Most of the comments we’ve received about this NFL attendance story boil down to: Point taken. But again, the NFL and other leagues have been releasing these questionable numbers as box score facts for many years without an asterisk or footnote.
The NFL ownership group that regularly speaks to the media could fit in an Uber Black, so year-end press availabilities or written statements are always intriguing. This week we saw three owners go the self-flagellation route, which seems like the best way to handle the PR of a bad season even if resolving the issues still eludes them.
In New York, Giants president and CEO John Mara said grimly, “I kept thinking through the season that we hit rock bottom, and then every week it got a little worse.” Mara, whose home ownership of the Giants predates him, agreed it was his lowest moment with the team.
In Indianapolis, Jim Irsay didn’t speak after his team’s shocking collapse in Jacksonville. But he released a statement saying, “The buck stops with me.” In Chicago, George McCaskey said, “We understand a lot of Bears fans are upset and so are we.”
With the Texans firing David Culley today, a good NFL quarterback needs a new coach. And in many cases, it’s the same old teams in the carousel over and over again. To find out why this is so difficult for some, I spoke with Mike Tannenbaum, a former Jets and Dolphins executive.
Tannenbaum said the biggest hurdle is that good coaching skills don’t guarantee success in running an organization: “You hire people to do a different job with skills that really aren’t the same as theirs. expertise field. They are great at coaching. … That’s a million miles away from being CEO of a billion-dollar franchise.
Many of the principles used to run a business can be applied to NFL teams, Tannenbaum said. “We should be in the business of first guessing, not second guessing. Which means we’re going to approach this with a partnership, and there’s no shortage of conversations. You can see my full conversation with Tannenbaum on the latest episode of SBJ Spotlight.
SoFi Stadium is a technical marvel costing over $5 billion, and with a month to go before hosting Super Bowl LV, my colleague Chris Smith took a look behind the curtain at the tech that will power the stadium experience.
It revolves around the HKS-designed and Samsung-produced Infinity Display, which houses 260 speakers and a massive Wi-Fi device, which SoFi Stadium/Hollywood Park CTO Skarpi Hedinsson says will be the largest 5G installation of Super Bowl history. This network handles about 30 terabytes of data during an NFL game and has seen nearly 60,000 concurrent active devices.
The board’s LEDs were made by Cree, which turned out to be a herculean task considering the board’s use of high dynamic range. “Only half a percent of their annual output is good enough to go into the Infinity Screen,” Hedinsson said. “It took Cree two years to manufacture the 83 million LEDs we needed to build the board.” A stadium spokesperson declined to comment on the cost.
Another fun fact: there are enough fiber optic cables in the building to stretch to the moon and back – twice.
The in-stadium experience is supported by a native 4K broadcast system, from cameras to display, which Hedinsson says is the first such system implemented in a sports stadium. SoFi has 13 cameras and some 80 people are part of the gameday presentation team.
Unlike the Rams or Chargers games, the Super Bowl is run by the NFL and will be conducted by NFL league staff, although SoFi’s in-house team has been hired to work on the event. The NFL will also design in-game graphics, and league staff will begin work in the stadium in approximately three weeks.
Nothing is final until the 2022 NFL schedule is released in full in May, but league insiders now expect Game 1 against Germany to happen this fall. For months now, league planners have said they hope to expand the International Series to mainland Europe as soon as possible, but have hedged in on 2022 given the pandemic and the unusual FIFA World Cup. in late fall, leaving open 2023 as a possible start date.
But all conversations with the three finalist cities – Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt – are on the assumption that it would start this year. “All three cities are on track,” the source said. “Anyone can do it in ’22, and it would look great for ’22. It’s all systems that work.”
Expect the game to include a group game from the Panthers, Buccaneers, Patriots and Chiefs, all four teams have been granted commercial rights in Germany under the league’s new international marketing program. The NFC gets the extra home game in 2022, so either the Panthers or the Bucs would presumably be “hosts.” A final announcement for the host city will take place during Super Bowl week.
- It’s been a healthy week for NFL metrics heading into Wild Card weekend, with both league-wide attendance (based on box score numbers, which don’t take into account absences) and an audience showing respective gains. Teams averaged 67,254 fans at home games, up about 0.9% from the pre-pandemic 2019 season, according to an SBJ Atlas analysis. The rise ends a three-year decline for the league. Meanwhile, the NFL has averaged 17.1 million viewers this season across TV and streaming platforms, marking the league’s highest number since 2015 (18.1 million), according to SBJ’s Austin Karp. The figure for this season is up 10% from 15.6 million during the pandemic and politically influenced 2020 season. This increase across the board also helped boost most NFL pre-game and studio shows for media partners.
- NFL owners voted last month to increase the league’s stake in On Location Experiences from 13.5% to nearly 45%, according to sources cited by The Athletic, a “major move to restore the grip of the league on events and business” leading up to the Super Bowl.
- In their first activation of international marketing rights, the Rams launched a Super Bowl ticket contest in Mexico yesterday. Fans can win two flights, two tickets and three hotel nights for Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. This follows the 49ers selling additional rights in the UK and Mexico to two of their sponsors.
- Former NFLer Chris Long’s second act in the media space is working, and he hasn’t compromised on his work-life balance expectations. Long is in his third season as a studio analyst for Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” pregame show, and he co-hosts the thriving “Green Light Podcast.” He does both from a studio 10 minutes from his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. I caught up with Long in this week’s print issue to see how he forged his own path.
- Current Fox No. 2 gaming analyst Greg Olsen is the latest guest on the Merchant & Ourand Sports Media podcast. Olsen explains how he came close to starting his broadcast career four years ago after auditioning for “Monday Night Football” and talking about Fox’s “Thursday Night Football.” He reveals the advice Tony Romo gave him before he decided to enter the stand and he talks about his connection with his Fox partner Kevin Burkhardt, which dates back to when Burkhardt called Olsen’s games in high school.
- BetMGM and the Cardinals have released renderings of the 16,800-square-foot BetMGM Sportsbook set to open at the site near State Farm Stadium this summer, the first sportsbook at an NFL stadium. Construction is underway on the two-story 500-person space that will operate on both event days and non-event days. Smith Group designed the area, which is located on the north side of The Great Lawn, with Bar Napkin Productions, a local store that has plenty of experience with premium Cardinals and Coyotes spaces. Hunt Construction, which built the 21-year-old stadium, is the general contractor. SBJ’s David Broughton has more here.