I would love nothing more than to call NBC’s Sunday Night Football the most forward-thinking statistical NFL broadcast in the game. In a perfect world, advanced stats would be explained and used to complement traditional numbers, and SNF’s partnership with ProFootballFocus was a great idea in theory; PFF has counting stats and rate stats that wonderful sites like Pro-Football-Reference (literally the reference family of websites is the most underrated and beautiful tool for sports on the internet) do not because they take the time to watch every play. If SNF used PFF just for those stats or for tracking plays in certain situations based on downs and distance and areas of the field, it would be an absolute must-watch for any football fan. We are often blessed instead with the one disgusting, bubbling, green boil on the face of PFF: The Grades.
Maybe this would explain the huge ratings drop this season?
Two people who you could see or hear on the broadcast this past Sunday were Seattle Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi and as always, color commentator Chris Collinsworth. Of course, the relationship between SNF and PFF would not exist without Collinsworth; he’s not only the face of the website, but a majority investor. He has a lot to gain from PFF’s success and I can’t help but think that their growing relevance to Sunday Night Football has made their stock skyrocket in the past couple of years. I have to admit that Collinsworth is arguably the best broadcaster in football. You may disagree, but even if he’s divisive among some fans, he’s not roundly panned or hated like a Phil Simms or a Troy Aikman might be. I also can’t blame him for marrying his TV job with his side chick, who wouldn’t do the same? But a lot of people think the grades they produce are terrible, not only because they might disagree with the results but also because how they come to the results remains a mystery; and that’s doubly frustrating because of the times that the grades seem to be wildly inconsistent with traditional, and even advanced, stats.
“You’re good!” — “Thanks!”
“You suck!” — “What? Why?” — “Because I said so.”
If you’re going to tell someone they suck, at least tell them why you’re saying so. PFF will give some background on some grades, especially when pressed, and we’ve even seen them change grades when questioned on them (hmmm) but for the most part, they keep it hidden. Why? Honestly, I’m not sure anymore. Not to get all Kevin O’Leary on you, but there’s nothing proprietary about watching every play and assigning arbitrary grades based on your opinion of what happened on the play. There’s also no reason that anybody else would spend the time to watch the exact same game when you’ve already done so, you’re taking the guesswork out of it for us already. That’s something we should be thanking you for, not stealing from you. Casey Castle has been grading certain players right here at Field Gulls this season and he shows readers play-by-play what happened in his charts while watching the game. If you disagree with the grade, you can go back on the chart and see where he gave a negative or a positive. You can point directly to a play, watch it, and discuss the difference of opinion. What does generating a conversation have to do with watering down the value of a product? Doesn’t it even increase the value?
“We did all of this hard work and we want you to see it!” What would be wrong with that? Once such person who wants to see PFF’s work this week: Ifedi.
“@GermainX1: Yalls work is usually trash, but this is really a dumpster fire @PFF” says Ifedi, linking to an article that graded him as the ninth-worst player in the entire NFL this week. Number three was teammate Garry Gilliam. Number two was teammate Bradley Sowell. According to PFF, three-fifths of Seattle’s offensive line was one-third of the worst players in the league this week.
I don’t know how the math on that works, but at least I showed you my work.