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Access To The All-22 Film Won't Open A Pandora's Box

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Head coaches ripped, coordinators second-guessed, players denigrated because they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. Fans will shout on talk radio, demanding answers from flabbergasted minds while commenters use capital letters in postgame reviews. The world experiences a gasoline shortage, food spoils across the continent and neurogenesis raises the undead.

The apocalypse has cometh. We're not talking about an eventual response about the league's surprising decision to make the All-22 Film available through their Game Rewind service. In fact we're not talking about the future at all.

For many the availability of the All-22 is a huge deal. Watching all 22 players throughout the entirety of a single play, observing the entire route by a wide receiver and defensive backs within their coverages, adds an impressive dimension for super-obsessive fans that thirst for more knowledge and information flowing into their processors. Quarterbacks certainly face increasing judgment, from timing of their throws based on the breaks of wide receivers, or progressions not completely surveyed. But they have since the first televised football game on October 22, 1939 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Brooklyn Dodgers.

There are some around the league, notably the media, chirping that the availability of the All-22 coaches film this year will open a "pandora's box". Michael Lombardi with writes:

Correctly studying the All-22 requires a complete understanding of schemes -- both offensive and defensive -- and what each player is supposed to do on each play. Let's go back to the example mentioned above, where it appears a receiver is open, but the quarterback does not get him the ball. The viewer must know the coverage and understand the principles of the coverage -- what looks like man at times can really be matchup zone -- before determining whether the quarterback really missed a potential target. Computing all of this information is very difficult if you are not in the meetings each day, not around the team and not privy to the playbook.

Fans planning to purchase the All-22 Film aren't necessarily wired the same as passive fans that watch games on Sunday, comment about it a couple of days thereafter and let the world be the world. The fans most excited about this announcement are those hoping to gain a greater understanding of the game, not so much in judgment of those players or coaches, rather to watch a play develop. Analysts and experts will be granted another avenue to perfect their art.

Charlie Casserly doesn't like the release of the All-22, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Charley Casserly, a former general manager who was a member of the NFL's competition committee, says he voted against releasing All-22 footage because he worried that if fans had access, it would open players and teams up to a level of criticism far beyond the current hum of talk radio. Casserly believed fans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games in the All 22, without knowing the full story.

"I was concerned about misinformation being spread about players and coaches and their ability to do their job," he said. "It becomes a distraction that you have to deal with." Now an analyst for CBS, Casserly takes an hour-and-a-half train once a week to NFL Films headquarters in Mt. Laurel, N.J. just to watch the All-22 film.

Casserly, and others previously monopolizing the All-22 Film, are probably honest in their reactions. But we feel that their access, which was intensely limited, protected their work, which they feel may decline -- or at the very least, become challenged.

Fundamentally nothing will change. Passive fans aren't going to pay $70 just for another angle of a football game that they already know the outcome to. Coaches and players are regularly interviewed by a media that already sits in the press box, watching the games live (and thus the original vantage point of the All-22). It's not like Marvin Lewis is holding a microphone during a town hall taking questions from fans, explaining himself much like a campaign tour.

All-22 does provide a better angle, showing every player on the field, but admittedly it doesn't provide context. Many of us who rely on common sense with a perspective on how things work, know that we're not privy to the play being called, the quarterback's progressions, the route wide receivers are expected to run. We won't know if the busted coverage was because a cornerback failed to backpedal into the deep zone on a cover three, or even if it was a cover three that was busted.

And let's be honest. It's not like the media hasn't been perfectionists in the art of overreactions, writes Bill Barnwell with who refers to the Charlie Casserly comments:

His concern, as expressed in the article, is that improper analysis of the tape will lead to fans jumping to conclusions and acting irrationally, and that misinformation would be spread as a result. To that, there is only one response: Have you ever spoken to an NFL fan before? Actually, no need to limit it to fans, since they're not the only ones who spread misinformation or take things out of context because they don't know what they're talking about (or care to get it right).

Remember, this is a league where fake character concerns about RG3 are leaked before the draft and real ones about Ryan Leaf are ignored, where a single outcome is still used to determine whether the process that went into a fourth-down decision was right. Where we credit DeSean Jackson for fumbling a punt and then running for a 65-yard score2 and ignore Omar Gaither taking out three players with one block on the same play. Where there are nearly as many running backs (11) as offensive linemen (13) on the Top 100 Players3 list that the players themselves — the ones who should truly appreciate line play — vote on. Where we still base legacy-defining, multimillion-dollar decisions on the idea that two guys holding a pair of chains making close to minimum wage can run in a perfectly straight line onto and off of the field. So when Casserly and his ilk say that they're worried about misleading information being used to analyze a player's worth or a team's performance, I can't fathom how they don't perceive that exact transgression to be a customary part of NFL tradition and lore.