Rejoice, football dorks! The NFL evidently rolled out its Game Rewind 2012 today and announced that there'll be real full-game-length All-22 film in there. This is big.
For the vast majority of football fans, those who enjoy the games just fine with Cleatus the Hoppin' Fox Robot and Phil Simms's Appalachian intonation on short-I sounds, this won't make a difference. The public availability of All-22 film won't change the way broadcasters work, either, because many TV analysts have access to the private film. (Cris Collinsworth frequently—and endearingly—talks about all the film he's broken down.)
But here's what will change: We'll soon see a lot of hobbyists learning much more about how the game works and bringing that new knowledge to a broad audience, kind of like what Sebastian Pruiti and his kind did for NBA basketball.
Football journalists (except those at the stadium) always had to watch the games like everyone else does, relying on television camera angles that do little to show line play and coverage in the secondary. If you wanted to dig deeper, you had to play Madden. Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus did what they could, but the numbers—gleaned from watching taped TV presentations of the games—weren't as precise as they could be.
Now, we'll know for sure which defensive back got beat on a given play, and we'll know for sure which lineman on the left side gave up the pressure. We'll have a much better sense of the coverages and blocking schemes teams run, because writers will distill all of this for us and publish it. (You won't have to watch the game tape, and lucky you, because it's captured in 4:3—not HD-friendly—and without sound.)
And, make no mistake, the NFL directly resisted that enlightenment. As Reed Albergotti wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year:
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.
Bye-bye, gnosticism, hello, chaos. It'll be a rough few years for the NFL's worst coaches. But, maybe a decade or two from now, we'll see the NFL's coaching ranks full of kids who grew up dissecting All 22. It worked pretty well for this one.