The Future Of Football Is A Lie

Drew Magary yesterday at 14:54. 0 comments
Nfl Football Super Bowl Liii Balls Deep Drew Magary

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here. Buy his book here .

I spent all of December in the hospital and that gave me a lot of free time to watch television. If you’re used to the internet and haven’t been alone with a just a TV in quite a while, let me tell you something: it sucks. I can’t believe I used to live this way. WHERE DO I LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT HOW MUCH THIS SHOW EATS ASS?

Anyway, when I have to (have to!) watch television, chances are I’m flipping around looking for whatever shitty football game I can find. That’s how I ended up watching Wisconsin beat the piss out of Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl one winter’s evening a while back. Miami came into that game as -2.5 favorites thanks to sporting one of the best defenses in college football. They were fourth in yards allowed. They were 11th in sacks. They were 16th in forced turnovers. Well, Wisconsin blew all that to shit. See for yourself…

I am a professional Football Knower, and even though this game was a rout, I still watched most of it because I had nowhere else to go and nothing better to do. In doing so, I gained critical football insight that you simply will NOT find anywhere else except for 37 other sports media outlets. Were you once like me and foolishly presumed that the Rams and Chiefs represented the future of football? WRONG, FUCKO. Take Sunday’s grueling Super Bowl as the ominous portent it very much was. Just as Belichick solved the Rams’ style of offense, so will other teams. Like Miami, for instance. Miami’s defense was designed to thrive in a wide-open FBS division with spread offenses and coaches hellbent on finding open space anywhere on the field and exploiting it. To counter that sort of offense, you need a laterally fluid defense with dudes who can GET to those free spaces before the ball does. Miami’s defense was good at this. They had a defense built, in theory, for the future.

Until Wisconsin ate them alive. More than once, I saw the Badgers come out in a two–tight end set, and then send both tight ends criss-crossing in motion prior to the snap, and then run right up the gut for 17 yards. Like the Rams offense, Wisconsin used motion to get defenders out of position. But instead of going deep out of it, they had Miami thinking sideways instead of up and down the field, and then exploited it. That dummy motion gave the O-linemen all the extra advantage they needed to bowl Miami over, and they did. Against a defense built to defend futuristic, whizzbang offenses, Wisconsin tossed in an old-school wrinkle and plowed through the Hurricanes for 333 yards on the ground.

The NFL, which shamelessly copies college football schemes while simultaneously holding them in contempt, will soon follow suit. The Rams already use motion to catch defenses in vulnerable positions. Defenses, ugh, will adjust to this. You’re gonna see more smallish, quicker defenses deployed to keep similar offenses harnessed, and then you’ll see those offenses switch to a power game to fuck those plans up. The great Ray Ratto graced this website earlier in the week to detail how Belichick, primal marsh creature that he is, boned up on his history and beat the Rams essentially by changing defenses after the headset radio shut off and playing an old-fashioned style that forced the Rams to grind out yardage, which they couldn’t. Keep in mind that the Rams were also supposedly the future of this sport 17 years ago. As on Sunday, Belichick had other ideas back then.

If you ask any prissy writerererer type what their favorite schlongform profile is, they’ll likely direct you to this old, jaw-dropping New Yorker profile of the late, wonderful Ricky Jay, written by Mark Singer. Jay was arguably the greatest sleight-of-hand artist of his time, and he honed his craft not by being some bullshit futurist clinging to tech bro-style empty platitudes, but by studying. He was a voracious historian of both magic and magicians themselves. He scoured old magic books in libraries and studied ancient tricks that had been lost to history, and in that learning he formed a style that freaked his audience the fuck out. He built a seemingly advanced, futuristic skill out of the past; a skill was essentially lost when he died. But when he lived, he ate the wizarding tape, and it showed. What he did was new to audiences, but it was highly informed.

Jay is hardly the only professional to thrive from meticulously poring over the works of his predecessors and reworking it. The future is not its own. The past and the present both conspire to have their say. If you think it’s all flying cars and lasers and go routes, you will be massively disappointed. I know I am. The future comes gradually and painfully, dragging along all of the messiness and conflicts that came before it. That is what awaits you now. It’s coming. “The Future Of Football” is just a talking point. A mirage. Yes, the style of play in the NFL evolves, but not because Jimmy Neutron coaching the Rams somehow cracked the code. It’s because of rule changes, and hapless officiating, and players literally growing stronger and faster, and smart people learning everything they can, regardless of the material’s age, and applying to their work. Fail to learn history and a guy like Belichick will doom you to repeat it.

The evolution of gameplay in football flows in and out based on matchups and trends. It’s as prone to trends as art is, and assuming you know exactly where those trends will lead is some real Mike Lombardi shit. This is all cyclical. I want Patrick Mahomes to be the future. Instead I’m gonna get 30 teams all running a Norv Turner offense a decade from now, handing the ball off to some Ottis Anderson clone 45 times a game. Then a hotshot, 25-year-old coach will get to the playoffs (and lose) using the run-and-shoot, and the cycle will repeat itself.

Don’t count on football to have the future you want. All of its innovations usually land by accident. And there will always be slavish tinkerers like Belichick who know, innately, that they can look back on the work of their elders and discover, sitting right there within the riches of history, fearsome weapons that can be made new all over again.

The Games

No games. The season is over, which is basically a relief at this point. Time to close out the Jamboroo until the draft in April. If you really need your football fix, the AAF is booting up. Watching that league voluntarily is the football junkie equivalent of raiding your mom’s purse for drug money, which is neat. Now let’s talk about some random crap!

· I watched a lot of Good Morning Football while I was laid up last December. This is a show I had never bothered to absorb, until being stuck in a physical rehabilitation wing forced the issue. If you follow NFL-related accounts on Twitter like I do, you have probably seen autoplay clips of the GMFB crew more often than you’ve seen your own goddamn family. So, being a journalist, I finally succumbed and ate the GMFB tape for you, the reader.

GMFB was conceived to be just like the network morning shows—Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Savannah Guthrie’s Whitewashing Hour—only with every segment dedicated to football. This is, without question, a huge improvement over those asinine enterprises. That’s a low bar to clear, but GMFB makes a concerted effort to be a likable broadcast, and usually pulls it off.

The crew includes the likable Kay Adams, former average Viking Nate Burleson, professional take-haver Kyle Brandt, and Peter Schrager. This is the part where I disclose that Schrager and I trade both friendly occasional emails AND a sallow complexion. For hours every morning, these four provide broadcast wallpaper by reporting league transactions, previewing weekend matchups, interviewing players and coaches, and bantering their way through throwaway bar argument segments. One time I watched them do a segment called “Who won Wild Card weekend?” and the question was posed Ringer-style, as opposed to literally reporting who won the stupid games. This is true morning show material.

Should you actually bother to watch any of this? Not if you don’t have to. I don’t even watch pregame shows. Why would I watch one that’s four times as long and takes places days before the games are played? But, like the insanely profitable network morning shows, GMFB was designed as default programming: shit you can watch on mute without really missing anything. I give it two-and-a-half stars, docking half a star because of this:

Too far, kid. Too far.

Speaking of hating the Patriots, let’s do that right now. Never gets old. Anyway, on Sunday I issued this hot-tish take about the Rams throwbacks:

Everyone told me to get fucked for this take, and that’s fair. I still don’t like those outfits, but I earned my right to get fucked there. What I should add is that the Patriots have far, far worse throwbacks than the Rams ever possibly could. Every Pats fan age 35 and up fetishizes Pat Patriot like he’s some sacred football relic. Pat Patriot was fucking stupid. Bucco Bruce was a GOD compared to wrinkly old PatPat. He looks like he’s grunting out a log, and the only reason Pats fans pretend to worship him is because rocking a throwback Pats jersey signals to other fans that you, the Boston diehard, supposedly lived through the lean years, with Hugh Millen quarterbacking and all that shit. It’s a cheap and ugly and futile pity ploy. If you’re fishing for sympathy, get fucked. You assholes won six titles with the Autobot face on the side of your helmets. Go ahead and embrace that equally ugly gear. No one else gives a wet shit.

I’m a sportswriter, and so I know all too well the dilemma (insert world’s smallest violin music here) of having to file copy about a huge sporting event even when the subject matter in question steadfastly refuses to yield any decent material to work with. This was true leading up to the Super Bowl, and it only got worse when the game itself failed to live up to expectations. Unless you’re some asshole purist pretending you enjoyed yourself Sunday, you were probably let down. Did that stop major sport media outlets from trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit? It did not. Look at this busted-ass Sports Illustrated cover:

Now it deserves my love? Now it deserves to eat shit and DIE. This article was co-authored by Greg Bishop, whom you might remember for his similarly inane “Hey, why doesn’t anyone know about this Drew Brees guy?” SI cover story from earlier in the season. This season. All of the sports media problems remain exactly the same from when this stupid site began over a decade ago. Nothing these people talk about is anything YOU talk about. This kind of shit barely passes muster as filler chat between strangers at a cocktail party, and yet Sports Illustrated—which I used to read cover to cover as a child, I swear—went to the same empty well over and over again for two weeks straight. This is especially true of The MMQB…

I swear I’m not gonna be nice to Peter King here just because he was a good sport when we goofed on him and he gamely poured beer all over me for the Deadspin Awards. But that site was readable back when HE was in charge. It still had too much patented dad content, but King is at least the sort of doofy guy who’s often willing to admit when he’s wrong. Now the site is run by glorified courthouse stenographer and Boston racism truther Albert Breer, who has no problem at all angling stories so that they please whoever’s boots he has to lick. He’s joined by shit-for-brains tape-humper Andy Benoit as chief Football Watcher. Together, those two blot the otherwise quality work of other SI people like Jenny Vrentas and Robert Klemko and Rohan Nadkarni and Emma Baccellieri, all by broadcasting their stupid for miles and miles. “Now it deserves your love.” What a fucking disgrace. Gonna be a long February next year when the Patriots play the Patriots in the title game.

Speaking of pointless filler material, this map…

The ever-reliable Dan Steinberg is clearly skeptical of this map’s veracity, as well he should be. Unless you are my colleague Albert Burneko and goofing on the great American food map , or unless you are sharing popular porn term searches by state, please do not make these maps or circulate them. They’re bullshit maps based on nothing, and they ascribe unique characteristics to each state when most every American eats the same garbage on Super Bowl Sunday. They are a lie. I mean, come on: spinach dip in New York State, the state that invented buffalo wings? Fuck off. I hate these maps. Never trust them. If a friend sends you one, tell them it’s fake right away. Friends love that.

I like Tony Romo and I’m glad he did the Super Bowl, BUT (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) Romo is definitely the type to talk up about a player or coach more than he’s willing to castigate players and coaches who fuck up. Romo is a cheerleader. He’s a terrific cheerleader, but he’s a cheerleader nonetheless. I get it. This is a natural tendency, especially given that announcers hold pre-production meetings with everyone involved in the game every week. But I still yearn for a guy in the booth who just tears everyone apart. The closest thing we have to that in sports right now is Charles Barkley, and Barkley has no interest in doing background work, AND his brain is gummed up with old timey athlete takes about how players are soft now. I need a diligent hater up in that booth, and we’re not getting that from the NFL anytime soon.

Also, Romo is like other announcers in that he will often bend his commentary to fit the official call on the field. For example, the Jared Goff completed a pass early on Sunday (I swear this happened), but Robert Woods may not have gotten both feet down inbounds on the play. Regardless, it was ruled a catch and the Rams managed to get off another play to prevent a challenge flag. But Nantz and Romo still talked themselves into believing Woods got both feet down on a couple of cursory replays, before the telecast moved on as if nothing had happened. They gave officials the benefit of the doubt, and the NFC title game proved that’s not the smartest play.

Also, why are you meeting with the teams prior to the game? Fuck that. Stop doing that. You know how many times I heard Pheel Seems say “We talked about…” over the years? A million. I’m sure you all had a nice time drinking punch and eating cookies together, but I’m not here to learn about your buddy time. I AM HERE FOR ANGER.

More Patriots hate: Every tape-eating analysis of the Pats endeavors to center on one thing that the Pats, Belichick specifically, do that gives them the edge in every game. Football people are constantly looking for Belichick’s magic bullet. He defers on every coin toss. He practices in crummy weather. He uses a left-footed punter. All of those are presented as decisive advantages to you when it’s clear that Belichick is the advantage. If the man had best practices that were easy to emulate, the Lions wouldn’t be dogshit right now. His big and addled football mind is the key to it all, and it’s annoying to watch people pretend he’s solved football when he still needs to shut himself in a dark room and study film for 20 hours a day all year long just to keep up.

CBS used two sideline reporters for the Super Bowl. This is standard practice now; virtually every network assigns a sideline puppet to each team for an NFL playoff game. It’s the worst. Why not SUBTRACT a sideline reporter instead? One of them is bad enough, now I gotta hear two of them? “We talked to Coach Turdfoot coming out of the locker room and he said turnovers are just killing us.” Wonderful. I gotta start watching Battlebots instead of this garbage.

Playoff picks: 6-5 [scout’s honor]

Offseason Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Coma,” by Guns N’ Roses. If you know the history of this band, and surely you do, you know that the Illusion albums are a mess because A) They put way too many songs on them and B) The albums were recorded in piecemeal fashion, with band members dropping into random studios to write and lay down parts of tracks because they couldn’t tolerate or be bothered to make the albums together as a group. (Axl Rose infamously tacked on “My World,” a thoroughly unlistenable hip hop track, as the second album’s closer without telling anyone else in the band.) All of the real legwork was left to the producers and engineers.

And so, when I saw the band on their reunion tour back in 2016, it probably marked the first time they’d played songs from those albums live with some measure of preparation and professionalism and sobriety. The actual UYI tour from decades ago was a notorious shitshow. Conversely, this performance was downright polished, even when they played all 10-plus minutes of “Coma,” end to end. I was stunned. The song lasts longer than the average coma, but they did it anyway. Very considerate of them.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

We’re now firmly into draft season, which means I am primed for some downright ghastly scouting takes, so here’s a little preview of that. A site called Draft Analyst posted this snippet a while back that managed to embed a horrible scouting take into a shit take of its own. It’s Take-ception!

Are analytics finished in scouting departments?

TOTALLY.

The short answer is no, but they are having less of an impact in the final decisions when selecting players in the draft.

Yay? Please note that Moneyball was published 16 years ago. That’s how long scouts needed to stay firmly entrenched in their archaic methods before the football culture stupidly came back to them anyway, if it ever shunned them at all.

I’m told that while owners love analytics, scouting staffs and general managers who come through the scouting ranks are starting to detest them.

And why is that?

Owners, who are usually successful businessmen who rely on numbers, prefer analytics because of their business acumen.

But… but… Listen, I could try to explain why poring over reports on fried chicken market share isn’t the same as evaluating the passing mechanics of Drew Lock, but I already know I’m slamming my face into a wall here. By all means, tell me more about Jimmy fucking Haslam’s business acumen.

But scouts and even coaches I’ve spoken with since Shrine Game practices last week tell me analytics have little to do with Xs and Os as well, the work ethic and personality of players or the ability of prospects to fit a specific position. As told to me by one position coach, when the topic of analytics is brought up in war rooms as a reason to select a player, the response in their minds is, “Here we go again!”

Honestly, if I owned an NFL team, I would be Mike Brown. I would arrogantly fire all the scouts and pretend I could hire some discount pencil pusher to cook up a draft board for me. Then we would go 6-10 every year. TAKE THAT, OLD TIMERS.

Also, you already know that Saints fans need to get over it, but that didn’t stop Micah Peters at the Ringer from shitting out a woe-is-me take that no one asked for prior to the Super Bowl:

Once again, my beloved and helpless New Orleans Saints will not be going to the Super Bowl

Once again? You won a fucking Super Bowl 10 years ago. Helpless, my ass. You’re lucky the Patriots exist so that no one notices how spoiled you are. Go suck on a fencepost. I hope Adam Silver personally engineers an Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers. DIGGS SIDELINE TOUCHDOWN UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!

Cryptkeeper Al Davis Futures Lock Of The Week: Raiders 66/1

“EEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!!!! Sorry, GHOULian DEADelman! But I think BOO England should cherish their time at the top of the SLAY-FC, because soon my Raiders shall rule you all! With Mike WARLOCK as GM and Jon GRUESOME as coach, I dare say that GRAVE ROBBER Kraft’s future title hopes are now… DEAD. EEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!!!! At 66/1… call it the number of the BEST.”

2018 Cryptkeeper record: 7-5-1

Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!

Bernardi’s! From Mike…

My friend Nate is opening a restaurant soon and sent me this gem from the local competition. It’s from 2015, but apparently still running on local TV in Pontiac, IL.

As well it should. Find me a SEXIER TV spot. You can’t. When she feeds him the giant pretzel… now we’re talking seduction! That pretzel fucks. And when that napkin sticks to her sexy high heels… HOO WEE SOMEONE GET ME A FAN!

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2019 chopping block:

Matt Patricia

Jay Gruden

Jon Gruden

Jason Garrett

Doug Marrone

Dan Quinn

Ron Rivera

Mike Zimmer

Freddie Kitchens

Pat Shurmur

Bill O’Brien

Mike Tomlin

(*potential midseason firing)

When the Double J undermined Jason Garrett by forcing him to dump Scott Linehan, I thought that was an obvious sign that Garrett’s final days are, at long last, coming soon. After all, this is a coach who somehow managed to commit fireable offenses in the Pro Bowl, of all places. But I know better. If Jerry can fire an OC and not have the head coach openly complain, well then that’s his dream coach. Garrett will be stuck in Dallas for eight more years.

Offseason Snack Of The Week

A bacon burger. True story: When I was in the hospital, they circulated a menu every day that gave you two choices for lunch and dinner. It was always cafeteria fare like pot roast or chicken à la king, etc. But they also provided an à la carte menu of shit you could order for ANY meal, regardless of the choices presented on the formal menu. I was in a big TREAT YOSELF mood one day, so I asked for a bacon burger, medium rare, with no fucking mayo on it. I wrote the order down and thanked the staffer for accommodating my request when she took it from my tray.

Later that night, my dinner arrived. I lifted the cloche and there, sitting on my plate, was a plain hamburger with nothing on it. No bacon. I looked at the written order I’d submitted. Someone had CROSSED OUT the word “bacon” on it. I never uncovered the identity of the scoundrel behind this unforgivable act. Whoever deprived me of my bacon… you are SICK and DERANGED. God will have His way with you, I promise. Don’t ever fuck with another man’s bacon. I’ll sue!

Offseason Cheap Beer Of The Week

Cheers! Reader Zack had to go all the way to Thailand to find a damn beer named Cheers. Can you believe that shit?

I bought this delicious libation at a 7-Eleven in Bangkok. It seemed like it was trying a bit too hard to convince me that it was, in fact, beer, so obviously I had to investigate.

I bet everyone in Thailand knew your name once you were finished, dear friend.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

“Brain surgeons? You don’t need some fancy doctor to fix your brain. One time I lost a rock fight to Chattanooga Lou and had a gash in my head the size of a mountain valley, okay? What does Lou do to fix it? He hits me with a rock and opens up a SECOND gash right above my ear. Solved the whole problem. No doctor charging you out the pecker for some voodoo, okay? I’m fine now except everything smells like burning plastic. You smell it, right? I’m not the only one, okay? What’s that ferret lookin’ at me for? You keep to your own damn business, ferret.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Raiders Fans

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Buster Scruggs remains a fantastic baseball name. He’s my favorite Texas Rangers second baseman. Anyway, the hot contrarian take is to pooh-pooh the Coens’ ultraviolent noir and Western movies in favor of their dopey screwball throwback comedies, but I say fuck that. I want my Coen Brothers fare lean and bloody, and this movie does the job expertly. Here now is a highly scientific, spoiler-free ranking of the vignettes in this movie:

  1. Bank robber (“Near Algodones”)
  2. Opening/title sequence
  3. Old prospector (“All Gold Canyon”)
  4. The wagon train (“The Gal Who Got Rattled”)
  5. The stagecoach (“The Mortal Remains”)
  6. The wingless orator (“Meal Ticket”)

This was originally intended to be a full anthology TV series before the Coens bailed on that idea and made it into a single movie, and a damn good one. HOWEVER… I would not be opposed to a Western anthology series where a bunch of random, violent stories happen in front of a gorgeous, expansive backdrop. It was the West, man. It had no laws! Gimme ALL the vicious slayings of otherwise hapless bystanders. Yes I’m still glad to be alive why do you ask?

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Don’t forget: you’re here FOREVER!”

Enjoy the offseason, everyone. And thanks for having me back. I wish I could properly express my gratitude for all the love and support I got from friends and family and colleagues and many of you over the past couple of months, but I don’t know if I have the ability to do so. I haven’t even fully processed all of that love yet, and I may never finish. There’s just so much of it. Anytime I think about it, I feel my heart go open and full, like it could grow 10 times in size and then float off into fucking space. So thank you all for that. This heart… this heart is for you.

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