Monday, November 25, 2013

How the NFL Should Embrace Technology, Increase Viewer Participation and Make More Money

I spend way too much time drawing up trick football plays and offensive schemes that have little chance of success. So when I suggested an offensive scheme where the offensive tackle reports as tackle eligible on every single play - the idea being to lull the defense to sleep before striking - my friend, Vik, gently told me to perhaps focus on other areas of the game. So I decided to take my radical thinking and dream up how my NFL viewing experience could be greatly improved. And I came up with a way where the offensive and defensive play calls could be shared with viewers in real-time. Here's how it would work:

1. The NFL would require all teams to submit their offensive and defensive playbook to the broadcast networks in this format:

Offensive Play In layman's terms
Red-44-Blue-ZebraDeep pass over the middle to a wide receiver
Charlie-Tango-Alpha-23                          Halfback run up the middle
Z-99-XYZFake punt

Defensive playIn layman's terms
Cover-Cover-Zebra-52Cover 2 Zone
Foxtrot-Alpha-MichaelMan to man, bump and run coverage
Tango-Overly-Complex-Playcall-44All out blitz

2. As the play is transmitted to the QB and the defense, it is simultaneously transmitted to the broadcast network.

3. As the offense breaks the huddle and lines up, the network transmits both the offensive play and defensive formation to viewers in layman's terms.

Why this works:

1. It would generate tremendous interest in the pre-snap formations and increase anticipation. Let's face it; NFL football watching is all about the five seconds of live action followed by 40 seconds of waiting around; I'm trying to reduce that second number.

2. Viewers would have immediate insight into what plays were called and whether the QB totally missed his read, should have audibled, or it was just a dumb play call by the offensive coordinator.

3. You get to second guess the play calls and decisions all day Monday. Heck, this might lead to second guessing on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

Why you might think this doesn't work and how I would make it work:

Q. If you are broadcasting the play pre-snap, couldn't the offense and defense simply have someone watching the broadcast and signal their team about what was coming up?

A. Absolutely. But note that there is a a transmission delay of five seconds, so chances are that TV viewers would see the play after the ball was snapped.

Q. Won't other teams be able to look at previous TV broadcasts and see what was called and come up with new information on what kinds of plays teams like to run?

A1. Yup. But the fact is that these days you have hundreds of ex-players coming out of the woodwork on multiple channels analyzing every play, tendency and weakness of each team. I can't turn on NFL Network or ESPN without being bombarded by never ending analyses. 

A2. Teams today spend way too much time watching film and most NFL teams would be better served spending more time practicing blocking and tackling.

Okay, so this is pretty wacky but tell me about how the NFL can increase audience participation and make more money. That's the only reason I'm still reading.

Well, here's where it gets interesting. If we have the above translation table why not allow for a fan to call a play? Say its a huge blowout and the home team is up by 25 points with five minutes to go. Well a team could hit a switch and fans could go onto some web portal where there could be a live auction to call offensive or defensive plays. So its 4th down, I pay my $1,000, or whatever, call in "fake punt" and that get's relayed to the coordinators as "Z-99-XYZ" using the table above. The money could go to charity or to NFL owner coffers. Can you imagine fulfilling football fan's fantasies this way?

Why this works:

1. There is nothing worse than watching garbage time of an NFL. For sure this would liven things up. 

2. Coaches would have someone to blame for running up scores. "Hey Coach, so why did you call the Hail Mary on the last play when you were up by 30 points?" "Well there is this kid from Make-A-Wish who really wanted to call a play and..."

3. Even if their plays weren't used, fans could prove or disprove that their play-calling was better than their team's offensive coordinator. "Hey Greg Roman, on that 4th down on the Baltimore five yard line when you threw the ball, 90% of your fans called for a run." (Yeah, I'm still bitter about the Superbowl.)

4. There are all kinds of gaming opportunities where participants could score points based on pre-snap predictions.

Why this doesn't work and how to make it work:

Q. Wouldn't gamblers who were more interested in point spreads than the actual game bid up to try and call in plays that tilted the point spread in their favor? Heck they might double down and call both the offensive and defensive plays; for instance have the offensive team throw a Hail Mary and on the same play have the defense play man to man.

A1. Ban audience participation for Nevada residents??

A2. Give the offensive/defensive coordinators first right of refusal.

In closing:

Technology and real-time interaction is pervasive. Asking the next generation of kids (raised on video games, web sites and individualism) to sit there and watch a three hour broadcast is unrealistic. I'm not going to be sitting by my phone awaiting a call from Roger Goodell. But heck every season it seems that he's watering down and wimpifiying the game more and more. Isn't it time he give something back to the fans?  


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. So how are you going to ask fans to call a play while there is a broadcast delay of the game at the same time?

  3. This will never work let alone be considered. If you want coaches call plays today, they cover the mouths, that's how concerned they are about being too open about play calling. You will never see this on a live broadcast, but I could see it happening after the season and showing a season in review where there's no chance of the other team knowing the play.