Our weeklong preview of the previews continues today with a look at the No. 3 preview on the market, Lindy's 2005 Pro Football (224 pages; $6.99 U.S.; $8.50 Canada)
Lindy's offers a four-page overview of each team. The lead articles are written by a variety of contributors, including the issue's senior editor and well-known football writer Howard Balzer.
The profiles follow the standard formula: a look at each unit on each team, with quick-hit data about stadiums, front office executives and coaching staffs, and a short overview of key personnel additions and losses. The best feature is a pre-camp roster with the top 75 or so players each team will put on the practice field this summer, along with a short sentence about each individual. No other preview offers so complete a compendium of so many players who will head into NFL camps this summer.
Major drawbacks include fonts and a design that make the team profiles more difficult to read than those in other previews.
Lindy's does not take a stab at predicting each team's record, only their finish within their division. They see New England topping Atlanta in Super Bowl XL (page 99). Lindy's is the only preview we examined that believes a team other than Philly will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XL. It is one of just two previews that believes a team other than Indy will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl (the other is Athlon, which picked Baltimore).
Lindy's offers a lovely seven-page center spread (page 105) featuring 18 (not that we're counting) of the loveliest young lasses on NFL sidelines. In particular, we like Amie, Kimberly, Vanessa, Rachel, Brigitte – hey, who we kidding? We love them all.
In the magazine's main center spread of notebook-style items (page 96), Balzer gives a well-deserved kick to Terrell Owens's piss-poor attitude and to his slimy new agent, Drew Rosenhaus. He also praises Eagles owner Jeff Lurie for taking a hard line and expressing his determination to move his team forward – with or without his petulant and divisive wide receiver. It is one of the few articles critical of a team, coach, player or agent that appears in any of this year's hope- and puffball-filled preview issues.
Another feature (page 100) looks at the careers of 1920s stars Benny Friedman and Fritz Pollard, who will join the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August after being nominated this year by the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee.
Front-of-the-book features include a profile of Curtis Martin (page 18) and his assault on the NFL all-time rushing list, and an analysis of the move toward the 3-4 defense (page 14). And, at the back of the book, is a profile of Reggie White (Page 212) best described as glowing. It's written by Alan Ross, whose book, "I Remember Reggie White," is due out in September, according to Lindy's.
Lindy's first article is a comprehensive list rating all 32 NFL head coaches (page 8), from Bill Belichick to the as-yet-unproven Nick Saban. It also offers a solid paragraph about each coach – though they shorten as you move down the list to the lower-rated coaches.
The back of the book is stacked with a seven-page compendium of individual and team stats from the 2004 season (page 218). Lindy's also ranks (page 114) the top 10 players at every position and the top individual units in the NFL.
Lindy's is the only preview magazine we reviewed to offer a complete analysis of every 2005 draft pick (page 118), though it could not resist the useless exercise of grading each team's draft before a single draftee has stepped onto an NFL field.
Lindy's expands its draft coverage by taking a look ahead at the top 10 prospects at each position in the 2006 draft. For those fans who, unfortunately, limit their pigskin intake to Sundays and only dabble in the college game, it's a good primer on names to watch this season.
Other lists include:
• A complete week-by-week NFL schedule (page 214)
• A list of all projected nationally televised games (page 216)
• A list of all primetime games (page 216)
• The dates and broadcasting network for all 11 postseason games, plus the Pro Bowl (page 216)
Providence Journal reporter Jim Donaldson began writing about fantasy football in its infancy some 20-odd years ago. For Lindy's, he put together a comprehensive six-page spread (page 204) that places top players in a number of clever categories. It makes for reading that's far more interesting than the standard straight listing of players.
The spread is also thankfully devoid of useless opinions and commentary. Instead, it features the key Cold, Hard Football Facts for hundreds of players at offensive skill positions. If you value production over hype, and Cold, Hard Football Fact over opinion, this is a good guide to have with you on your fantasy draft day.
An otherwise enjoyable preview issue is tarnished by gutless grade inflation in the team profile section. Apparently, the editors at Lindy's were afraid of pissing off someone by laying down the law with the Wyatt Earp of pigskin constables, the Cold, Hard Football Facts. In fact, grade inflation is so rampant throughout the team profile section that the magazine's grading effort is rendered useless.
Here's why: Nine units, from coaching to special teams, are graded on a scale of 1 to 10 for all 32 teams. Of the 288 grades handed out, 235 (81.6 percent) are 7.0 or better. Only 53 grades (18.4 percent) come in at 6.5 or lower. And all but two grades are 5.5 or higher. Quite frankly, it's impossible to justify giving out grades that put 99.3 percent of every unit on every team in the top half of the league. Hey, some of these units suck – and, if we're being honest and judging them in relation to each other, at least half should be rated 5.0 or worse. Tell us which ones!
Otherwise, these intentionally inflated or misleading grades provide no service to the reader and space would have been better filled with more compelling content. (A complete chart showing all the grades appears at the back of the book on page 217 – another wasted page.)
There are a number of contradictions within the profiles that Lindy's would be hard-pressed to explain. They Arizona coaching staff, led by Dennis Green, for example, is given a lofty rating of 9 on a scale of 10. But in the front-of-the-book ranking of coaches, Green is 13th on the list. As far as we can tell, a guy who's only in the middle of the pack of NFL coaches (by Lindy's admission) doesn't deserve a ranking of 9 on a scale of 10. This is proof, in other words, that Lindy's has intentionally and misleadingly inflated its grades.
This embarrassment would have been easily avoided by leaving the useless unit rankings out of the issue altogether. No harm. No foul.
Despite this glaring failure to inform readers, Lindy's puts together an otherwise solid package. There are a handful of features all fans will find informative, and the editors display some earnestness in their effort to put together a compelling preview issue for fans. This makes it stand above the insipid effort at, for example, Sporting News.
Its draft coverage and fantasy football information are among the best found in any preview issue. Its gratuitous cheerleader photos are the best. Its collection of data and statistics, and its feature pages, while not necessarily riveting, provide readers some solid and useful information not found in other previews.
Lindy's offers some top-notch elements that make it warrant consideration among those perusing magazine racks this summer. There is also some content that fails to live up to the standards set by the top-of-the-line issues we'll see later this week. In other words, it's a lukewarm issue. And a lukewarm grade -- third on our list of five previews.