The tapes that Bob Lamonte and Mike Holmgren (and Vic Carucci) don’t want you to see

by Cleveland Frowns on January 12, 2012

Just because I’m a few months late posting this article that raises an issue that’s been an issue forever doesn’t mean we’re not talking about one of the most offensively regressive states of affairs imaginable in American sport. Which is the NFL’s refusal to release its readily available “All-22″ game footage to the public for no reason at all other than that the NFL wants us to be stupid.

In this excellent Wall Street Journal piece by Reed Albergotti from last November, it’s explained that: “[e]very play during an NFL game is filmed from multiple angles in high definition.” But while “NFL TV broadcasts have relied most heavily on one view: the shot from a sideline camera that follows the progress of the ball,” of course, “[a]nyone who wants to analyze the game, prefers to see the pulled-back camera angle known as the ‘All 22,’ which “allows students of the game to see things that are invisible to TV watchers: like what routes the receivers ran, how the defense aligned itself and who made blocks past the line of scrimmage.”

Of course, what’s the point of having a game if you can’t have students of it? Regular readers of this website know that our new “Xs and Os with the Bros” series is one of the best things going on the internet, and also know that the analysis contained within is often significantly limited by the inability to see the whole field. All the thought and measurable strategy that goes into the coordinated action of 11 against 11 constrained by time and physical boundaries at some 120 different intervals per game is what makes football the best game there is by far. Yet, “by distributing [the All-22] footage only to NFL teams, and rationing it out carefully to its TV partners and on its web site, the NFL has created a paradox,” in that “[t]he most-watched sport in the U.S. is also arguably the least understood.”

Which should bother anyone, of course, but of course should bother Clevelanders more than anybody, as anything that serves to minimize the accountability of the folks who run NFL franchises should. And like most things that should bother Clevelanders more than anybody, the league’s justification for its refusal to release the All-22 is predictably depressing. Per Albergotti:

If you ask the league to see the footage that was taken from on high to show the entire field and what all 22 players did on every play, the response will be emphatic. “NO ONE gets that,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email. This footage, added fellow league spokesman Greg Aiello, “is regarded at this point as proprietary NFL coaching information.”

We also hear from former NFL exec Frank Hawkins, who “remembers the NFL considering releasing the All 22,” and that “the biggest objection … came from the football people.”

But it’s former NFL GM Charley Casserly who really gets to the point:

[Casserly] 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.”

So as it turns out, there’s Orwellian pigs, and there’s the folks who run the National Football League. Heaven forbid, of course, that professional football people have to deal with the “distraction” of other people knowing more about football. As if talk radio could get any dumber, or would, if folks knew more instead of less.

If you’re one who wonders why pro football has to be some kind of wizard’s game where only former history teachers who happened to go to the same high school as Mike Holmgren and Dave Stieb are fit to participate, you should have a much better idea after reading Albergotti’s piece. You’ll also note that Albergotti recounts some anecdotes that illustrate how the corporate media that covers the league has an interest in keeping this film away from the public eye as well, namely just that their “talent” comes off better when you’re kept in the dark.

Which makes this as good a time as any to note something that should have been included in Tuesday’s piece on NFL “superagent” Bob LaMonte.

Remember how ClevelandBrowns.com in-house “reporter” Vic Carucci was handpicked by the Holmgren regime to give Browns fans “insights on a regular basis”? And how some of these “insights” have turned out to include the insight that Pat Shurmur has “a remarkable knack .. for simply keeping his focus on doing everything possible to help [his regressing 4-12 team] get better;” and the insight that even though the Browns lost to the worst team in football at home this season, it wasn’t because Shurmur didn’t clearly [take] advantage of the fact he knew th[e] Rams team well having been St. Louis’ offensive coordinator the past two seasons;as well as the one about how clear it was that “there was nothing the Browns would have been able to do from a schematic or play-calling standpoint to change things” when they were methodically cannibalized by the Houston Texans in November?

It shouldn’t surprise you to note, then, that Carucci is bought and paid for by LaMonte Industries himself. Carucci’s profile at HarperCollins’ website shows that he’s written three books, two of them biographies of high profile LaMonte clients John Gruden and Charlie Weis (“No Excuses” by Charlie Weis). And here’s a LaMonte Industries commercial that Carucci ran as a news piece at the NFL’s website. “Super agent!”

See, why would we need the All-22 when everything we really need is in Carucci’s “reports”?

 

  • Max

    I dont think the link at the top or bottom to the WSJ article works…either that or I am as poor at operating the interwebs as Shurmur is at running an offense.

    And I 100% agree that media outlets don’t want the fans to see the all 22. Right now, their talking heads get to see it, and then they can look like savants when they come and spout off on tv. For the NFL to say that “NO ONE” get access is complete BS, as anyone who gets up really early on Sundays to watch NFL Matchup knows. You get All 22 footage a lot on that show, which is why it is the best show on tv for fans who want to learn more about the game to watch (and I hate endorsing anything from that network)

  • Brian Sipe

    Pete you need to get on your boy Goldhammer about KNR shilling for the Browns by allowing Carucci on…. I know they get more Browns interviews than ever but it comes at the price of having Browns infomericals with Vic Carucci every week telling us the sun is always shining in Berea

    The #1 thing Holmgren did was put PR people all around him to sell the city on his circus

    • Anonymous

      or better yet, KNR should do something about the people they allow on a permanent basis, such as Hammer, Fedor, Roda, Riz, etc.

      get more guys like Jerod and LeCharles on!

  • wiseoldredbeard

    But isn’t ignorance bliss? If we truly knew how bad the Browns were, would we keep going to games and waiting for next year, or would we just lose hope and give up? I’m not sure I’m ready to give up… but I do hate being force fed bull sh*t.

    As for the NFL — they are a well greased machine. Why would they purposely release information that could be used against them? Goodell is the king of squash.

    • Hopwin

      Except that those of us who go to the games get the all 22 view live. Like morons we keep handing our wallets to Holmgren.

      • Anonymous

        Hmmm… Yes. And we have phones. And those phones have video, some even HD…. Hmmmm……

      • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris

        Bingo. And I’m not putting you down, I’m one of those morons.

  • Coachie Ballgames

    in that [t]he most-watched sport in the U.S. is also arguably the least understood.”
    IMFO, I don’t think it is even arguable. Football truly is an amazing entertainment spectacle if it can draw in so many loyal viewers who don’t have a clue as to what’s going on.

    situation could no doubt be helped if more people, adults included, played football.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed, it’s not arguable at all. Post fixed.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        Frownie,
        I need all 22 and this is your best post ever!
        Is there a special network, or a “game films” company that may satisfy my need to understand what is really happening.
        Genius guys like Rod’o may be able to pick it up from TV, but I need to see the the entirety of both teams.
        Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I do not need to see constant close ups of Peyton’s guns.
        I like to watch football, not the “Sports Celebrity Close Up Show”.

        • Anonymous

          There is absolutely not anything wrong with it. And I’m pretty sure those aren’t close-ups of Peyton’s arms, they’re just that big.

  • Aeroscarr13

    NFL Game Rewind advertises “Coaches Camera” footage, but from what I’ve heard it’s only select footage, not entire games. Other media outlets show “All-22″ footage occasionally. I think the NFL is/will slowly experiment with releasing it to the general public and evaluate the results. In the end I think they’ll find that it increases viewership and $$. Someday I think the average Joe will get access to all of it.

    • Anonymous

      NFL Network is the best thing on TV, i could watch it 24/7, good stuff.

  • Anonymous

    An informed consumer is an industry’s nightmare.

    • Chris P.

      As long as you’re channeling the ghost of Sy Syms, I think this parting shot on a Forbes biography of the company also fits the whole Lamontification of the organization
      ———-
      http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/18/sy-syms-retailer-business-retail-obituary.html

      In spite of repeated requests, Sy Syms refused to talk with FORBES about his business. “But you better get it right,” he threatened, “because I’ve got great lawyers.”

      FORBES: We’ve got it right.

      • Anonymous

        Do you think the suit they buried him in was one of the knock-offs?

        • Chris P.

          I always assume someone is selling the public knock offs so they can sleep in an Armani.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      CLTIL,
      Was that Henry Ford, or Nelson Rockefeller?

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Exactly CLTIL,
      Norman Stingley the twisted creator of “Happy fun Ball” coined that phrase.

      Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

  • kjn

    “Casserly believed fans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games in the All 22, without knowing the full story.”

    But what about after fans have seen eight or nine? Or fifty? Seriously. How insulting.

    And the Carucci thing is horrible. It amazes me how many parallels you see between sports and political reporting. Trading objectivity for access, puff piece disguised as news, blatant cronyism, propaganda renamed journalism….

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    nice work. in particular thanks for touching on the subject of football as a ‘wizard’s game.’ more exactly the perpetuation of the myth that it is a wizard’s game.

    i truly enjoy hearing/reading analysis of people who know more about the unseen mechanics within the game than i do. rod’s the obvious example, but guys like dan whalen and fso zac, lecharles and jerod… these guys have a clue on what is supposed to be happening, what is not, and who is at fault for the disconnect.

    it’s beyond frustrating to get snips of informative data which could lead to informed discussion only to have it blotted out by the incompetence (mkc) or sloth (tg) found out the region’s leading sports thought leader. the same holds for network coverage although that’s more a result of programmatic decisions. eg, boomer esaiason is very opinionated and articulate and insightful… if you can catch him on the radio. but when he has to jockey for position with five other noisy guys, his analysis cant help but be shallow as a pie plate.

    the prevailing thinking that football insiders necessarily know more than you or me needs to be challenged.

    • Anonymous

      JK, you listen to the Bull and Fox sometimes…do you remember a couple months ago when they were able to view the game film for a couple of Browns games, and how amazed they were at how much more they saw? They said it changed their minds about a few players, but I don’t remember specifics cause I listen at work and get interrupted constantly.

      Well, that and I’m halfway to senile, I swear to God.

      • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

        i would love to see dustin go deeper with his xs and os. when i listen to him, it doesnt feel like he’s done a lot of prep… but there’s no denying that he knows his football.

        if he could take a couple hours on monday every week pre-shows and review tape, he’d be able to offer talking points on stuff like.. ‘lauvao/pashos dont have their blocking schemes sync’d on this play;’ ‘haden’s drop technique doesn’t let him recover after he bites on a sluggo;’ ‘colt’s looking straight at a corner blitz but there’s no hot route non-verbal sign between him and cribbs.’ it doesnt have to be a special x/o’s segment; it would just give him more and more interesting talking points through the course of the week.

        we dont need dustin repeating crap the mkc writes about hillis’ strep throat or that jazz.

      • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

        i would love to see dustin go deeper with his xs and os. when i listen to him, it doesnt feel like he’s done a lot of prep… but there’s no denying that he knows his football.

        if he could take a couple hours on monday every week pre-shows and review tape, he’d be able to offer talking points on stuff like.. ‘lauvao/pashos dont have their blocking schemes sync’d on this play;’ ‘haden’s drop technique doesn’t let him recover after he bites on a sluggo;’ ‘colt’s looking straight at a corner blitz but there’s no hot route non-verbal sign between him and cribbs.’ it doesnt have to be a special x/o’s segment; it would just give him more and more interesting talking points through the course of the week.

        we dont need dustin repeating crap the mkc writes about hillis’ strep throat or that jazz.

        • Anonymous

          I agree. Who better than Dustin, Je’Rod, LeCharles, or Kevin Kiley to shed some light? They lived it, Dustin the most recently I believe.

      • actovegin1armstrong

        CLTIL,
        You are most assuredly too young to remember this, but “back in the day” they had 3 cameras, 50 yard lind, upper deck, (my favorite), movable O-end zone. and 35 yard side line.
        Every play started with the 50 yard line full 22 and even dum guys like me learned about football and coverages.

  • Anonymous

    I think that yossarian’s response to this sort of situation – running away naked and climbing up a tree – might also be acceptable.

    (Also yes the vonnegut talk + the 22 talk made a reference to catch 22 irresistable to me.)

    • Anonymous

      Catch-22 was Heller or did I ununderstand your comment?

      • Anonymous

        Yep- but heller goes with vonnegut imo, and I like the comparison btwn the cats cradle ( vonnegut poem) response to life and the human condition and the catch 22 (Heller) response.

        • Anonymous

          See the cat? See the cradle? You know, if we got a hold of some Ice-9, we could freeze hell over thereby guaranteeing a trifecta of Cleveland championships.

          • Anonymous

            Yes yes yes :)

        • actovegin1armstrong

          “Cats Cradle” That was Harry Chapin.

          Vonnegut, Heller, what position did they play?

          • Anonymous

            Well, in player piano vonnegut took the position that playing professional football was amongst the most honorable professions – does that count?

          • Anonymous

            Yes for sure.

          • Anonymous

            Oh good.

  • actovegin1armstrong

    Frownie,
    I normally get ridiculously frustrated with all of the stupid, lowest common denominator close ups during a typical football broadcast.
    It is impossible to tell what is really going on in the game.
    How can I get ‘All 22,’?
    I need it or I am going to give up on football altogether and watch futbol.
    in futbol I am certain that there is the same problem, but I do not know enough about the sport to care.

    • Anonymous

      I think futbol is our only answer.

    • Anonymous

      The Bundesliga is having a very thrilling year. Will Borussia Dortmund catch Bayern and retain their title as champions? Will Monchengladbach continue their surprising form and rebound from last year’s relegation fight to achieve Champion’s League qualification this year? FIND OUT, NEXT TIME IN THE BUNDESLIGA.

      • Anonymous

        LOL

  • Bandit

    What the hell, the Browns Administration are Masters of classic Orwellian Double Speak any way. No sense having reporters who are not part of the system.

  • Anonymous

    Another one that deserves some run! I see a series forming here and I like it. This is a great segue from yesterday’s post and there are a bunch of other topics that can fit in the theme.

    It’s no surprise that a no-lose industry run by reclusive good-ol-boy billionaires legally granted monopoly status behaves this way. But with guerillas at the gate, it will be interesting to see how long the NFL can hold on to some of the quaint old arrangements and traditions of the sport. The well established and well accepted innumeracy of coaching, the AMA style gate-keeping along with the NCAA that helps prime the pumps of cronyism, the use of media access to control message… there are so many things about the NFL that are ripe for challenge and change.

    And that is one of the myriad reasons why phenomenal independent websites are so great.

    Now on this particular issue, I think the 21st century answer is simply to form an all-22 club of folks with HD video phones, upperdeck seats, and anti-shake Adobe Premiere filters. Piratebay takes care of the rest. The only way they are releasing this stuff is if it’s already released. Then they’ll be willing to try and make money off it, until then, they make just as much money (or at least its easier) the way things are.

    • Anonymous

      hopefully HBO Sports gets their hands on it and does a series. did you catch any of the 24/7 Hockey series they did on Rangers Flyers Winter Classic? the game footage was sick, the camera angles, audio, etc. good stuff and i’m not much of a hockey fan

    • kjn

      Being practitioners of asymmetric warfare, guerillas should never marshall at the gates.

      I think your last paragraph is dead-on. Pirating and/or DIY grassroot groups employing technology have been the major impetus behind streaming movies/TV, iTunes, etc. If you won’t sell it to us for a fair price, we’ll go get it ourselves.

  • Anonymous

    I like talk radio……

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Good discussion. We talked about this at WFNY, but it never made it to the front page from our emails.

    I’m stuck. Personally and selfishly you know I want that damn tape.

    The other side of the argument is that the NFL is still an entertainment enterprise. They need to have this thing that ends up on TV as an entertainment piece and they want some control over it.

    Bear with me, but you remember how pissed off everyone was at the ending of Lost? Instead of letting an artist have his license and end his work how he wanted to end the thing everyone thought they should be able to dictate everything about it.

    Now, I know there is a vast divide between a TV Series and professional sports, but in many ways the gameplans and playbooks are just like story arcs and scripts that artists put together. As it is the criticism and heat from week to week is pretty intense already.

    What if a well-financed fan or organization decided to hire experts to make a coaching staff look stupid. Sure, some coaches would be easier to set up than others (no names, please,) but I have no doubt that the all-22 video would open up every coach to an all-new level of criticism.

    But still, I want that damn tape!

    Do you at least see where I’m coming from though? Putting it in the hands of the petulant might really ruin the game rather than enhance it. It would create more experts, but I don’t know if that makes the game better.

    I read an interview with Rob Chudzinski saying basically that he couldn’t even enjoy watching a football game because it was all just too technical for him now. It would be like if you are a computer programmer trying to surf the web when all you see in your mind is code, CSS and database calls.

    Same too with my TV example. Do you think a cinematographer can just watch Avatar and enjoy it for its beauty or is he just distracted by all the different technical shots and camera moves?

    It seems counterintuitive but I am somewhat conflicted about how much they should really release it and to whom. I’m willing to change my mind though. As I mentioned twice already, I want that damn tape! (Or at least I think I do.)

    • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

      doesn’t the bill of rights protect against presumption of petulance?

      cant help to think that the whole watergate thing wouldve gone a lot smoother if archibald cox shared this same inner conflict. ;-)

    • Anonymous

      It’s hard to think of anything I enjoyed less after understanding it more. It’s easy to think of things where my enjoyment grew commensurately with understanding.

      The idea that fans would somehow screw up the NFL if allowed to actually watch the real game again and again is hard for me to digest.

      • Anonymous

        Ditto.

        Craig, it would squeeze the Chuck Boomses of the world right out of business.

  • Anonymous

    I have very strong feelings on this but it is their property.

    If you’re watching a baseball or basketball game, a TV view is usually sufficient because the amount of off-the-ball action is confined to a limited time and space that can be either determined or reviewed by the announcer. In baseball, you see what goes into success and failure right on your screen. The only exception is if the defense is shifted but even then, you can tell that they were or the announcer will tell you. In basketball, there is off-the-ball action but it’s in such a limited space that you can still capture most of it on TV.

    Football and hockey are sports where so much occurs outside of the field of view. At my first hockey game, I was shocked at how much was going on in terms of line changes and maneuvering away from the puck.

    Football is much the same with lots of action away from the ball and typically outside of the field of view. It’s a sport where the alignments of players spatially is of considerable importance and where spacing and movement of all the pieces affects the outcome in some way.

    Today’s TV broadcast is bad enough in that the 25 seconds between plays is filled with all sorts of nonsense. Replays I can deal with but do we really need all sorts of cutaways and views of everything NOT involved with the play? Did you realize that on offense the coordinator on the sideline is typically surrounded by the FB, 2nd TE and 3rd and 4th receivers? If you know how they rotate then you can anticipate the personnel. When they finally do get back to the team on the field, you have the offense lining up and usually the TV broadcast doesn’t even give you enough time to figure out what the formation is and how the defense is lined up. It’s not JUST the availability of the all-22 or lack thereof. It’s the cluttering of the broadcast taking away from the ability to analyze what you’re watching. Imagine if a baseball broadcast showed you the pitch but cut away during the action. It wouldn’t be very easy to follow. I think that some color analysts are better at relating football information to the fan but realize that even the good ones only have about 20 seconds between plays to get any points across and the plays are far too complex sometimes for that to be even close to enough time.

    The NFL will sell the “All-22″ just like they sell everything else. It’s just the last piece of their jewelry and they’re worried about selling it. They’re worried about criticism? Trust me. We don’t need the all-22 to criticize…we can do it either way. It’s rather short-sighted and naive of them to think otherwise. They want to keep the average fan stupid. I’ll buy that.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Rod’o,
      Nice post as always.
      The NFL can show me “all 22″ and as you so eloquently stated, I (Joe Average Fan) will still be stupid.
      However, I will be able to really watch the game and be stupid.
      Please everyone, join in the chant
      “All 22. All 22.”

    • stevewhitemd1

      I’m with you completely on the commentary and replays in-between plays. Yes, there are some commentators who use that time well, and there are some plays you want to see a second or third time. But so much of it is repetitive nonsense.

      Why not use the ‘all-22′ view in some replays? Wouldn’t that be a useful tool for a good commentator? The broadcasters and NFL have tried everything else in-between plays, why not show us where a player who was off-screen was, and how he reacted? If the networks could figure out how to give us ‘reverse angle’ they should be able to figure out how to give us ‘all-22′.

      You’re also right about the coordinator views we get on TV. We get these dippy shots of the coordinator covering his mouth with his playcall list while he yaks into his microphone — the shot is tight and you don’t see who’s standing on either side. Okay, I get it — he’s calling the next play NOW — but how about showing me some of the chess game on the sideline?

      One more rant: why can’t I buy a full game at iTunes? I can get highlights which run 10 to 15 minutes for $1.99. How about selling me the entire game at $3.99? In HD for $4.99? Give me my choice of home, away or national broadcast announcers, skip the commercials, and give me every blinking second. I’d buy the whole season of the Browns and Bears every year. There are people who collect full game tapes. I’ve heard of people with Browns tapes going back well into the 1960s. 99% of the game tape is put away forever 2 days after a game, never to be seen again unless NFL Films finds something it likes. So why not sell me a complete game and make some money?

      • Anonymous

        I agree Steve. It’s an untapped source of revenue that is huge in and of itself.

      • jpftribe

        In the uk you can buy exactly that with nfl game pass. The directv contract prevents them in the us.

  • Anonymous

    >>>I have very strong feelings on this but it is their property.>>>

    Is the name Cleveland in Cleveland Browns their property? Is the allegiance that is given to the teams BECAUSE THEY REPRESENT A CITY OF FANS their property?

    As much as the NFL wants to use the phrase “fans of the NFL,” the number of people who like the product because of their particular production of said product is vanishingly small. People like and buy the NFL because they happen to be the entity basically licensed by the government to do what they do, which is run a business with rules about labor and sales that would otherwise be illegal. Their whole franchise is created and maintained by an exemption from antitrust laws that makes treating this “property” like other entertainment properties utterly vapid.

    Sorry, but if history and government has left you with an exemption to basically be the only one running big time professional football, I’m fine with you charging to show me the game in various ways, but I think I have a right in that case for at least one of those ways to be a full representation of the actual game, not just the highly produced, edited and cut slices of it that you think make it look better. This is simply not like other entertainment properties. I don’t think anyone should have a dram of a scruple about helping liberate fans from the NFL’s selective distortion of the action because it subverts “property rights.” That just doesn’t apply here.

    How would you feel about this if they were actually editing or altering video footage to enhance the feats of established stars? I mean, I know they do this by slant of coverage, but I mean if they could actually make some hits look harder on replay by messing with frame rates or things like that. Would that just be part of their property rights? It might help them make more money off “their product,” but is that really legitimate?

    • Anonymous

      Exactly.

  • Blowmy

    Y are you such a hater? I can’t stand anything u write anymore.

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