Ratings Decline

Why wasn't the Super Bowl exciting?

Sbnation.com

The ratings for Super Bowl LIII have come in and they aren't what CBS and the NFL were hoping for. Even though nearly 100 million viewers tuned in for the big game, there was a roughly 5% drop from last year. The full ratings breakdown isn't available yet but even a small dip in the first set of numbers is something the NFL should take seriously.

As for me, I watched the game. Sort of. I had every intention of sitting down and enjoying every snap and every commercial break, including halftime. But when it came down to it, life got in the way. I wasn't invited to, or even aware of any Super Bowl parties amongst my friends. Even if there were, I'm not sure I would have felt compelled to rush through everything I needed to do this weekend just so I could go celebrate the biggest game of the season.

When I look at my social media and the local coverage leading up to the game, I get the sense I'm not the only one who was going to watch the game at home with family while I continued to go about my day. It's a far cry from when I was younger when it felt like the hype surrounding the game was bigger than the game itself. I'm sure bars were packed and there were still plenty of people hosting parties, but I got the sense it isn't like it used to be.

Right now, the NFL has some huge problems that affect how people view the game of football. So much so that there's probably some fatigue with it all. Concussions, protests, bad officiating, and even the Patriots; all these contribute to a lack of excitement that previously didn't exist on Super Bowl Sunday.

How many people decided not to tune in because once again it was Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? I would say that might have been the biggest factor. No matter who represented the NFC, I knew they would face a coach and quarterback combo that would out think them. Belichick knows how to plan for his opponents and in the Super Bowl it takes a great individual effort or a surprise play call that shifts the momentum away from his game plan. As cool as it is to be in the era of Tom Brady, we all know that the Patriots don't care about exciting football; only winning. I have too much to do to dedicate my time to a slow-moving chess match. I was right, there weren't any plays that will go down as all time highlights in the annals of the NFL.

How many people decided not to watch the Super Bowl because they were still upset that the New Orleans Saints got screwed out of an appearance by horrible officiating that changed the most likely outcome of the NFC Championship? The Rams chance to play for a title will always seem tainted by what happened at the end of that game and a conscious or subconscious lack of interest in the Rams probably permeated the mood a lot of fans had about the Super Bowl.

I know it did for me. I was less interested because I felt like someone not playing the game made such an egregious mistake that the outcome was not what it should have been. In my mind I have no doubt that the Saints were the team that belonged in the Super Bowl. As good as the Rams were all season, there is an asterisk next to them and I cared more about taking care of my home life than watching a team that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Let's talk about commercials. Have they gotten so expensive that it is no longer worth it? Sure, there were still some great commercials that fit the idea of what a Super Bowl ad should be. Is it me, or have they become more political than years past? Are there fewer themed campaigns by companies that involve multiple different commercials that made you want to go watch all the variations later?

I saw that Bud Light kept it alive but overall, the humor and creativity seem to be in decline. That's something I noticed in previous years. I can't remember the last time I watched a Super Bowl and felt I had to stay glued to my seat because any one of the commercials was going to make me crack up laughing or be some cinematic experience condensed into 30 seconds.

Finally, what was up with that halftime show? I get it that the NFL wants to cater to a wide audience, but the performance of Maroon 5 was very bland and because of the need to fit in multiple pre-announced guest artists, the songs were a little rushed. Travis Scott's performance felt out of place and the pageantry of Big Boi should have been its own full show. I appreciate other artists contributing but it should be a surprise duet on a song of the headlining artist or something made to fit more smoothly into the performance. That entire halftime show could have been better and when the non-football fans are disappointed in one of the big reasons they watch, the second half numbers probably dropped off. That might even cause a ripple into next year's game.

When it's the biggest game of the season and the only one on, people are going to watch. But with everything happening in the NFL and in real life, sometimes people don't feel like Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto holiday anymore. If the Patriots fail to make it back next year and we see two new teams untainted by serious controversy, interest might return. If the halftime performance is one major artist with no special guests announced prior to the game, non-football fans might get more excited. But the way I see it, Roger Goodell and the rest of the braintrust in the NFL front offices have a lot to address when it comes to making fans want to fully dedicate themselves to the Super Bowl like they used to.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A curious thing might be happening with the Texans. This year's third round pick, Kahale Warring, has barely played in camp due to injuries and is in danger of being stashed on IR for the season. One of last year's third round picks, Martinas Rankin, may be in danger of not making the roster. The 2017 third rounder D'Onta Foreman was cut earlier in camp. While historically the Texans have been terrible picking in the third round, just taking a look at the Bill O'Brien years makes for some surprising results.

Keep in mind that these numbers are very fluid. Everyone has different criteria for what makes a hit or a miss. But let's dive in and see how the Texans have done.

By the numbers

First, let's take a look at the historical success rate by position of third round picks in the NFL. "Success rate" means the player became a functional NFL starter, which you would expect from most players selected in the third round.

The numbers:

3rd Round - OL (40%) TE (39%) LB (34%) DL (27%) WR (25%) DB (24%) QB (17%) RB (16%)

(Source: Arrowheadsports.com)

Now the Texans

Bill O'Brien has been around since the 2014 draft, so that is where we will focus. Let's look at the third round picks:

2014: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Louis Nix DT. Nix was a complete bust; C.J. developed into a decent tight end before concussions prematurely ended his career. Still, you could reluctantly call him a hit. Nix is a clear miss.

2015: Jalen Strong, WR. Complete miss.

2016: Braxton Miller, WR. He at least saw some action on the field before being cut but another big miss.

2017: D'Onta Foreman, RB. Cut in camp this year, so another complete whiff.

2018: Justin Reid, S, Martinas Rankin, OL, Jordan Akins, TE.

Reid has all the ear markings of a perennial Pro Bowler. Akins has emerged as a decent threat in a crowded tight end room. Rankin, as mentioned earlier, might not make the team. So two hits and for now Rankin is a miss. We won't look at 2019 yet, but the Warring pick - questionable at the time - could easily be another clunker, but we may not know until next year. What happens to those two over the next few years will help add clarity to these numbers.

Is it as bad as it looks?

So overall, with nine third-round picks in the O'Brien era, the Texans have three hits, five misses (if you count Rankin) and an incomplete.

The positives? They are batting 1.000 on tight ends (pending Warring) and safety. They are zero percent on OL, RB and WR.

The overall hit rate is .375. In a given year, NFL starters from the second and third round combined make up roughly 30 percent of the league. Even if you count Fiedorowicz as a bust, they are still at almost 29 percent out of the third round, which would be above the league average, according to a Forbes study from the 2014 season. While that number varies year to year, it is likely no more than a few percentage points. So about average.

Throw in the second round picks, where Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Nick Martin have all become starters with one glaring bust - Xavier Sua'Filo - and they are hitting at 75 percent in the second round, 66 percent overall in rounds 2-3. Now you could argue Martin is not a good player, but he has been a starter pretty much since Day 1. Even taking him out, that is still 55 percent. Again, the bust is glaring in Sua'Filo, which makes it look a lot worse.

The good news

The narrative is the Texans tend to nail their first round picks. According to the Riot Report, first rounders only hit at a 53 percent rate for a player to become a consistent starter over five years.

Again, looking at the O'Brien era only, the top picks have been Jadeveon Clowney, Will Fuller, Kevin Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Titus Howard. Eliminating Howard since it is too early, Clowney and Watson are clear hits; Fuller is a good player who can never stay healthy. If he does, he could be a key contributor but that remains to be seen. Still, he is an NFL starter so give him a hit, even if it is incomplete. Johnson was a disaster and is gone. If you give them Fuller, that is still 75 percent, well above the league average. If you don't count Fuller, they are right at the league average, slightly below. Again, all of this is specific to the O'Brien era.

What does it all mean?

The third round misses have been high profile, colossal mistakes, which makes it look worse. Foreman was supposed to develop into a home run threat on offense. Miller was a high profile project. The team traded up to get Strong. Nix never made it to the field. But overall, the results are about on par with the rest of the league, even above average. Those were not the results I expected when I started this article. But there is also no way to quantify players who hung around and contributed but were never really "hits" or "misses." The Texans misses were clear, as they are no longer on the roster.

Which brings us to Duke Johnson

While many have been critical of the Texans for giving up a third to get Duke Johnson, it makes a lot of sense. You are getting a proven NFL player with starting capabilities for a pick that hits less than 30 percent of the time. While building through the draft is important, it also goes to show that most teams and fans greatly overvalue draft picks. And most picks are like buying new cars - the value goes down as soon as you get them off the lot. Johnson should provide a much surer thing than a third-rounder.

The bottom line

As with most things, when it comes to drafting, the Texans are about average. The third round busts look bad relative to expectations, but overall the number of hits is about where the league is. They probably aren't as good in the first round as the perception. Obviously good teams do better than than average, bad ones do much worse, but as with most things, the Texans aren't bad at drafting high-round picks.

They are just mediocre, a staple of the organization since its inception.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome