The new sports docu-series from Netflix, Strategist, suggests that playing QB is the hardest position to play in a team sport. The filmmakers may be right. But the story and drama packed into the position is so convoluted that boiling it down to a TV show means missing out on the complications and details that make the position so difficult, at least in the first season.
Strategist follows three QBs – Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings and Marcus Mariota of the Atlanta Falcons – as they progress through the 2022 NFL season. But unlike Netflix’s biggest sports series, Formula 1: drive to survive, the soccer-focused series struggles to bring out the human side of elite athletes; we see them at home with their children, but we never understand what it means to them on the pitch. The good news is that there are many ways to fix Strategist and help it go from OK to excellent.
Choose more interesting players
Games are won by putting the best guys on the field. Strategist season 1 does not. While the main coup of the series was landing Mahomes, the 27-year-old Chiefs quarterback/wunderkind, the rest of the cast pales in comparison. The very good Cousins and Mariota, a player who lost his starting job midway through last season, are inevitably lost in Mahomes’ shadow. A second season of Strategist would benefit from a more intriguing and successful QB cast. Also, just a bigger one. More players being tracked with cameras would give more opportunities for more intertwined storylines and quick edits. Here’s a suggestion: Get the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen on this show with Mahomes so we can see their continued AFC shootout and rivalry. Or follow an exciting but volatile rookie like the Colts’ Anthony Richardson so we can follow him from the first days he steps on the field.
Let the images of the game tell us a story
The NFL is famous for protecting game footage, which makes it pretty exciting that Strategist gets to use footage from last season. Unfortunately, the show often uses it as a crutch for its episodic storylines, forcing unrelated games together and condensing them into montages instead of creating a natural tension created by the games. A doc like the last dance is a great example of what is possible when you have access to it. Don’t show us a winning touchdown practice with field audio; let Cousins or his trainer meticulously explain to us how they made the comeback and point out details of plays we might have missed.
Let the QBs cook
This point is closely related to the previous one, but the best moments of Strategist are those where the production team persuades one of the QBs to go deeper into a play, play, or decision. Quarterbacks aren’t always the most charismatic and insightful storytellers — as the show shows, Cousins was interesting and emotional exactly once in public and it instantly became a meme — but they know football better than almost anyone on the planet. When players just talk about low and dirty football, they light up. Hearing the differences in how Kirk Cousins and Patrick Mahomes approach comebacks, or hearing Marcus Mariota trying to get out of a mid-game rut, is exactly the kind of insight that separates the series from simply being a big budget fancam.
Combining these interview segments with the actual NFL game footage could result in sports analysis you can’t get from a panel on ESPN, no matter how many former players they include. Moments like seeing Mahomes go deep in tics or saying he notices him watching his opponents on film, and how it helped him score a touchdown or win a game, is insight only a player can. provide. Even though Season 1’s QB lineup is lacking, all of the subjects seem perfectly likable and ready to deliver what Strategist do the best. Patrick Mahomes isn’t himself when leading a film crew; he is himself when breaking down defensive coverage or talking about the intricacies of offensive play calls.
Focusing more on games would also allow the series to move further away from the personal lives of gamers, who are a big color for the series, but feel old and repetitive just a few episodes away.
Let teammates shine
As anyone who watches football might expect, Strategist actually includes quite a few of his QB stars talking about their teammates. Receivers, tight ends, running backs, linemen, coaches and coaches all get key shoutouts that make their lack of participation on the show a bit confusing. Hearing Justin Jefferson talk about how he walked a route to help the cousins, or Travis Kelce explain how Mahomes improvises, would have deepened the explanation of how teams winning games and what behind-the-scenes relationships made it all possible.
Strategist is in a complicated position at the moment. Despite all of its issues, it’s still a pretty entertaining show that has some very lucrative moments for fans who only understand the 2022 season on the surface. Mahomes breaking a game-winning disc or watching Cousins fight through a myriad of injuries is fascinating when they tell it themselves. But those times are the exception right now, rather than the norm.
The good news is Strategist It’s also exactly where any NFL team would want a promising prospect to be: successful early, despite his many mistakes, but with plenty of room to grow.