The good thing about NFL training camps starting? It means we are getting closer to the start of the NFL season. The bad? Recycled, cliché storylines as television networks, newspapers, magazines and blogs try to produce content without meaningful games to lean on. Just like a NFL team, the media has signature plays that they are comfortable executing. Until the season begins for real on September 5th, be prepared to read and watch the following stories over the next month.
1. Player “X” is in the best shape of his life.
This storyline will be used early in training camp. It is the media equivalent to running an off-tackle play. Pick a young veteran, someone who has been productive but has not quite met expectations. Comment on how great he looks, how much weight he has lost, or how much muscle he has gained. Mention the new training program (yoga and mixed martial arts are popular) he used in the spring and early summer to get in shape and how he is ready to “reach the next level”.
2. “The team will be more aggressive.”
Often used when a team features a new offensive or defensive coordinator. Includes a summary of how the offensive or defensive unit struggled and how the new coordinator will “attack” and “dictate” by blitzing more or throwing more deep passes.
3. “Everyone has to earn their spot”
There are no sacred cows! Everyone starts on equal footing! Open competition! This is more of a coach-talking-through-the-media strategy than a reporter created storyline. Dallas Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett used this tactic last season when he made the rookies earn the star on their helmets.
4. “He finally understands the system”
This usually applies to quarterbacks and wide receivers, but is also used in stories about highly drafted defensive players. First, there is a recap of the player’s struggles to this point and comments about how the playbook overwhelmed him. This is followed with details of off-season film study with coaches and veteran players and eventually the proclamation that the “light came on”.
5. “The head coach is going to be tougher/ more player friendly this year”
The head coach, following a disappointing season, spends much of the off-season reflecting and realizes the team was either too comfortable or too tense. There usually are references to books or movies about leadership. New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin is the most popular example of this storyline.