For years, fans have clamored for the Holy Grail of NFL film footage - the "All-22" coaches film. This footage is shot from a high angle above the field, from the endzone, and shows all 22 players through the play (thus the name of the film). Fans have been dying to receive access to this film - and now it appears the NFL will finally capitulate; the "All-22" film will be available via the NFL.com Game Rewind package.
The NFL is offering three separate packages for the NFL Game Rewind this year, a $34.99 option to follow just one team, a season package costing $39.99 to get the Game Rewind for every NFL game throughout the seasons, and "Classic" Super Bowl games, and a $69.99 Seasons Plus "Super Fans" package. Both of the lower two packages will have the Coaches Film available for select plays - as it was last year - but the top package will include the All-22 footage for every play in every game this year (as well as Game Rewind for the Playoffs and Super Bowl, as well as continued access throughout the offseason - all of which are not available in the lower packages).
While this all may seem like a commercial for the NFL, it really is not. It's to tell you what is available for you, the fan, coming into the 2012 season. And, the All-22 footage is going to be great for the fan, as well as the game. Fans who put in the time to watch the footage and try to understand what happened on a play, a series, or throughout a game (I say "try" to understand, because none of us will ever be 100% sure of the assignments, routes, or progressions on an individual play, since we cannot mirror the film with a playbook), are only going to be smarter fans.
And, smarter fans will make the game better, which is what the NFL is really hoping to get.
Sure, charging us $70 for the Game Rewind, $30 more than the standard every team, every game package, is going to make money (and a lot of it) for the NFL. But, if the fans get more knowledgeable about the game and are able to hold more in depth conversations, it will lead to a bigger, more locked in fan base for the NFL.
Which is the goal for the NFL in everything they do.
Of course, you can argue that allowing fans access to the coaching film will allow more fans to criticize coaches. And, maybe to some degree that's true. But, has there been a lack of criticism from fans in the past without the All-22 footage? Fans are going to complain about coaching decisions and player mistake with or without the film - they will simply now be able to see the film from a different angle.
What you will get from the footage is things like the screen shot above. This was pulled from the Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Week 12 game last year. The play results in a 47-yard completion to Brandon Marshall, who is running a fly route down the right side of the field. I pulled this shot using Game Rewind from last year's footage, and it gives you a great example of what the footage can provide you, if you pay the $70, next season.
This frame is frozen at the instant the ball is leaving Miami quarterback Matt Moore's hand. The Patriots are collapsing the pocket, meaning Moore is getting rid of this ball at the exact right moment. And, as you can see, he only had two options on the play. The first is the short route, with Charles Clay coming open on a drag route from the right to the left, and the route Marshall is running. The other two options, Brian Hartline running a fly rout up the left side, and Davone Bess running a deep out up the middle of the field, are both well covered, with over the top help still sitting there. Moore elected to go to Marshall on the play, throwing the ball perfectly, as you can see from the two screen shots from the broadcast, below, the first of which is timed to the same moment as the All-22 footage above.
As you can see from the broadcast screen shots, a fan will see the results the play, but not know why Moore made the choice he did. Being able to go back and look after the game at the coaches film will add a deeper level of understanding of the game, a quarterback's decision making, and how the offensive and defensive players work in concert with the rest of their squad to find success - like Hartline running a deep route down the left, opening up the underneath route for Clay and, if Moore had more time, the deep out route for Bess.
I am excited about the All-22 film being available to fans this year. While I think I will get a lot out of watching the film, and trying to dissect why a play did or did not work, I look forward to seeing what others will get out of the footage. The level of understand, play breakdown, and analysis should drastically increase around the web, and here on the Phinsider - which should make for some outstanding reading during the season in a couple of months.
And, the NFL should be excited about that.