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.

Read more of Peter King’s Football Morning in America by clicking here

Why the New York Jets deserve the controversy, dysfunction surrounding them

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1. I think the Jets architecture job is not the one to take if you want to run a franchise, Peyton Manning. To be charitable, the Jets are not close to contention.

2. I think I won’t be the first to use this rationale for my opinion about what happened when Mike Maccagnan got dismissed the other day as Jets GM, but it’s the first thing that occurred to me: The Jets truly deserve this controversy. A few points:

• I have no sympathy for Maccagnan, who lorded over a 14-35 team since New Year’s Day 2016. Only Cleveland and San Francisco have won fewer games since then. But by my math, Maccagnan just spent $235 million in free agency this offseason, a gargantuan sum. He just had the keys to the draft and, apparently with minimal input from the head coach, made Quinnen Williams the third overall pick in the draft. He was fired 19 days after the draft. What owner in his right mind allows a GM he figures he may well fire run a crucial off-season? Christopher Johnson, that’s who.

• Adam Gase is going to have a major say on who becomes the next GM of the Jets. Gase was 23-26 in his three-year stint coaching the Dolphins, and, though the quarterback position was plagued by injuries while he was there, he’s supposed to be a quarterback guru, and the Dolphins, again, are starting from scratch at the position after firing Gase four-and-a-half months ago. I like Gase well enough. But what exactly has he done, first, to earn a head-coaching job after his three years in Miami … and, second, to play a significant role in picking the architect of the new Jets?

• I assume the reports of Gase not wanting Le’Veon Bell for $13.5 million a year are true. (I don’t blame him.) But the leaks in that building are never-ending, and in this case, the leaks could drive a wedge between a guy who doesn’t seem very happy to be a Jet in the first place, Bell, and the guy who’s going to be calling his number this fall. Gase better figure a way to tamp that down. I don’t know if he can.

• How do you have faith in the Jets to get this GM thing right now? And what smart GM-candidate type (Joe Douglas or Louis Riddick or Daniel Jeremiah) would want to take his one shot—because most GMs get one shot at running a team—working for Christopher Johnson?

• If I were Mike Greenberg, I’d be burying my head in my hands this morning, wondering why oh why did I get stuck loving this franchise? How can season-ticket-holders send in their money this year thinking they’re going to see the turnaround season of a team that’s won 5, 5, and 4 games the past three years?

• Sam Darnold doesn’t coach.

Read more from Football Morning in America here

The lessons Chris Long learned from playing with Patriots, Eagles, Rams

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Chris Long, who retired over the weekend after an 11-year NFL career that ended with two Super Bowl rings (in 2016 with New England and 2017 with Philadelphia), and an NFL Man of the Year Award (in 2018) for his work in U.S. social justice and building fresh-water wells for thousands in Africa, on the lessons he takes with him into retirement:

“I learned to never make a decision based on just one thing. The decision to retire was complicated. It was based on health, which is still very good, and family, we have two small children, and football fit, which includes a chance to win and my role and geography. Philadelphia is where I wanted to play a couple more years. I love Philadelphia. But as a player I learned the most important thing to me is Sunday, and having a chance to be a big part of it. It seemed like player-coach was kind of the role that was going to be carved out for me—maybe playing 10, 12, 15 plays a game. I’m a rhythm player. I need to set people up, I need to be in the flow of the game. If I sit on the bench for three series, I can’t get rhythm, and I’ll get cold and maybe I’ll hurt myself. Some people think that’s great—play less and you won’t get hurt. Man, I want to play ball. In Philadelphia, it didn’t seem there was much of a chance to compete there. But they were honest with me the whole time. I appreciate the honesty. I’ll always love Philadelphia and the Eagles, but I didn’t want Week 4, 5, to come around and people think, Whoa, where’s Chris? Did Chris retire? I’d rather do it this way than just fade out. And I didn’t want to start over again across the country somewhere.

“I learned so much in my career. Getting drafted second overall, and going to St. Louis, and the fact that we were losing, I just thought, I am not gonna fold. I am not a loser. I am gonna be a bright spot. I am gonna give these fans, who I deeply appreciate for their dedication, the respect they deserve . Anyone playing in that era in St. Louis knows how bad it was at times. It was carnage, in so many ways. It was a test of my will. Do I get irritated by the no-Pro Bowl thing, never making a Pro Bowl? Yeah, I do. Fifty sacks in the first six years, with no one watching, on a bad team. I just felt the narrative should be, That kid panned out. But that’s okay—it was a labor of love. I have zero regrets.

“In New England, I learned so much about football. I always thought I was a smart player, even though I never thought about anything but the six inches in front of my face. In New England, I was forced to learn so many schematic concepts. In my career playing football, nobody asked me to do as much as Bill Belichick did. I might be 3-technique, or a linebacker, or a linebacker dropping into coverage more than ever, or playing inside more than ever. I’ll always remember how much I learned watching Bill in practice. He can coach any position as good as any position coach in league. He can walk around the field and stop drills and coach each position—at the highest level. And the quality of the dudes. Solid men. The right kind of people.

“Tom Brady blew me away. Who’s the most famous athlete of our generation: Tom Brady? LeBron? Messi? Ronaldo? Serena Williams? Maybe I haven’t been around enough to know how the biggest stars really act. But Brady is a normal guy. When I got there, here comes Tom. ‘Hey Chris, I’m Tom, nice to meet you.’ Well, yeah, I know you’re Tom. A lot of people want to hate him for all the success, and I understand how you can dislike the Patriots, but I cannot understand how you can dislike Tom.

“That Super Bowl against Atlanta … when we were way behind, I’m thinking, ‘I waited my whole life to be here, and this is a nightmare. This is the worst nightmare I have ever had.’ If we lost that night, I very possibly would have retired a bitter man. But winning it breathed life into me.

“Going to Philadelphia, I felt I found a home. Best sports city in America. But how different my situation was. I went from team captain with the Rams two years before that to winning the Super Bowl in New England to starting on the bottom in Philly. I was an average Joe. I was challenged. I learned how much being a team, being together, really means. We were a case study for whatever you believe. Either we were an anomaly or we proved you could do good things and win in pro sports. We happened to have guys who were good players who cared. I remember winning a Monday Night Football game, falling asleep at 4 or 5 o’clock, and waking up for a train to Harrisburg to work with state legislators on policies. It just showed how much we could make changes in things that matter, and play really good football too. You can be a football player and a citizen. It’s gratifying when young players come up and say they’re inspired to do more because of things that Malcolm Jenkins or Torrey Smith have done, or me.

“I’ve always tried to be me first and a football player second. When I came into football, I didn’t want to be this piece of wreckage who couldn’t move or have a normal life. But I learned you can’t predict the future. I thought I’d play eight years. I thought I’d retire at 30. But I played 11, and now I’m 34.

“NFL Man of the Year … I never felt deserving of it. I am not the best person in the NFL. I never want to get up there promoting myself as some infallible person. I was very honored. But I was also conflicted that people saw me as this community service guy, not a player. Nobody saw me as the player I was in my prime. I don’t want to be known as Community Service Guy; I want to be known as a guy who busted his ass for 11 years at his craft. But I do appreciate the fact that people saw that I played for free for one year, that I was part of a group that built 61 wells for people to get fresh water in Africa, and that we’ve got 220,000 people drinking from our wells. I will not downplay that stuff. But I am not some angel, believe me. I don’t have a brand. My brand is me.

“Retirement is interesting. It is something I feared for a long time. It is an existential crisis. I’ve been doing something since high school, working toward a goal. I fantasize about crossing the threshold, but at the same time it’s something you can be deathly afraid of.

“I am excited about the next phase of life. I’m launching a digital media company. I will have my own pod. I’m just excited about being able to control the narrative. I like to create. Maybe I’ll work at a network. Whatever I do, I’ll be me.”

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