Tag Archives: nfl


Game Planning Super Bowl XLVI: Giants vs. Patriots

Super Bowl XLVI

Photo Credit: Carl Van Rooy

Super Bowl XLVI is upon us and everyone is bloviating about what needs to happen in this game for either team to win. I’m on the record as rooting for the Giants, which sets up the third year in a row of abandoning the AFC. I will always root for the AFC unless it’s the Steelers, Colts or Patriots – and guess who has represented the AFC in this and the last two Super Bowls… the Colts, Steelers and now the Patriots.

But putting personal football bias aside, there are keys to winning this game for both teams and I think it’s going to be a good game.

For the Giants to win…

The Giants have a difficult road ahead facing one of the most elite quarterbacks that has ever played the game of football. Indeed, they have a good quarterback (I’m still not ready to give Eli Manning the much-ballyhooed ‘elite’ status…) who is very capable of winning this game by himself. But he won’t win this game by himself. He’s going to need Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks and company.

The Giants defense has to step up. They have to get their blitz on on more than third down. Unfortunately, if you put 8 in the box all the time, you’re leaving Gronkowski, Welker and Hernandez undercovered. But I think they need to commit to the blitz early. Load up the box, get Brady scrambling. Brady has been known to throw interceptions and incomplete passes and generally is prone to some Really Bad Life Decisions(TM) when under pressure. You let him sit in the pocket, and it doesn’t matter how strong your pass coverage is… he will eat you for lunch.

On the flip side, they have to double team Gronkowski as much as possible. That, leaves Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez open but based on their patterns, the Giants are more able to cover those two inside one on one, than leaving Gronk in one on one.

On offense, the Giants have to run the ball. They have to burn the clock and own time of possession. Brandon Jacobs needs a fumble-less game and as long as he can get 3-4 yards on every touch, the Giants should be able to accomplish this. And it shouldn’t be hard, considering the New England defensive line has allowed 4.51 yards average running. Of course, this also has the added benefit of setting up the play action to Mario Manningham or the long ball to Victor Cruz… both of which could be the difference between winning a tempo game.

For the Patriots to win…

The recipe for a Patriots win is what it often is – rely on Brady, get out to a fast start and get the Giants back on the defensive. Obviously, this all starts on the Offensive Line. Statistically, the Patriots line is weakest on the left side. That is the worst side to be weak on as that is Brady’s blind side. Matt Light has to do his job in protection because the Giants will blitz from that side. If Brady has time in the pocket, then it’s over.

The Patriots like to use the “Bunch” formation which stacks three recievers on one side of the line. This usually means a passing setup, where the recievers are able to explode off the line together before hitting routes, causing confusion (and maybe collisions) on the defensive side of the ball. Against the Cowboys earlier this year, the Patriots enhanced the bunch by using it effectively in the run game.

I don’t want to put too much weight on the Patriots running game. I think the Giants can handle BenJarvus Green-Ellis and keep him a non-factor. But if the Pats can effectively use the Bunch Run, they have a dangerous combination that will force the Giants to pay attention to the run, as well as the pass.


Let Free Agency Begin

The 8th Circuit Court issued their ruling on the legality of the NFL lockout. They said the lockout was legal the injunction barring the lockout was not legal, but this money paragraph tells me that though players under contract can be locked out, those not under contract cannot as there is no employer-employee relationship.

Another portion of the injunction is not foreclosed by § 4(a). The district court enjoined not only the League’s lockout of employees, i.e., players under contract, but also the League’s refusal to deal with non-employees, i.e., free agents and prospective players or “rookies.” As to these latter groups of players, § 4(a) does not apply. The refusal of the League and NFL clubs to deal with free agents and rookies is not a refusal “to remain in any relation of employment,” for there is no existing employment relationship in which “to remain.”

An injunction with respect to the League’s actions toward free agents and rookies, however, cannot be issued except in strict conformity with § 7 of the NLGA, 29 U.S.C. § 107, because this is “a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute.” Id. §§ 101, 107. The present injunction does not conform to § 7

To me, that suggests free agency must open immediately. The only question is under which rules. Probably the 2010 rules, barring a new CBA. Free agents and rookies signed to contracts would then be effectively locked out… but they would have a contract and teams can start the free agency chaos.

Feature, Sports

Disparaging “Player” Fans

A lot of football around these parts lately, so let me stir things up… Again. I know I’m going to get the Haterade. I’m okay with that. I have opinions and they are ALWAYS right.

Let me gripe about a certain type of fan for a moment. These aren’t the fans that jump a bandwagon because a team wins the Superbowl, although I can go down that road too (I’m looking at you, Steelers and Patriots fans). These aren’t the fans that call themselves fans and can’t bring themselves to find a way to listen or watch their team on Sunday, instead choosing to go to brunch!

Nope… These are the fans that profess their love of players over teams.

Photo by Ryan Lejbak

This ain’t college people. Your dear player from your alma mater six years ago is now getting paid money to do his job on a pro level. Those teams are a conglomerate of players from many schools. It’s always good fodder internally among teammates. For instance, Ben Grubbs came from Auburn and Haloti Ngata came from Oregon. Better believe there was some internal team rivalry over the BCS Championship game.

But at the end of the day, they play as a professionally paid team of competitors.

I see this in big proportions in University towns like my own Austin, where college football is the name of the game and Texas players are supported vehemently.

Yes, we know Vince Young graduated from UT and led the Horns to a National Championship win. We also know he has sucked, overall, as an NFL player.

We know Ricky Williams was a Heisman trophy winner… but he’s also kinda sucked as a person since he went to the NFL.

Cam Newton? Yeah he won this years National Championship, but guess what Auburn fans… he’s a cheater and will have to send that Heisman trophy back, just as Reggie Bush had to. Just wait. But go ahead and root for the Bengals, who are likely to draft him (Carolina is already committed to Clausen, Denver is [foolishly] committed to Tim Tebow and the Bills have a great QB in Fitzpatrick leaving Cincy looking for answers at that position).

More so, when I see fans rooting for players instead of teams, it screams lack of information and real fandom. Now I know there are exceptions, but this is the perception that I see.

Look, we know you’re proud of your school and the players that have come from it. But that doesn’t make you an NFL fan once they get drafted. Get a spine, pick a team and stick with it.

Now… I face the firing squad. Bring it on. ;-)

Feature, Sports

Ravens, Playoffs, Ho-hum

The Ravens have reached the playoffs in 7 of the last 10 years, an astounding number considering the strength of the AFC North (and Central pre-2002) and the lack of offensive talent that has been pattern of the team for most of those 10 years.

In this year, 2010, the Ravens are 11-4 with a game left to play. With only the 3-win Cincinnati Bengals remaining in the regular season, it’s a good assumption that the team will end the regular season 12-4. That number is important for two reasons:

  • 12-4 was the record of the 2000 Superbowl Ravens who snuck in as a wild-card only because, then-division rival Tennessee had a 13-3 record, and
  • Only one other playoff run has come off of a better record (2006 at 13-3)

But as a Baltimore fan who has the good fortune of supporting a team going into their third consecutive playoff appearance with a third-year head coach and a third-year quarterback, I feel a bit like an Atlanta Braves fan.

The Atlanta Braves visited the postseason 14 consecutive times from 1991-2005 (excluding the 1994 strike-shortened year) and it became “normal” to Atlanta baseball fans. So normal, in fact, that Atlanta homegames in the postseason were often not well attended. Braves fans expected the postseason!

Here’s the problem with the Braves Nation though. They expected the playoffs but didn’t expect to win. The reason was… they only won the World Series once (1995)!

Yesterday, with a workman-like victory over the Browns, Ravens nation should have been ecstatic to get to the playoffs. Imagine what is happening in Kansas City right now with a Chiefs playoff clinch? What would happen in Buffalo if that team, that is so close to being competitive, actually visited the dance?

To us, the playoffs are meh. We’ve been here. We’ve done that. We’ve won division titles. We’ve made it as a wildcard team. We even won a Superbowl.

But we need another Superbowl. Soon. I can sympathize a bit with the Eagles who made it to the dance so many times in the middle of last decade, but struggled to reach the ultimate game (or win it).

I love the fact we’re in the playoffs but you’re going to have to give me more to get excited about because right now, it looks like a cliché road to the playoffs with another cliché cast of characters. It looks like the road, for Baltimore, will go through Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and New England… We’ve seen this story before. I need a different result.

Aaron Brazell

The NFL, Google TV, and DirecTV’s Death Grip on the Sunday Ticket

If you’ve spent any time with me in person or paying attention to my tweetstream at all (especially on Sundays), you know about my love affair with football, the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens specifically.

I’ve gone nearly 11 years and have been at or watched every Ravens game in that time. I used to watch these games at my home in Baltimore when I was in-market, but then I moved to DC. Oddly (though I do understand the NFL marketing rules), being 45 minutes away put me “out of market” and into Redskins country. Acknowledged.

It began my weekly Sunday tradition of going to local sports bars to watch the game every Sunday. When I was in Virginia, that was the very awesome Crystal City Sports Pub (ask for John, tell him I sent you and order a cup of coffee… watch for his reaction :-p). When I moved back to Maryland, I went to one of several on Sundays.

Now that I’m in Austin, I’m fortunate to find The Tavern which serves as the Ravens Nest in Austin. 50 or so fans, most of whom have roots in Baltimore, show up every week to cheer on our “Death on Wings”.

But here’s the problem. I have Time Warner Cable. I can’t get non-nationally televised games at home. The only way I could would be to switch to DirecTV and pay several hundred dollars for the NFL Sunday Ticket. This is a problem for someone who doesn’t watch much TV anyway, and the TV shows I do watch, I catch on Hulu or TV.com. Sure, I enjoy ESPN SportsCenter when I need to have some noise on in the background so I can get work done, but otherwise, the TV is rarely on.

I’ve got Netflix DVDs and can stream many shows and movies instantly on Netflix to my XBOX 360. With my (free for me) 40″ HDTV, I can stream MLB.tv games, or if I chose, NHL GameCenter games from my laptop direct to my television. I can do the same with NBA Leaguepass (though I won’t because I hate the NBA).

The NFL really offers no option to U.S. customers except via NBC’s live streaming of Sunday Night Football. (Though they did offer Preseason streaming games online – see the picture above).

There is a lot of money tied up in contracts for the transmission and coverage of NFL games. I realize it. But there needs to be a change. Consumers would be thrilled to subscribe to an NFL.tv-style service that would allow them to access their favorite sport online. It could be setup in a variety of ways. The NFL could charge a flat fee of $160 for access to a single team feed with a higher-priced “all access pass” – perhaps $300. They could also charge for a pay-per-view format of $10/game where, if I’m compelled by the Colts-Patriots game, I could purchase a single game pass.

The money will continue to be with DirecTV and I’m not suggesting that their contract should be killed in favor of an all-streaming model. No, in fact, the real money for the NFL Sunday Ticket comes from bars that are paying a premium package to offer all the NFL-licensed content on 50+ TVs. That money will still be there. You could easily restrict distribution and force bars to buy from DirecTV. Money in the bank.

But for consumers, especially those who are fans of teams outside of their market, giving them the opportunity to invest in the NFL, expand distribution, embrace the technology available in 2010, having a streaming option would be a huge WIN.

In fact, I’m willing to bet on a net 10% increase in viewership/subscribers based on this model. At least.

Google TV was just announced the other day. We don’t know much about it yet, but we do know that networks are going to have their own portals. This seems like a great possible partnership for the NFL and Google!

The only question that remains, then, is if the NFL has enough balls to make the big move? I think they need to, lest piracy and viewership decline.

Am I crazy?

Photo by Joel Price

Aaron Brazell

Allow me to Complain…

Festivus was the other day, the traditional day that people “air their grievances”. Since I did not do that but I seem to be a bit fired up today, I’m going to separate from the normal informative, intellectual articles that would normally go up here, and instead rant a bit. Because there are a lot of things to rant about and I believe very good reasons for those rants to come. If you will allow me…

The Rooney Rule

The Rooney rule in the NFL is a rule that requires an NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for an NFL coaching position before it can be filled. The principle is clear… there are not enough opportunities for minority coaching candidates so the NFL mandates the requirement.

The problem is, it does no good. It has become a thing of bureaucratic obstacles and a checklist item for franchises. Take the case of the Washington Redskins who are likely to fire head coach Jim Zorn in the next week after yet another abysmal performance.

During the preliminary process of hiring a new coach, the Redskins interviewed Skins Secondary coach Jerry Gray. Cool, cool. Except that it seems to have been done to fill a quota (yes, I used the Q word). Gray is not likely to get the job and probably never was likely to get the job but it was required that the Redskins interview a minority. Even the front page teaser of the article on NFL.com suggests the process is a quota-based process with the phrase, “Skins Interview Gray, Satisfy Rooney Rule”. Duh?

Search Neutrality

Search Neutrality is the bastard half-child of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality, for context, is the Internet policy argument that states that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be able to offer preferential treatment to higher paying customers. First let me go on record to say that I don’t necessarily support net neutrality, though there should be some regulation around Internet service provisions because it affects more that just carriers pissing among themselves.

Though I am not a fan of unfettered capitalism (thus my support for some regulation around net neutrality), two or more companies trying to make money should be able to create incentives to customers that would provide better services (or preferred service, if you will) to better (or more high paying) customers. This has existed forever. You have Airline frequent flier miles. You have Premium accounts over basic accounts. You have different versions of operating systems offering better features. Etc. Etc. Etc. The Internet is not a Constitutionally protected right and is subject to the laws of competition and capitalism.

Which brings me back to search neutrality. There is some buzz around the idea that there should be regulation around search engines that would prevent search providers (Google, Bing, etc) from having editorial policy (read: search algorithms) that provide more favorable treatment to some publishers over others. Or would prevent search providers from supplying paid placement opportunities to publishers in an agnostic fashion.

This, on its face, is wrong. Yet don’t underestimate some guy who has no idea how to organically grow search result placements (SERPs) to try to rally support from the ignorant to punish the evil empires of Microsoft and Google for exercising capitalistic rights and sound business opportunities. Let me be clear, any kind of neutrality buzzword derives from the inability of some to compete on merit in a marketplace. Can’t get SERPs… smack Google with a search neutrality policy that makes everyone, everywhere completely equal while we eat fruit from trees while riding our unicorns. It doesn’t happen this way, people. Competition is created by innovation and capitalism. Survival of the fittest.

Aaron Brazell

The Washington Redskins Crowd-sourcing Their Games

A week before the start of the NFL 2009 season, Cincinnati Bengals Wide Reciever-turned-parttime-kicker, Chad Ochocino, tweeted to his fans that he was going to delete his Twitter account due to strict NFL rules. Of course he didn’t, and Ochocinco, always a showman, used it to deliver more buzz around his ego.

However, the NFL rules around social media are draconian and many inside the league know this. Earlier this month, they released an updated policy that bars players and their agents from tweeting up to 90 minutes before or after a game. Members of the press are not allowed to tweet during the game either or risk having their credentials revoked.

This is the landscape in the most popular sporting league in the nation. The NFL has enjoyed widespread success through control mechanisms like blackout rules that prevent a team from having home games aired in local television markets if the game isn’t sold out 72 hours before gametime. Though most home games league-wide are sold out, the recession has caused some teams, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, to not be able to sell out.

2897040936_c9546b9679This is what the Washington Redskins face who, on Sunday, will open their first home game at FedEx Field and will be encouraging fans to tweet during the game. The new effort comes as part of a renovation of the Club Level and embracing of social media, Redskins VP of eCommerce and Web Strategy, Shripal Shah, tells me. In this new club level will be the game on massive HD televisions surrounded by live-streams of Redskin fan reaction to the game, but reactions will also be online for fans not in the club level.

The Redskins hope to get reaction from all fans through a new site called Redskins Twackle that does more than just pull tweets having a #redskins hash tag. In addition, they are pushing an iPhone App that will help crowdsource this data into the Redskins Twackle site.

Twackle is not a Redskins technology. Twackle is a product of XTreme Labs and is billed as “Your sports bar in the Twittersphere”.

While it’s not entirely clear what this play will do for new media in the NFL, it will be interesting to see how the League reacts.

* Image Credit: Mad_African78 on Flickr

The Twackle app in the iTunes store is not an official Redskins Twackle app. It is a generic app released by Octagon, not Xtreme Labs. Commenter Lahne notes that the NFL social media policy is slightly different than what I listed here. For the breakdown, see Tailgate365.


Suicide League 2009


Late last night, I had an idea to run a Suicide football league. I’ve done these before, though I admit that this is
the first time I’m using a service and not aggregating results by hand. We’ll see how this goes.

The concept of a suicide league is painfully simple, yet the strategy can become painfully complex. In simplest form, you pick one winning team each week. You cannot pick a team that you’ve picked before (this is where strategy comes into play). If you pick a winning team, you move on to the next week. If you pick a losing team, you’re out. Simple, right?

There’s a $5 buy-in on this league which will benefit Blame Drews Cancer (http://blamedrewscancer.com) and Livestrong (http://livestrong.org). You can paypal me the money (Paypal is aaron.brazell@emmense.com). You can also send me a check if you contact me for a mailing address.

There is no immediate rush on payment so take your time, but if you leave me holding the bag, I will demand ultimate retribution from you. What this is will be decided later and unilaterally. :-)

So, get your team, send that money and tell any of your friends who want to play to send me an email
(aaron+suicide@technosailor.com). The more the merrier since you’ll all probably be dead by Week 3.

Happy picking,


Our Pool password is: reds0x

Aaron Brazell

Steve McNair and the Failure of Breaking News Reporting

It’s a late Fourth of July afternoon here in Bethesda, Maryland and I am sitting here working on a chapter in the new book. Peacefully minding my own business while the steady stream of chips from Tweetdeck occurred, I did not realize what was happening.

Steve McNair died. Putting aside the tragedy (he was a former Raven, a hero among athletes and, by all acounts, men – NFL MVP, a warrior known to play through countless injuries, mature in his approach to life and the game), we witnessed a catastrophic failure of major media. Again.

I’m not one to crucify major media. Indeed, I may be one of the few in my industry to want to see the newspaper and other forms of traditional media succeed in a huge fashion. The problem is that, even in the days of blogs and Twitter, we still rely on major media to report the news. To do the journalism. To find the sources and produce the confirmation.

As much as we in new media claim to be journalists, major media still does the job better than most of us could hope too.

We rely on Twitter and sometimes we’re wrong. Take the example of the report that actor Jeff Goldblum had died. Highly inaccurate. Stephen Colbert even fucked around with us in new media claiming that if it happens on Twitter, it must be true.

This afternoon, Twitter was ablaze with reports that Nashville Police has found former Tennessee Titan and Baltimore Raven quarterback, Steve McNair, dead in an apparent murder suicide. WKRN, in Nashville, was the first with the news and it quickly disappeared off their page – a result of too much traffic or erroring on the side of caution, who is to really know.

NBC Affiliate WTVF, Channel 5, was the second to report it filling the gap where WKRN dropped off.

It was a long time (30 minutes or so) before national media picked it up. ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports by their own slogan, didn’t have it. No one did. We were left gasping for more. Is the rumor true? Can anyone confirm? Can police confirm?

Was any of us on Twitter making calls? Maybe. A few possibly. Not many.

Major media got a little jittery in the past. After 9/11. With other reports that turned into an overcompensation. Fact is, major media can safely report on a rumor as long as it is billed as such. No one has to say that this is confirmed. But people want to know. We get our news on the internet.

We find out about things happening in Iran via Twitter. We find out about Michael Jackson dying… on Twitter. We read blogs that deal with Sarah Palin’s awkwardly bizarre resignation at Alaska governor. We’re not watchoing your TV stations. We’re not in Nashville. Welcome to the global economy.

Report the damn news and report it as a rumor to hedge your bets. But report the news.

Photo Credit: mdu2boy

Update: Most media organizations are reporting a double homicide now, not a murder sucide. WKRV, who was first with the story, had reported a possible murder-suicide.