The NFL is a league that’s often heavily-reliant on secrecy, as we’ve seen with controversies around videotaping and signal-stealing, and that frequently extends to players and coaches’ interactions with the media too. The general belief is that information can be used against you, which is why coaches and players are often reluctant to discuss specific playcalls or schemes in much detail. Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer is taking a bit of a different tack, though, inviting the local media to a film session next week: Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar tweeted about how valuable this can be and how other coaches should follow suit.

This isn’t the first film session with media Zimmer has done; he did one last year as well (a short look inside it is available on the Vikings’ website), and explained his rationale for it then:

The Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer invited members of the media to a special event this week.

He held a film session with members of the press, breaking down Vikings gameplay video so that reporters could better understand his strategies as a coach, and the game itself.

“I think it’s good for you guys,” Zimmer said. “I think it’s a good, healthy relationship and I’d like to keep it that way.”

The session showed that this was a comfortable role for him: as a teacher .

“I love doing film work and I love motivating guys too,” he said. “This is kind of my setting, where I feel comfortable with the players, asking them questions.”

While telling media some of your strategies, philosophies and play-calling tendencies in a film session may seem to violate the NFL’s typical omertà, there are benefits to this kind of approach for coaches as well. The biggest one is that it informs the media coverage of your team. If coaches refuse to divulge anything on what they’re planning or what they’re trying to do, reporters and columnists are forced to analyze it based on their own assumptions, which can often be inaccurate. From the outside, it can be tough to pinpoint if a pass play failed because the quarterback made the wrong read, the receiver ran the wrong route or the running back didn’t block his assigned man (forcing a rushed throw). Coaches know what they’re trying to do on a given play, and when they watch tape afterwards, they know why it did or didn’t work. Sharing some of that knowledge with the media can help inform those who cover the team as to what the goal was, and those media members in turn can then relay more information to their readers, listeners and viewers.

The risk of giving away too many secrets here isn’t as dire as it may seem, either, especially when a film session like this is done in the offseason. Playbooks change from year to year and even from week to week, so it’s possible for Zimmer to show off some of the larger concepts of his thinking (which should still hold true, and still be helpful for the media when analyzing games this fall) without giving away too many specific playcalls that will still be done exactly the same way. We have seen in-season film sessions at some other levels, such as certain CFL clubs, NCAA programs and even a few NFL teams (for example, Farrar watched film with Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman in January), but usually with only a select reporter or two. Opening it up to a wider group of local media does carry slightly more risk, but it also enhances the general quality of coverage and provides value for media and their readers. Overall, this is a way to improve the relationship between coaches and media, and a way to give media more information that they can then use to make informed judgements. It would be great to see this spread further.

[Doug Farrar]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.