I originally had another topic in mind for tonight, but sometimes the radio gives me something to think about that I just kind of have to share with you guys. And tonight is one of those times.
On Monday, Kev brought us news of the All-22 video package that will be offered on the NFL web site for about seventy bucks, and provide the angles NFL coaches use in their evaluation of the plays that happen on the field - routes players run, whether a guy's playing man when it looks like he's playing zone, how someone's taking a route to a ballcarrier, the specific zone coverages - all kinds of good stuff that for a fan is pure gold.
But at some point, the amount of information the NFL chooses to share could be too much. When is that point?
First off, don't get me wrong - better tape accessible to the fan is a glorious thing I think. It'll make smarter fans, and it could actually make smarter players out of the current generation of high-schoolers, NCAA players, and kids just starting to pick up the game, especially in the "Please don't play like Brandon Meriweather" sense.
But it does open up a few holes a little wider.
Coaches' film is one of those things that used to be somewhat sacrosanct. Now that that's available, the NFL has even fewer gaps to cross in opening up the game completely to the fans.
For instance, If anyone here watches Arena League Football (as I have a few times), I remember a few games where the whole playcall in the huddle was actually broadcast to the viewing audience. Imagine that happens in the NFL. You've just opened a window where no employee of any NFL team would be allowed to watch a game.
Then you've got sources like Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and Advanced NFL Stats. I think they have a good product and their work is definitely worthwhile and appreciated. And things like this new program can definitely serve to refine their formulas and calculations. But every statistical or analytical source has its own biases, formulas, derivations, and other ways of measuring that other sources may not agree with or use in the same manner - and let's not even start the sabermetric debate of a unified selection and calculation of advanced statistics.
This is going to come off sounding like a crotchety old man (ed_brown, take note), but... It used to be the most complicated thing in the NFL box score was the quarterback rating. Now, with the other rating services out there, there's so much other information out there that it can feel overwhelming.
Do ratings and advanced metrics have a place in the NFL? Absolutely; I'd never say they don't - especially if they help an NFL team pick up a competitive edge because they're smarter (in a fixed cap league, that's key). But there's so much that can't be captured in NFL statistics, especially when teams take great measures to cover up their playbook (unless you employ the Broncos' DJ Williams).
But as a fan, I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with advanced statistics being developed further, particularly with so much of the NFL being scheme and coaching dependent - I'm uncertain how much information these advanced statistics would be able to convey. It works in baseball because baseball isn't set up in such a fashion - most things can have a number assigned to them in some way., including range (example, balls gotten to) and hits with a full count with a runner on third with less than two outs. It's hard to capture in stats how much a player's positioning contributes to his tackling, or how badly a player got burned because his was supposed to cover a short zone and the receiver went deep and uncovered, especially without subjectivity. (I understand subjectivity plays to a degree in analysis, but baseball has generally found ways to squeeze it out, whereas I think football would struggle with that.)
What do you think about the place of advanced statistics in the NFL? What else could the NFL do to open the game up further to the fanbase, and at what point would it have to stop?