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All 22 Film


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The Holy Grail of football information has arrived. After years of teasing football nerds, the NFL announced last week that it will be making the All-22 "coaches' film" available to the general public as part of the Game Rewind package on its website. For a mere $70, fans will finally be able to watch football from the most insightful, telling angle available, albeit only after the games have been completed. And contrary to what you might hear, it's not going to bring the NFL down in a misinformation riot.

For the uninitiated, the All-22 film is designed to show what all 22 players on the field are doing on every given play, something that the traditional sideline angle from television fails to achieve.1 HDTV and the move to wide-screen aspect ratio televisions have made the sideline angle more palatable, but it's impossible to truly gauge certain aspects of plays from that sideline angle. On many passing plays, the routes of the wide receivers and the drops of the defensive backs will take them off the screen, preventing even a knowledgeable fan from identifying what sorts of coverage or route combinations are being run until an appropriate replay has been shown. Everyone agrees that the most important perspective in football is from the quarterback, but the traditional sideline angle of television coverage doesn't let us see what the quarterback sees; it lets us see what the people in the expensive seats can see. That made sense in a world with square televisions, but no longer.

The NFL, however, has been extremely protective of that All-22 film. Until this change in policy, the only public-facing outlets that even aired the coaches' film were a pair of shows on ESPN (NFL Matchup) and the NFL Network (Playbook). Otherwise, unless you were a programmer on Madden or a media member within driving distance of the NFL Films offices in New Jersey, access to the All-22 film was off-limits. The league periodically teased fans with access to the vaunted game tape — it made coaches' film available with Game Rewind for a few selected highlights per game during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and conducted surveys asking subscribers how much they would be willing to pay for coaching tape if it did become available — but the league said as recently as November that access to the tape was "a long way from becoming a reality, if ever."

Why was the NFL so hesitant to release the All-22 film to the public, you ask? Well, you're not going to believe how silly its excuses were. According to the Wall Street Journal, one was that the tape represented "proprietary NFL coaching information," which is absurd on its face. Every NFL team has access to the same All-22 tape. It's not as if there's a team in the NFL or in another league that's going to get some competitive advantage by releasing the camera angle to the public. The real reason why the NFL hasn't released the tape before now is summed up by a quote by Charlie Casserly, the CBS analyst who previously worked as the Texans' general manager and once voted against making coaches' tape available to the public as a member of the league's Competition Committee. From that same WSJ piece:

Casserly, a former general manager who was a member of the NFL's competition committee, says he voted against releasing All-22 footage because he worried that if fans had access, it would open players and teams up to a level of criticism far beyond the current hum of talk radio. Casserly believed fans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games in the All 22, without knowing the full story.

"I was concerned about misinformation being spread about players and coaches and their ability to do their job," he said. "It becomes a distraction that you have to deal with." Now an analyst for CBS, Casserly takes an hour-and-a-half train once a week to NFL Films headquarters in Mt. Laurel, N.J. just to watch the All-22 film.

Before I get into how silly that is, let me first say that Casserly's not alone in expressing that sentiment. I've heard similar arguments from administrators, players, and even writers around the league over the past several years, and there's at least some validity to what they're saying. It's extremely, extremely difficult for the layperson to break down the All-22 film without making mistakes. The intricacies of pre-snap adjustments and the many avenues to change a route or a coverage on the fly on both sides of the ball make it extremely difficult to accurately gauge what a player's genuine responsibilities are on a particular play.

As an example, consider a center on a typical running play. His job, per the playbook, might be to chip the defensive tackle and assist the right guard in temporarily occupying him before getting to the second level and blocking the middle linebacker, creating a lane for his running back to go through. If all goes well, it's easy to see that the center did a fantastic job. In real life, though, the defensive tackle might do a great job of occupying the two linemen, the center might never get to the second level to perform his second assignment, and the middle linebacker might shoot the gap to make a play behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. If you don't know the playcall, how can you know whether the center's job was to get to the second level and block the middle linebacker or whether it was simply to double-team the defensive tackle? I know of one NFL team that wanted to grade every offensive lineman in football before free agency by having its personnel break down every play and grade the offensive linemen on their performance. What they found, though, was that even trained football eyes are unable to reliably break down what each lineman was supposed to do on every single play without guessing far too frequently, as they would have to do on the play above. They abandoned the project.

With that being said, let's get back to Casserly's sentiment from the WSJ piece and why it's an invalid argument. His concern, as expressed in the article, is that improper analysis of the tape will lead to fans jumping to conclusions and acting irrationally, and that misinformation would be spread as a result. To that, there is only one response: Have you ever spoken to an NFL fan before? Actually, no need to limit it to fans, since they're not the only ones who spread misinformation or take things out of context because they don't know what they're talking about (or care to get it right).

Remember, this is a league where fake character concerns about RG3 are leaked before the draft and real ones about Ryan Leaf are ignored, where a single outcome is still used to determine whether the process that went into a fourth-down decision was right. Where we credit DeSean Jackson for fumbling a punt and then running for a 65-yard score2 and ignore Omar Gaither taking out three players with one block on the same play. Where there are nearly as many running backs (11) as offensive linemen (13) on the Top 100 Players3 list that the players themselves — the ones who should truly appreciate line play — vote on. Where we still base legacy-defining, multimillion-dollar decisions on the idea that two guys holding a pair of chains making close to minimum wage can run in a perfectly straight line onto and off of the field. So when Casserly and his ilk say that they're worried about misleading information being used to analyze a player's worth or a team's performance, I can't fathom how they don't perceive that exact transgression to be a customary part of NFL tradition and lore.

No, opening up the All-22 film to the public will not be the NFL's equivalent of Pandora's box. There will absolutely be fans who totally misread the information and use it to create false judgments of players, which will be nothing new. Well-meaning scribes like me will screw up sometimes, too, which is also nothing new.4 The really exciting opportunity with the All-22 film is going to come from the people who are actually well versed in X's and O's and capable of breaking down coaches' film into meaningful pieces of information that previously didn't exist. That's exactly what's happened in basketball, where access to video created new analysis opportunities for smart, talented people outside of the game like Sebastian Pruiti, my colleague here at Grantland. And although I'm obviously biased, I'm really excited to see how the already fantastic work of fellow colleague Chris Brown will evolve and grow with access to NFL coaches' tape, too.5

And there will be others, too, who turn to writing and sharing information by virtue of being able to break down and talk about coaches' film. There's a low-level college football coach out there right now who is going to be a fantastic football writer in five years solely because this tape is publicly available. In the long run, as much as the NFL wants to deny it, we're going to be smarter fans because the All-22 film is finally ours.

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Is it live? I'd consider cutting my cable if I could get all the games for $70.



The 3rd sentence of the article:


For a mere $70, fans will finally be able to watch football from the most insightful, telling angle available, albeit only after the games have been completed.
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The coaching film that was once exclusive to all 32 teams, showing games from every angle possible will be available to anyone willing to pay $70.


Oh, cool, and after the game is televised.



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I am guessing they were holding back on releasing this so that ESPN does not start showing clips on it to compete with the NFL Network coverage... which by the way is 1000x's fucking better. The NFC Playbook is the best football show on TV. Closely followed by the Giants show with Papa and Carl Banks.

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I am guessing they were holding back on releasing this so that ESPN does not start showing clips on it to compete with the NFL Network coverage... which by the way is 1000x's fucking better. The NFC Playbook is the best football show on TV. Closely followed by the Giants show with Papa and Carl Banks.


NFL Matchup, with Jaws and Merrill Hoge, uses the all-22. And fuck Time Warner for not carrying NFL network, because I have to find an internet feed to watch NFL Playbook during the season. 2 hours on the NFL network vs. 30 minutes on ESPN.

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