NFL

How the NFL got all those players in on that Super Bowl commercial

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If you missed the TV advertisement with all the NFL players at the NFL Formal just before the halftime concert last night, here it is:

The story behind it, from the NFL’s new chief marketing officer, Tim Ellis, who came to the league from the video game industry last September:

“When I came on board, I felt we needed to take a new communications direction. I had the best agencies in the country compete for our business, and [full-service ad agency] 72 And Sunny won the business. We said we wanted a big ad to kick off the NFL’s 100th season, and they said they could get this ready for next fall. I said no, that’s the Super Bowl spot. We want it for the Super Bowl.

“The turnaround was incredibly fast. There’s almost 50 stars in it, and we didn’t start contacting people till last December … and we taped it in mid-January. The reason we were able to pull it off is because it felt genuine and authentic to the players. The players said, ‘Whoever put this together knows football.’ “

It’s a two-minute spot. In brief: At a black-tie banquet celebrating football, with Roger Goodell at the podium, and the camera panning the room to show Dick Butkus, Joe Green, Ndamukong Suh, Peyton Manning, Orlando Pace, Alvin Kamara, Drew Brees, Michael Strahan, Rob Gronkowski, and Brian Urlacher, and Ninja, the biggest video-game influencer in the world, serves the (supposedly) best video-game player in the NFL, JuJu Smith-Schuster, who gives him a double-take look …

… There’s a gigantic cake in the middle of the room, a golden football on top, and mischievous Marshawn Lynch (in a Beast Mode sweatsuit), leans over in his chair to swipe a taste of the icing and the chair tips over and Lynch smashes the cake and the golden football skitters to the ground, and Mike Singletary screams “Fumble!!!!” and Singletary and Christian McCaffrey and a couple of others dive for the ball, and it ends up in Joe Montana’s hands, and Montana bypasses Michael Irvin to throw to Jerry Rice, but Deion Sanders intercepts and struts down the middle of the ballroom, and Urlacher smashes him into a table, which collapses, and Larry Little and Paul Warfield and Larry Csonka (of the ’72 Dolphins) look on admiringly, and Kamara and Suh enter the fray but Barry Sanders ends up with the ball and makes a pirouetting move, admired by Emmitt Smith, and Peyton Manning ends up with the ball and throws to LaDainian Tomlinson and Ed Reed destroys Tomlinson, and Jim Brown is cool with that, and then Baker Mayfield and Tom Brady, sitting at a side table, chat and Brady hands Mayfield his five Super Bowl rings and then enters the game, and somehow Terry Bradshaw has the ball and fades back to pass and Aaron Donald destroys a table to get at Bradshaw, and Bradshaw throw it high to Larry Fitzgerald with Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James in coverage, and the ball bounces high and far away …

… And Franco Harris makes an Immaculate Reception, admired by Joe Greene, and JuJu ends up with the ball and he twinkle-toes across a table, and Odell Beckham goes out for a pass and Goodell tells Patrick Mahomes (yes, he’s in it) that Beckham is open, and Mahomes no-look-passes to Beckham, who reprises his one-hand end-zone catch against Dallas while landing on a table …

… And this is a very cool moment—down judge Sarah Thomas eagle-eyes the Odell catch, and referee Ronald Torbert makes the “catch is good” signal and Thomas signals and calls “First down!” And then Tony Gonzalez catches a pass, tackled hard by Von Miller, and that viral-video adolescent female running back, Sam Gordon, has the ball, and Richard Sherman tries to steal it, and she jukes him, and laterals to Saquon Barkley, and he leads a cadre of young stars out of the frame.

All in two minutes.

“I felt in my gut this would be a big commercial and a big way to launch our 100th season,’’ said Ellis.

Logistics were fun. With the spot being taped in the middle of the playoffs, Ellis had some faux banquet rooms, with tight shots, built with the same décor as the L.A. venue. Mayfield flew to Boston and did his piece with Brady there. Mahomes flew to Orlando and did his piece with Wilson there, making a throw that was “caught” on the L.A. set by Beckham. Extra credit to Brees and Kamara for doing their piece in New Orleans a couple of days after the bitter loss in the NFL title game.

Peyton Manning was booked solid on the days it was being taped in L.A. But he found a way to make it to the set and did his part in 90 minutes.

And that’s how this breakneck commercial happened.

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NFL fans apparently don’t want an 18-game regular season

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In the news this week, as the league gets back to business for the 100th season of American professional football:

• The owners and players meet Wednesday in another formal bargaining session for a new CBA. A three-day meeting is scheduled between the NFL’s Management Council and the NFLPA’s Executive Committee (a 10-player unit including president Eric Winston and VPs Richard ShermanBenjamin Watsonand Adam Vinatieri). This will be the fourth bargaining session between owners and players this spring/summer, with the hope being the two sides can reach an agreement on a new bargaining agreement in 2019. (The CBA has two more seasons to run, and expires in the spring of 2021.)

Commissioner Roger Goodell recently told CNBC that it is “certainly our intent” to try to get a new CBA before the start of the season. In a round of calls Saturday, I got some optimism from a team source who felt the chance of making a deal on a new CBA was 50-50 this year if the union would stick with the current economic formula of the game; currently players get about 47 percent of the game’s gross revenue.

But I talked to a source on the player side who wasn’t nearly as hopeful, in part because he felt the players need a bigger cut of the pie to agree to a new deal two seasons out from the end of the current CBA. This person called the first three meetings positive, but baby steps toward a deal. I do know that there have not been any significant discussions on a change in the revenue split yet. Those talks will have to progress for anything to get done.

• The 18-game schedule is nowhere near a reality. I heard that one or two teams are interested in what the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the NFL has proposed discussing with the players as part of the CBA talks: an 18-game regular-season schedule, with each player eligible to play a maximum of 16 games. This is not a new idea—it’s been thrown around at league meetings as one idea to expand the inventory and enrich the league’s TV deals for years.

“I can’t see it,” one plugged-in club official told me. “Imagine you pay to see Tom Brady and the Patriots, and the Patriots announce that week it’s one of the two games he’ll sitting out this year. Now you’re seeing Brian Hoyer throw to some practice-squad guy. I don’t see any way we could ever do that.”

I’ve always thought in an era when the reduction of head trauma is job one in everything the league does, the only way the NFL could even consider 18 games is with teams playing players a maximum of 16 weeks. But the details make it too hard. How would a team divvy up the starts, say, for the starting offensive line? Would they figure the starting tackles should play every week with the starting quarterback, and thus doom the backup in his two games to a run-for-your-life offensive scheme?

The continued pursuit—or the continuing broaching—of an 18-game schedule is such a short-sighted and greedy thing. The NFL paid each team $275 million out of the league share of total revenue in 2018, and teams paid about $215 million annually in player costs (cap plus benefits). After that, teams can reap major raw profits over what they did in local team revenue.

Someone in the NFL seems determined to kill the most golden of geese by pursuing, even in a passing way, this stupid idea. Greed, in this case, is not good.

• Fans don’t want 18 games either. I put out a Twitter poll Saturday and Sunday, asking if readers preferred a 16 or 18-game schedule. Of 13,533 voters, 79 percent said 16. Great comment from a Vikings fan, Jason Altland: “If I pay out the nose for decent tickets in Baltimore or New York to see my Vikings, I want to see all the healthy stars play. I don’t want to pay and end up with a [Stefon] Diggs or {Adam] Thielen bye game.”

Pro Football Talk also polled its readers over the weekend about the 16/18-game idea, with more options than I offered … and 62 percent said they favored 16 games—with 8 percent saying they favored 18 with a maximum of 16 games per player per season.

Read more from Football Morning in America here

Why Melvin Gordon’s holdout with the Chargers could get ugly

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I think this Melvin Gordon-Chargers impasse could get ugly. The Chargers running back, entering his fifth season, could hold out from training camp into the season if he doesn’t get either a new contract or a significant raise from his $5.6-million salary in 2019. There’s a few reasons the holdout could last a while, starting with the fact that Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who grew up in the Bill Polian front office of the Colts, is not afraid to take a hard line. But mostly, it’s about what happens in recent years when teams have either paid runners or drawn a hard line with them. Examples:

• Le’Veon Bell balked at the Steelers’ offer of $14.5 million on the franchise tag last year. James Conner wasn’t quite as productive as vintage Bell—270 touches, 1,470 yards, 13 touchdowns—but he was close. And Conner, who made $754,572 last year, cost 1/19th of what Bell would have commended. No one in Pittsburgh is bemoaning the loss of Bell, though he’s a great player.

• Todd Gurley is a great back too, and the Rams paid a guaranteed $45 million last year. They’ll say they aren’t regretting what they paid Gurley, but an odd and persistent knee problem last year limited him to 88 carries in the Rams’ last nine games—including a 35-yard rushing performance in the Super Bowl. The Rams picked up C.J. Anderson off the street in December, and in five games, he rushed for 488 yards.

• David Johnson of the Cardinals responded to his new $13-million-a-year deal on the eve of the 2018 season by rushing for 940 yards (3.6 yards per carry).

• Devonta Freeman signed with Atlanta for $22 million guaranteed in 2017. He’s missed 16 of the Falcons’ last 32 regular-season games and averaged 58 yards per game in the 16 he’s played.

In 30 games over his two NFL seasons, Charger understudy Austin Ekeler has proven elusive and reliable, averaging 5.3 yards per rush and 10.3 yards per catch, with just two lost fumbles. I don’t think Telesco will be afraid to take the slings and arrows of a holdout. So if you’re drafting your fantasy team very early, I’d give a long look at Ekeler.

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