jobs.
If someone wants to get smarter, he or she can't just head to Barnes and Noble and buy a set of encyclopedias to gather dust on his shelf. Most of us know this fact from early on when we first see the Wizard of Oz hand the Scarecrow a diploma. The lesson is that learning happens through experience and the Scarecrow had already experienced a lot in his life.
All-22 tape is a tool, period, just like those encyclopedias that our fine hypothetical man should be reading after purchasing. Without using tools, they're as useless as the socket set that is currently rusting under my kitchen sink.
Love that the NFL is releasing All22 film. Hate that everyone will think watching film makes them an expert. Watching isn't understanding— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) June 15, 2012
Still, having and using a tool doesn't necessarily make anyone smarter either. All of us can reflect back on our time in school and think of all the things we "learned" but can't remember today—dates we've forgotten, formulas that no longer make sense and languages that are as foreign to us know as when we first conjugated their verbs.
Learning is not just experiencing, it's also making connections and retaining those made connections through practice and repetition.
So, if someone has made it their goal to learn more about the game they love, it will happen. Reading well-written commentaries about the game helps, so does listening to wise men talk about it. Experiencing the game by watching it, coaching it and talking about it all adds to the treasure trove of knowledge.
If that person has endeavored to learn more and uses coaching tape, it will be a useful means to that end. It simply will not be a panacea for ignorance. No one who misunderstands the game will suddenly know anything they didn't know, just because they see the game from a wider angle.
If you don't know what you're looking for, you will never find it.
All-22 Tape Will Help Smart Fans (And Media) Get Even Smarter
Let's focus on what I didn't just say. All-22 tape isn't just for the football "media elite" and it isn't just for "smart guys like me." No pedestal or ivory tower here.
I learned what I know about football from playing (a little), coaching (a little), watching the game (a lot) and seeking out smarter people than me to teach me (constantly). I still have more to learn, most people do, and all-22 will help me reach that goal.
Every day people tweet questions and call in to "ask the expert" on radio shows. There truly are people eat up higher-level analysis and decry the sewage that panders only to the lowest common denominator. People sit in their studies and breakdown game film for no other reason than they love this game.
Those people, and I count myself among them, will get even smarter with this. That fact, ladies and gentlemen, scares the living crap out of certain people in the NFL.
If you haven't seen the movie (or read the book) Moneyball, do it. While Billy Beane is generally regarded as the star of that true story, equally interesting is the character of Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) who does not actually exist in real life. Brand is an adaptation of Paul DePodesta who was Beane's assistant and currently Vice President of Player Development and Scouting for the New York Mets.
What is true about Brand's character is how scouts (and many in the media) hated DePodesta. He was called "Goggle Boy" and worse by people who said he was tearing apart the game. In reality, what DePodesta (and Beane) were tearing apart was an old boys' network that had been in power too long.
All-22 isn't the same thing, but it's close enough to warrant comparison.
Sites like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders already use game study and statistical analysis to talk about the game in ways unheard of 10 years ago. Men like Chris Brown can write a book like The Essential Smart Football and explain Xs and Os better than any show on ESPN. Those men, along with countless others, are getting smarter every day. With the access to all-22, the NFL world will be in the palm of their hands and certain people in the NFL are right to be scared of that.
Baseball has made room for the DePodestas of the world—men with little real connection to the game other than a fervent love for it. DePodesta had graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics. He had played baseball in high school, but also football. His first two jobs in sports were in Canadian football and minor league hockey.
Soon, the NFL will have to make room, room for young men (and women) that love the game, but didn't grow up in coaching families or have the natural talent to play the game at a high level. The NFL will have to make room for people who can break the game down in mathematical or logical ways that don't make sense to the old school.
This knowledge won't fundamentally change the game, but it might root out some old, misguided attitudes and their most stringent proponents.
Looking forward to fans getting All-22 access. It will expose both how tremendous NFL players are and how vanilla the schemes are— Smart Football (@smartfootball) June 15, 2012
It Will Make the NFL Lots and Lots of Money...With No Downside for the League
Without a doubt, the NFL will make loads of money on this footage.
Does it matter that this package will be priced out of many fans' spending plans? No. What matters is that the NFL is simply monetizing something it already has. Roger Goodell is no idiot, he knows that any money coming in from this will be pure revenue and businessmen love pure revenue.
The NFL loves money more than it loves its old boys' network.
NFL knowledge will not create a new class of NFL owners. Film study will not drop the price of an NFL franchise. All-22 will not take any money out of the pockets of the billionaires who profit most from the game.
At the league level, where this decision was made, there is no real risk and high potential reward
The gamble the league is taking is with the livelihoods of their lowest-level employees—scouts who barely make enough to feed their families already. If the game changes drastically, these scouts will be the canaries in the coal mine and the NFL could hypothetically pull that coaches' tape as fast as they want.
It's also important to remember that this change was somewhat inevitable. In the post-PC mobile era, the NFL is already prepared to put WiFi in every arena. By encouraging countless fans to bring their tablets and high-powered mobile devices into the arena, the NFL had to choose between policing everyone who would be taking footage, or simply monetizing the footage themselves.
I wrote earlier about how new WiFi initiative meant coaches tape wasn't far off... Can't police 10k people w/ video-enabled tablets— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) June 15, 2012
This footage isn't going to create little Bill Belichicks on every internet forum. (Although it probably will create plenty of fans who feel that way about themselves.) It isn't going to change the way the game is played or coached. This footage will create new ways to teach this game and learn about it. This will change the way scouts and media are viewed.
Michael Schottey is an NFL Associate Editor for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He has professionally covered both the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, as well as NFL events like the scouting combine and the Senior Bowl.