Sunday Morning Quarterback: London’s calling and the NFL is serious about making it work
The Deadspin columnist Drew Magary wrote: “Whether deliberate or not, the NFL has subjected poor Londoners to some pretty horrific displays of football … These games have given us a small data set that suggests that playing football in London makes the product shittier. The teams are tired. The play is sloppy. And it rains EVERY TIME. “There would also be problems with jet lag, taxes, difficulty attracting free agents, scheduling, currency problems, concussed players driving on the wrong side of the road, England’s horrifying adoration of mayonnaise and, most important, no clear show of native support.” Kirkwood agrees there are logistical challenges but disputes Magary’s last point. He points out that more than 80% of the crowd on Sunday will be from the UK and 25,000 season tickets for both Wembley games have been sold. Last year 40,000 people turned up to the fans’ NFL rally at Trafalgar Square. Also, the game in UK has been give another boost by Channel 4 showing highlights for the first time in more than a decade. “Progress shouldn’t be measured solely on the number of games played at Wembley,” says Kirkwood. “This season there are 70 games on Sky and Channel 4, who will also show the two Wembley games live. Sky’s NFL figures are up 30% year on year, while Channel 4’s highlights show is watched by 250,000 people a week. We are punching above our weight.” Ryan Cull, who runs a NFL night at the Sports Bar and Grill at Marylebone every Sunday, has certainly noticed a difference.
If it was based on the East Coast, players would be gone for 2-3 week stretches. It would hurt the London teams ability to recruit high-end free agents if the team was based on London year-round. It might cause a mass exodus once players become free agents. Of course, players drafted by the London team would have no choice. Its all or nothing, one agent said. Theres only a couple like John Elway or Eli Manning who can say they wont play for a team. If youre working for a financial services company and dont want to relocate to London, you can find a job with another company. Thats not how it works in the NFL until a player reaches free agency. There are industries where overseas living is par for the course and in some cases preferable, said former NFL GM Bill Polian, who was a member of the NFLs powerful competition committee. Im quite sure business school graduates look forward to a tour overseas. Its expected. Its not in the football business. Some people would embrace it.
Thats what happened yesterday. I think he got a few in the second half. I was hoping that Nick would get a few in the first half, but were trying to keep London at 100 percent and we dont want to set him back at all. Fletcher, who the week before had struggled to shed blocks and recorded only one solo tackle and one assist while playing all 72 defensive snaps most of them no-huddle, said that he should have taken himself out of a portion of each of the first two games. He said being a guy that wants to learn from his mistakes, he willingly made way for Barnett. He added, It may be like that the rest of the season. Fletcher said, I wanted to play 100 percent, 100 miles an hour the whole ballgame and its tough to do that if youre going to play 100 percent of the snaps also. Just being smart about it, knowing, hey, Ive got a veteran guy here whos been a starter, Nick got some reps in practice so he felt comfortable in the scheme, felt comfortable with what we were doing against Detroit so it made sense to give him some playing time and I felt fresher. Fletcher, who on Sunday had eight tackles and a sack, continued, I understand that Im not 24, either. Even young guys, whether youre how old you are if you want to be 100 percent, 100 miles an hour to the football, youre not going to be able to go that mind-set 60 minutes. Its impossible to do it. I wanted to be able to run to the football better and do a lot more things than I was able to do in the first two ball games, so if that means Ive got to give Nick a few snaps, it helps me, helps us. Basically, helps us win a ball game. Ill do it. Theyre not giving out trophies for playing all the snaps.