NFL selling 'Game Rewind' access to 'All-22' coaches film

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Game Rewind with coaches film (left) will lead to better analysis (right). (NFL.com, CBSSports.com)

During the 2011 NFL season, the league began offering snippets of what's known as "All-22 Film," which is the end-zone film coaches and players use when studying game tape, as part of the "Game Rewind" package on NFL.com. Beginning in 2012, the NFL has upped the ante, allowing fans to purchase a Game Rewind package that features every single All-22 play of the season.

That package is $69.99 right now (it was $59.99 for a two-day promotional period that ended when talk about it blew up on Twitter ...) for "Super Fans" and it includes all 2012 NFL regular-season games, 2009-2011 game archives, condensed games, and the 2012 coaches film. If you purchase one of the lesser packages, you'll still get "selected plays" on film.

The casual fan might think that this is no big deal and/or a money grab by the NFL. But rest assured, this is a very big deal if you like high-quality NFL analysis.

That's because the introduction of the All-22 film will alter the way that people in the business write about football. It will allow film-heavy analysts to look at the game from a perspective that isn't limited to what's shown on the television. And it will eliminate a closely-guarded niche of writers with the ability to view game film and it will elevate the analysis that comes with breaking down football.

Sound like I'm overreaching? I'm not, and there's a precedent for this happening in the NBA. Guys like Sebastian Pruiti of Grantland and our own Eye on Basketball's Matt Moore have made serious headway breaking down NBA film. It's caused a heightened awareness about the intricacies of the NBA game and beefed-up the quality of work from NBA writers.

The result of that is an improved discourse among fans and between fans and the media; this is particularly important in a day and age when various interactive mediums like Twitter have changed things from a one-way, post-game reaction into a real-time, interactive form of conversation.

What you're going to see is smart, tape-based football analysts like Chris Brown of Grantland, Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports, our good friend Andy Benoit, fantastic new-era sites like ProFootballFocus.com and Football Outsiders, plus many, many more football minds increase their ability to provide X's-and-O's-based information to fans of football.

This doesn't even include any of the ridiculously talented draft junkies out there. (And I already feel bad because I know I didn't mention a score of folks I should have.) There are lots of talented football writers right now. You probably know this, dear reader, because you're a fan of football. Which means life -- whether you buy Rewind or not -- is going to get better.

Opening up the All-22 is a bit controversial, though. Twitter was ablaze Friday afternoon with a debate about whether or not the NFL's decision was smart.

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman thinks it will end up looking like one of the NFL's "greatest tactical errors" the league has ever made. Freeman's not ripping the idea of adding more analysts to the mix, though. He thinks -- and he could very well be correct -- that it will cause fans to second guess coaches more than they ever have.

Personally, I disagree. That's not because fans will question coaches less; I just think that anyone watching football (from the fans to the media to players to assistant coaches) is going to end up questioning and complaining and ranting about various decisions made by coaches and various mistakes made by players regardless of what sort of access they have.

When people stop complaining and questioning football decisions, that's when the league will have a problem, because there won't be any interest in the game.

Plus, making the All-22 to the public isn't going to instantly turn every single person with $70 and some free time into the next Greg Cosell. Or, if you prefer, the next Pete Prisco.

I asked my CBSSports.com colleague -- a notorious tape junkie, whose After Further Review column this past year was a great example of what good tape-watching can do -- whether or not he liked the NFL's move. And Pete did like the move, but he's got a good caveat to add.

"I love the idea that the NFL is making All-22 tape available, but the key is knowing what you are seeing," Prisco said. "It's one thing to see it, it's another thing to know what you are watching."

That's a spot-on point. Just watching football in an intelligent manner requires a lot of attention. Breaking down film is an entirely different ballgame. It requires access to film, but also an eye for the game and, perhaps most importantly, an immense amount of time.

As I said on Twitter, the very people that are desperate to drop $70 on an opportunity to spend hours watching the same play(s) over and over again are the exact guys that you want writing about football.

Will the decision to turn the All-22 footage loose to the public suddenly change the world into football-watching cyborgs who can't get passionate about various narratives related to the game? Not a chance.

Look at the NBA; despite all the incredibly fantastic progress made by basketball analysts the entire NBA playoffs have basically boiled down to an annoying argument about LeBron James not being clutch enough. (Unless he is! It changes every night.)

Similar narratives will continue to exist in the world of the NFL -- even after Tim Tebow moves on from the game! -- and the analysis generated from the All-22 will still remain far from perfect, because the film still won't tell anyone specific assignments for specific players.

But the difference now will be the increased prevalence of intelligent football analysis. If you love watching the NFL, talking about the NFL or reading about the NFL (and I'll assume you do if you made it this far), then you should be thrilled about the league's decision to offer this up to the general public.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

 
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