At this rate, Ron Jaworski might find himself out of a job.
The NFL has long tried to increase the volume of access that fans can have to its product. I can speak to it. As someone who covers one NFL team for a living, you find yourself essentially unable to follow the other 31 NFL teams. Sure, you can DVR games that are broadcast and watch them at your own convenience, but the NFL makes all games available online through its NFL Rewind package. For the last couple of years, when I have some down time, it's fun to watch games that you either missed or were unable to watch when highlight video just isn't enough. You know what the final score was, but being able to watch the game and see how a team won or lost is often more informative than just seeing the handful of plays that made the highlight shows.
A new look this year at NFL Rewind will give fans unprecedented access to the game like never before – opening up all plays to what is called the "All-22" film. Translation? Coaches tape – the version that shows all 22 players on the field from an end zone angle that is an unblinking, unflinching version of every play.
Anyone who has ever subscribed to NFL Rewind knows that, on certain plays, a blinking icon would allow fans to watch the replay from the All-22 view – the type of game film coaches and players use to see the "whole picture."
What makes coaches film vastly different from the televised version of a game is really quite simple. The central thesis of NFL action involves the ball. While the broadcasting of NFL games has become exhaustive enough that cameras are trained on just about every aspect and angle of what takes place on the field, which is why an official has three or four different angles of a play when a challenge flag is thrown, there is a big difference between what fans see on a given play on television, what the fans live see and what coaches and players watch on the "All-22" game tape.
I always believed the only way to ever enjoy watching Randy Moss was to see him live. TV didn't do him justice. When fans (and media) attend games, if they want to watch what Moss does on the snap to either blow past a defender or, as many in the media can attest, take a play off, you have that option. Fans who have never attended an NFL game don't really have the experience of seeing the entire field.
With Moss, the reason that there is a roar among fans before a touchdown catch is made is because they're watching the entire field. When Randall Cunningham would go through his standard three-second windup to launch a long ball, fans in the stadium would divert their attention to 40 yards down the field, where Moss had his defender beat by five yards and increasing the distance between them. You knew before the TV audience would that, as long as the pass is on target, this is going to be a touchdown. Game tape does that every play, as well as showing what happened at every instant of a play – the move that gained a receiver separation, the pass rush that made the quarterback slide in the pocket, the blitz pickup by the fullback that made the play possible, etc.
For the relatively low price of $59.99, fans who buy the NFL Rewind this year will get to see it all. If you want to know just how good, for example, Chris Cook is, you can now evaluate him like Leslie Frazier and his staff will.
It's a feature that surprisingly hasn't been given a lot of hooplah, but it's something that will change how hard-core fans watch the game. While the coaches tape has made guys like Jaworski and his film study a staple of football coverage not available to the average fan, the new feature will give anyone who thinks he knows the game a chance to break down blocking schemes, blitz packages, disguises and blown plays.
For years, the coaches film has been the domain of a select few. The great and powerful Jaws would always say, "Never mind the man behind the curtain." Now the NFL has pulled the curtain open on its own and hardcore fans will now have access to the game they've never had before.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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