Football Talk

I write about both sports and television ratings often on Frank’s Forum, and with the Super Bowl just concluded, I was reflecting back on the past few months. The Super Bowl is usually the most watched event on television of the entire year, and some editions of the sporting event have set all-time U.S. television ratings records.

The thrilling comeback and overtime win for the New England Patriots as they defeated the Atlanta Falcons had overnight numbers that are lower than previous Super Bowls. However, the event still posted a 48 overnight rating and about 110 million viewers which is a huge number in terms of the way rating numbers have changed in recent years.

The start of the NFL season coincides with the start of the new season of TV programs. The major networks have had the same strategy for years regarding viewership. The networks tend to pair successful returning series with new series concepts and then determine over a period of time if those lineups are successful.

Many new television concepts for network series usually are not successful. It is very difficult terrain especially with the new technologies available to viewers to successfully navigate the waters of the new media world we live in. The streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have only increased the competition for new television programs to gain interest and stay viable.

One new series that has become one of the highest rated new shows on network television is from NBC and titled, “This Is Us”. It is a favorite show for my wife and I which we enjoy watching together. In our busy lives we never watch it live on the night it airs, we always watch it via On Demand from our provider, which serves to validate my earlier point on the changes to viewership patterns.

Those of you who have not seen the show yet, but plan to watch it from the beginning or at least check out the pilot episode (which I recommend) I do not want to provide any spoilers. I will summarize one scene which serves as the point of this whole piece on football.

In one scene in an early episode of the show one of the female characters is observing the guy she is romantically involved with while he is watching a Pittsburgh Steelers football game on TV. The scene then shifts to a flashback of her childhood where she is sitting on the floor observing her father as he intently watches the Steelers play on TV.

Then, she explains to the guy she is with, that she cannot relive her childhood and sit there while he watches football. She asks him to teach her about the game, which he gladly obliges, and in the time advanced sequences, she emerges as a huge fan of the sport.

It evoked a memory of a similar situation for my wife and I, except my father-in-law was not a sports fan. She wanted to spend time with me, and anyone who knows me understands that I enjoy sports very much. I enjoy watching games and talking about sports of all types. I especially love and enjoy NFL football.

My wife asked me in the same type of way to teach her the game of football, so that she could understand what was going on, and that we could talk about it. Her brothers are both avid New York Giants fans, so it helped that she knew some of the history of that team for me to use as my baseline for her.

I taught my wife, just as the character “Jack” taught “Rebecca” about football, using props for the lineman and the other positions on the field. We watched NFL Network together, and during the course of watching the games I would answer questions about the rules of the game, which was also a lot of fun for me.

It seems like before I knew it, my wife, like the character “Rebecca”, was a passionate football fan, yelling at the TV (totally out of character for my wife) and watching the Giants on her smart phone while cleaning or doing other household tasks, or while out running errands.

We watch several out of market games together too, we discuss the issues facing other teams in the league, and the strategy of the NFL Draft and that process. In the years that followed, we would have gatherings for Sunday football games, and started our own traditions for the Super Bowl.

In the past couple of years, with my working the weekends, we have lunch together on Sunday before I go in to work, and we will watch the Giants or whoever is on at 1PM. We talk about that game, and then she will put the Sunday primetime game on for when I get home. We will very often watch that together.

In reflecting on the past several weeks, the whole situation really came to a head when I had to work all of the Divisional Playoff weekend a few weeks ago. I would come home late and my wife provided all the background on the games. I listened as she talked about three-man or four-man rush defensive calls, on challenged referee decisions that went to the replay booth, and on the Cowboys play calling to get back into that toe-to-toe battle with the Packers.

She told me all about the Falcons and their vaunted offense, her opinion on why the Seahawks could not get going, and how Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback at extending plays. It is a nice and healthy distraction away from all the things that can clutter up life and serves as a point of interest for us to have together and share.

Now, football season is over, and football talk for my wife and I will shift to the offseason topics of teams improving rosters, draft prospects, and new head coaches trying to turn around teams that have underperformed.

After that wild Super Bowl game was concluded I told my wife how I will miss football. It always seems so long to wait for it to return again in September, but she reassured me and told me that I say the same thing every season. It will be back before we know it, and she told me that I will shift my focus to hockey primarily, a sport she does not know as well (but will watch with me).

I will miss the games on Sunday afternoons and the Monday nights, but I will miss our football talks. The process of writing this essay helped me understand how much I value the memories of those talks as well as to gain further insight as to how much my wife loves me. She loves me enough to learn about football because she wanted to spend more time with me.

I am lucky, fortunate, and blessed. It is my hope that you find that same type of common interest with the special someone that you share your life with and that time can be fulfilling and fun. In the meantime, I will wait until next season for our football talks to return.

What The Cam Newton Deal Means For Eli Manning

The Carolina Panthers agreed to a contract extension with their star quarterback, Cam Newton, today which will pay him $67 million guaranteed and potentially up to $103.8 million over the life of the contract based on incentives being met. The guaranteed sum over the first three years of the deal is a NFL record, and averages out to around $22 million per season.


The NFL world is very much divided on this deal for Newton; some feel that Carolina overpaid and others feel it was a great move to lock in your franchise player through 2020. The debate will rage on in the next few days as well as the next few years, as the Panthers are banking that their star will continue to flourish in the years ahead.


The fans of that team will look at this deal three years from now, and depending on what happens in that time, will either celebrate the deal or scrutinize the front office of the team for making it. The undisputed fact here is that regardless of what happens with Newton, this deal impacts the market for quarterbacks in a profound way.


Since I am a New York Giants fan, first and foremost, I was interested about the way in which this deal will impact the status of Eli Manning and his next contract. The New York signal caller and two-time Super Bowl MVP is about to embark on the last year of a six year contract he signed, which at the time, made him the NFL’s highest paid player.


That contract, six years for $97.5 million with $15.3 million in guaranteed money, is now dwarfed by other contracts signed in the subsequent years. In the world of NFL contracts, for those fans who are unaware, the guaranteed money is the most important figure due to the language of the contracts and the metrics established for reaching the other figures in a given deal.


Playing It Out


In this case, Manning, who has stated that he feels comfortable playing out the 2015 season and then negotiating an extension, certainly looks like he has played his cards right. The situation is similar to the Joe Flacco contract extension with the Ravens back a few years ago. The Baltimore quarterback decided to play the 2012 season, his last under contract, and then negotiate a new deal in the offseason. It was a risk for both sides, if Flacco had a great season, his negotiating leverage was improved; if he got injured or played poorly, he would be in a position of weakness at the bargaining table.


We know now that, in hindsight, Flacco made the right choice because he had a very productive season while leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl championship. He was able to leverage that into a huge contract extension, which to some degree, has hamstrung the ability of the Ravens to add premium free agents in the years that followed.


This is a good segue into a similar concern I have for the New York Giants with Eli Manning’s next contract. He is coming off a season where he put up big numbers but he is 34 years old, and his next contract is going to tie up cap space as he enters a period of time where most players begin to decline. Eli has been very durable which is a double edged sword, he certainly has shown his toughness but he has played 11 years and his body could start to break down.


The Giants could be faced with a situation where they have a player on the decline who at the same time is tying up a lot of salary cap space. That is not an enviable position to be in. The factor that will offset some of these concerns is that fact that NFL revenues continue to increase and show no signs of reversing anytime soon. This will translate into salary cap increases in the future.


The Cam Newton contract puts Eli in a position to potentially leverage the Giants into a very lucrative deal. If Newton got that much guaranteed money without a Super Bowl win on his resume, we could be looking at the very real possibility that Manning could command up to $75 million in guaranteed money over his first three years of his next contract.


That will have a negative impact on the Giants salary cap flexibility resulting in a limited number of ways the team can improve the roster during that three year period. I am cautiously optimistic that Eli may not want to put the Giants in that type of situation because he may realize that his window to win another Super Bowl will decrease in each passing year. I also recognize that the Giants front office has a very good business sense and they are very practical and pragmatic in their approach to these contracts.


In the end, I hope those attributes prevail so that the Giants have the ability to compete every year for a Super Bowl championship.

(Some background and salary data courtesy of