‘All of Nothing’ Drives Home Ruthlessness of NFL

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 7.8.2017

The second season of Amazon’s ‘All of Nothing’ series starts off with Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher informing the team that he was fired.  From here the show takes you through the ins and outs of the Rams 2016 season and finishing off with the hiring of a new coach and the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s a long journey and one that NFL Films tells very well.

The Rams 2016 season was teed up pretty well for the producers of ‘All or Nothing’. You had the move from St. Louis, the trade to get quarterback Jared Goff with the #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, young stars like running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a schedule that saw them log more miles than anyone during the 2016 season. Add in the unexpected firing of the head coach and you have enough material to fully flesh out 8 hour long episodes.

This series is not HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’. In fact ‘All or Nothing’ doesn’t even touch on training camp. It dives right into the season and does a pretty good job of avoiding the typical NFL game camera angles while it’s at it. There are solid shots from the sidelines and great sound from the coaches throughout the season. From their homes, to the meeting rooms to the sidelines.

One aspect of this show that was very interesting goes back to something that former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz once pointed out and that is when a coach is fired it’s not just him who is effected. It’s the assistants and their families too. ‘All or Nothing’ does a great job of driving that home. How the families deal with the never ending moves from city to city. For example, offensive coordinator Rob Boras ended up as the tight ends coach for the Buffalo Bills shortly after being let go by the Rams following the season. So in under a year he had moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles to Buffalo while his family was still in St. Louis. It gives you a great look at how much of grind an NFL season can be not just for the players but on the coaches.

This season of ‘All or Nothing’ is compelling and could be compelling for someone who isn’t the biggest football fan. It shows how difficult and ruthless this game can be on the players, the coaches and the families and how everything can change in an instant. It’s story telling at high level and worth checking out.

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Chip’s Revenge

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 2.9.2017

Arguably the best coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, may have inadvertently pulled a page out of his friend Chip Kelly’s book to win Super Bowl 51. Belichick’s team didn’t run a no-huddle, up tempo style however the amount of plays they ran and dominate time of possession had to of put a smile on Kelly’s face as the New England Patriots went on to win their fifth NFL title.

 

KELLYKelly may have been fired from two NFL head coaching jobs in under a year but some of his philosophies are grounded in truth. If your team has the ball then the other teams offensive isn’t on the field. If you run more plays than your opponent then odds are that in the 4th quarter that defense will be tired. Both proved true during the Patriots win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots ran 93 offensive plays to the high powered Falcons 42 and dominated the time of possession. They had the football for over 40 minutes while the Falcons had it for just a little over 23. While Kelly’s teams would normally reflect the the Falcons time of possession, the Patriots were able to adapt Kelly’s philosophy on their way to victory.

Super Bowl 51 TOPAt one point Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck pointed out that the Falcons offense had not been on the field in over an hour (that included the extended halftime). You add that up and it’s no wonder the Falcons defense seemed powerless to stop the Patriots offense in the last quarter plus of the game.

While you can point to several factors as to why the Patriots defeated the Falcons for their fifth title, you cannot deny that time of possession and the amount of offensive plays that the Patriots ran was a major factor in the outcome. It’s one that Kelly would be right to be proud of.

More Mouse Davis Than Bill Walsh

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.10.2017

Over the years we’ve written quite a bit about Chip Kelly. We’ve written how he wasn’t right for the NFL and we’ve written that he could be the next Bill Walsh. With many things, the truth falls somewhere in between.

Chip Kelly 49ersChip Kelly was fired from two NFL jobs in little over a year. The second wasn’t his fault as he was dealt an absolute oil spill but the first was his fault. More importantly there has been some talk out there that Kelly wasn’t able to adjust to the NFL. He didn’t disguise his looks and become, in a word, predictable.

NFL defenses may have figured out a way to stop Kelly’s ‘blur’ offense but the NFL also adopted some of his ideas and methods.

While at Oregon, Kelly made trips to New England to talk about the hurry-up offense with Bill Belichick and his staff. Belichick and Kelly have become good friends and there is a possibility, however remote, that Kelly could slide into the OC spot if current Patriots OC Josh McDaniels gets another head coaching gig with, ironically enough, the San Francisco 49ers.

The fact is that a lot of teams, college and pro, use some of Kelly’s principals in their offenses. It’s a lot like how every one criticized Mouse Davis’s Run’N’Shoot offense when it debuted in the NFL way back in 1989.

Many criticized the offense and in it’s purest form wasn’t very successful at the NFL level. However aspects of the offense have made it into just about every current NFL offense. Using the pass to set up the run, single back sets and having wide receivers read the coverage along with the quarterback.

Kelly’s offense and training methods are seeing a similar bubbling up across the league. Kelly embraced sports science and employed a ‘sport science coordinator’ while with the Eagles. Other NFL teams have begun to embrace the idea of maximizing athletes performance after Kelly blazed the way.

Teams have also incorporated some zone read plays, allowed their quarterback to run more often, and of course using the hurry-up or no huddle offense throughout the game instead of just at end of a half.

While Kelly may not have revolutionized the game like the late Bill Walsh did so many years ago, he did influence it significantly like Mouse Davis did back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Kelly’s NFL career will be judged by wins and losses but he has contributed much more than that.

 

3 Star = Pro Bowl

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.22.2016

The 2017 Pro Bowl roster was announced this week and while the game is becoming increasingly meaningless, a few outlets point out how there are more former 3-Star college recruits and lower than anyone else on the roster. Proving again that the recruiting star system is also increasingly irrelevant.

Recruiting stars are no guarantee of NFL success or collegiate success for that matter. There are many more three, two, one and no star recruits than there ever are five and four star recruits but most people presume that five or four star players are significantly better than three and below.

While the star rankings do not give the best indicator to future success, it does show that three and lower are just as good if not better than the four and five players if put in the right situation and coached up.

If you look at the no star recruits coming out of high school and now in the 2017 Pro Bowl, two of those players, Antonio Brown and Tom Brady, are arguably the best at their position. Brady is a lock for the Hall of Fame and Brown is probably the most feared receiver in the NFL over the last two seasons. Brown was a sixth round pick out of Central Michigan. He didn’t ‘fit’ the ‘typical’ NFL wide receiver. All he does now is make plays and score touchdowns and has become an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

As college football teams go into the final recruiting push early next year, it’s important for those three star and lower kids to recognize that the coaches and so-called ‘experts’ may not know talent when they see it. Proving them wrong is better than any star from.

 

 

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.31.2016

While many point to the end of the calendar year as the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, those folks are clearly not sports fans. While the yule log, spiked eggnog and massive amount are nice, they do not compare to the last week of October and the first week of November.

World SeriesSeveral years ago the World Series got kicked back a little bit. Now the baseball season overlaps with the NFL,college football, CFL and MLS for a two solid months. Add in the start of the NHL and NBA regular seasons and you have got sports on seven days a week.

After Halloween, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) starts playing football games during the week which means that there is football on seven days a week. Add this to the NFL games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday and it can be easy to see why some people get ‘football overload’ and turn to something else.

While the Holiday Season is great, it does not compare to this time of year. From the World Series to pivotal college football games to the MLS playoffs. The games this time of year are more important than the ones during the Holiday’s. So enjoy the Indian Summer some of you are getting and enjoy the sports overload.

The NFL’s Bad Media Calls

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.25.2016

rodgersIt seemed like the NFL was getting it when they signed on with Twitter to live stream the first 10 Thursday Night football games. Then they limited the amount of original content with NFL footage that the 32 teams could post on social media outlets such as Twitter. Lately, the media has been abuzz with the ratings decline through the first seven weeks. It appears that the NFL is calling the wrong plays when it comes to media.

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post penned an article a week or so ago trying to explain the possible reasons for the TV ratings decline. There are many variables that are effecting the ratings including the Presidential Election, cord cutting, and an aging demographic.

Harwell made a couple of interesting points in his article. First, during the 2000 and 2008 Presidential Elections, the league saw a ratings decline. Second is that overall TV viewership among those 24 years old and younger is down some 40%.

Another intriguing variable is the cord cutting. While apps like Sling TV and Watch ESPN increase in usage it is not enough to offset the viewership decline on traditional TV. What this means is that, yes people are watching in “non-traditional” ways (via mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc) but these numbers are big enough to say ‘hey, people are just watching this way vs the traditional way.’

One way to embrace those younger fans is to reach them where they are. On mobile devices and on social media. Kind of thought that the NFL was doing this when they signed the deal with Twitter to steam the Thursday Night games. Then they limit game highlights on team social media accounts. The teams have come up with some creative solutions that help feed their fans desire for info but also troll the NFL league office at the same time.

The NFL should be the leaders as far as video distribution on social networks. This should be one of the most important things that the NFL does outside of the game itself. Do bad ratings lead you to not watch a game on a Sunday? Probably not. Does bad social media discourage you from following your favorite team? Probably. If you can’t see the awesome one handed catch by Julio Jones that everyone is talking on Facebook then where do you expect someone 25 years old to see it?

Overall, the NFL isn’t going anywhere but they can certainly stop shooting themselves in the foot. They can do this by getting their content to fans where fans are which is everywhere. Will ratings take a hit? Sure but you’ll make up that revenue and exposure on other platforms and on some platforms that haven’t even been created yet.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Easier To Use and Follow Ups

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.19.2016

As we all know, Twitter is live streaming the NFL’s first 10 Thursday Night games. A couple of games in, you are starting to see some to of the changes that needed to be made not only for the games but for Twitter’s live strategy.

twitterads-they-started-mondayBefore the Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers game I saw more advertisements within the Twitter application further out from the game. I also received an email with a straight forward graphic reminding me about the game. These are both things that Twitter didn’t appear to be during Week 1.

 

twitterliveBy the time the Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers game rolled around the next Thursday, there was a video player inside the desktop application right next to the ‘Trends’ section.This is a big and necessary change especially for new users of the platform. Granted this is only on the desktop/laptop view and not the mobile view but it’s a start.

There are two parts of streaming NFL games that Twitter needs to nail. First show that the platform is stable enough to have the capacity that the NFL and others are going to need. They’ve done that.

The second part is to get users, new and existing, to watch and you can only do that through advertising inside and outside of Twitter.

With the combination of ads within the application running further out from the game and the email campaign, Twitter is getting the second half of this right because the stability and quality of the live stream is great.

Follow Up:

Last week I posted about the low hanging fruit that Sling TV and other OTT providers could pick. Those are the league channels like MLB Network, NBA TV and NHL Network among others. Well in a blog post on Sling TV’s website on October 19th announced that the NHL Network was now available in the sports package.

Princess of Darkness

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.17.2016

Amy Trask was the first female NFL executive. There have been female owners, wives, daughters and others but she was none of these when she went to work for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. She worked her way up from an intern to be CEO of one of the NFL’s most storied and divisive franchises and along the line gained the nickname ‘Princess of Darkness.’

Amy TraskTrask has a new book out called ‘You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League’ and was recently featured on the Sports Business Radio podcast. One of the stories she told was how Davis didn’t consider her a woman and how that was one of the more special moments of her career.

Trask makes the point, ‘Don’t we all want to be regarded without respect to gender, ethnicity, race, religion, all of those characteristics which have no bearing what so ever on whether we can do a job.’ It’s a perspective that has examples all over the Raider organization. The Raiders were the first team to hire a Hispanic head coach (Tom Flores), an African American head coach (Art Shell) and numerous young coaches (Jon Gruden and Lane Kiffin).

Trask may not consider herself a trailblazer but she was. I look forward to reading Trask’s book and I also look forward to more NFL franchises seeing things the way Davis did when it comes to race, gender, ethnicity and so on. It is 2016 after all.

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Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Here But Not There

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.21.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Here But Not There

Cord cutting is not for the faint of heart. It is something that you have to want to do. While Twitter proved that they can handle the current level of cord cutters/mobile users who will demand the ability to watch Thursday Night Football while at their daughter’s dance recital or watching on their XBOX. It is a little frustrating though to not have the ability to watch the Thursday Night game via NFL Network over Sling TV.

photo-sep-15-8-41-39-pmWhile Twitter did a great job, they really did but their deal did have  a head scratching moment. Sling TV users on Roku saw the error you see to your right. How does that happen?

You’d figure that you’d be able to watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network just like you’d be able to on Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner or even Dish. You’d be wrong.

The NFL and Twitter cut a pretty sweet deal that would allow Twitter to have exclusive access to any and all OTT services. Or so it seems. In Twitter’s defense, they did roll out apps on XBOX One, Amazon Fire and Apple TV in time for the game. That’s great but Roku has around 10 million users, more or less, which makes them a fairly big player and to not be able to stream the Thursday Night game is pretty significant.

All hope was not lost though. Any decent cord cutter, including myself, have an antenna to capture over the air broadcasts. The real question becomes, when Twitter stops streaming the games after week 10 of the NFL season, does that mean that I can watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network on Sling TV again since it will be exclusive?

It’s all very confusing but this is what happens in the new frontier. Deals are cut as people try to put the new model into the an older one. It’s the equivalent of putting a round peg into a square hole. It should all be sorted out soon enough and we can all get back to streaming the games were supposed to.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Unavailable on iPhone

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.14.2016


I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Unavailable On iPhone

Sports fans, especially Pac-12 fans, got an unexpected gift last Thursday. Sling TV announced a deal with the Pac-12 Network to get all of the Pac-12 channels which are split up into regions (Mountain, Arizona, Washington, etc). However the victory was short lived as the pop up ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ appeared during Monday Night Football.

pac12The Pac-12 deal is big for a couple reasons. First, the Pac-12 has some pretty darn big media markets including Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Phoenix. Second, DirecTV doesn’t have the Pac-12 Network which means about 25 million people. The cost savings an opportunity to watch your Alma Mater could be enough to chip into that number for Sling TV.

Then Monday happened.

imageEvery now and then I have to travel for business. This trip just so happened to land on the season premiere of Monday Night Football. While bandwidth on the Southwest flight is good enough to get a medium to low quality stream of Sling TV (which I found out a day later by streaming the US Open Cup Final on ESPN), it was shocking to see the ‘Unavailable on iPhone’ when I got off the plane and tried to watch the Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers game on ESPN.

That’s right. I can watch via a Roku on my TV, my laptop or tablet but I cannot watch on an iPhone. That’s some 63 million Americans who, in theory, could not watch Monday Night Football on their phone.

That’s kind of shocking.

Now I did not try the WATCH ESPN app. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t watch on Sling TV that I totally forgot about the WATCH ESPN app. I was also going to be at my hotel in a matter of minutes and the game was at halftime.

I am sure that there is some contractual or technical reason why I couldn’t watch one of ESPN’s most popular programs on my iPhone but as a user I don’t really care about the reason. Part of the reason for cutting the cord was so I could watch anywhere I wanted to, on any device. How can I watch any TV, tablet or computer but not on the device that is with me 24/7? It’s like the content is available ‘almost anytime on almost any device.’

Sling TV is still winning as far as I am concerned. Two weeks into the college football season and I don’t feel like I am missing any of the action. Not being able to watch Monday Night Football on the device I have with me all of the time is odd but something that I am sure that will be fixed.