Dan Le Batard's Great Point About NFL Media

ESPN radio personality Dan Le Batard made an excellent point about NFL media during his June 29th program, using the Packers in particular as his example.

Below is the transcribed conversation between Le Batard and his co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner. This conversation has been edited for clarity, but you can listen to the full broadcast here. It starts at about the 15:00 mark. We’ll have some reaction below.

Le Batard: we need better NFL coverage 

Dan Le Batard: There is a culture in the media that criticizes and blames the player, but we don’t really understand enough about what goes into a daily game plan in basketball or a weekly game plan in football to be able, as media or fans, to criticize a game plan.

The people doing these things for a living know vastly more than we do as fans or media. But what I wanted to ask you was this: there have to have been times in the NFL where the game plan was total garbage and it exposed a player. Correct?

Stugotz: Sure, yes.

DLB: So why do we have a sports environment where a coach could have a terrible game plan and there is no place for an employee to criticize it publicly and there’s no place for a fan or a media member to know enough to be able to say “hey, you know what? Mike McCarthy is wasting Aaron Rodgers’ career because his game plans stink”?

S: Right

DLB: Because we don’t know enough about what it is that we’re watching. I feel like Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen and I feel like there is something wrong there that he has not won more because of how incredible this guy is as a quarterback.

Tom Brady has his support system in New England and it makes me think that it’s a lot better than the one that Aaron Rodgers has because Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Tom Brady. He’s better at the things a quarterback does, almost all of them (except winning), than Tom Brady. And so why is it that you never hear, on a Monday, anyone explain to you in a way that you understand. “Man, Mike McCarthy’s game plan this week stunk and here’s why.”  

Like, do you hear that anywhere in the media coverage? “Here’s why. Here are my bullet point reasons for how it is that Mike McCarthy exposed this player X’s weaknesses.”

It’s why I like Cian Fahey so much with us because he’s studying film and breaking stuff down that way for us. 

S: My best guess is first off either I would need either someone like Cian Fahey who is poring over all of this, or I would need a former coach who doesn’t have to pore over all of this because he knows. He just knows by watching the game.

And so you’re not going to hear a coach say it on a Monday because it’s something like coach-on-coach crime 

DL: That’s the thing though! The only people qualified to actually do it never do it.

S: Correct.

DL I would love to have, one time, on a Monday have Herm Edwards or someone else tell me why Coach X fouled something up. But they protect each other better than police officers do because there’s never a coach out there ripping another coach for how terrible a game plan was. But we don’t even know?  

If I say to you right now after a football Sunday “how many coaches had really terrible gameplans?” none of us can say that we know or why. And there’s just such an ignorance around the coverage that it creates these situations where the coach ends up ends being measured only by whether he wins or loses. And if you’re really talented and have a great game plan and lose to the coach with the bad game plan, nobody really understands how to explain it to people.  

It’s weird, is it not? It’s a weird thing given how much we care about football. It’s a weird thing to have, given how much money is spent just on covering football.

S: You have a bunch of people who don’t know, and the people who do have the knowledge won’t do it. 

DL: They won’t do it!

The Packers as an example

Le Batard’s use of the Packers is perfect. Aaron Rodgers, Le Batard asks, does the things quarterbacks are asked to do better than Tom Brady, so why doesn’t he win like Brady does? 

Currently, NFL writers can really only point to raw numbers. For example, even though Rodgers completes passes more frequently in the playoffs than Tom Brady for more yards on average and has a better touchdown to interception ratio, Brady’s defenses are consistently much better.

But that’s about as far as we can go. Unless we get an explanation from someone in the know, (i.e. someone behind the scenes), we can’t really figure out exactly why the Packers seem to let Rodgers down.

And even if, as Le Batard suggests, someone like the (frequently misguided) Cian Fahey of Football Outsiders does crunch the film, how do we really know what we’re getting? It’s pretty much just the results of the play and technique of individual players. We don’t have any inkling of why certain plays were called at a given time or what a player was supposed to do on a given down.

Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to get better. Although we know what we need from coaches, we’re unlikely to get it. Why should coaches suddenly start to give up more information about their decision making process when it just opens them up to more questioning? 

Until we get to the point where coaches do become more generous, we’ll just have to do the best with what we’ve got.