With the pending release of Flawless Football, I feel torn between to very different feelings of sentiment surrounding the product given its history. As much as I want to hate this stuff, there are a number of reasons why it deserves some of the hype it is getting. In basketball, it made an indelible mark with the highest price tag for a licensed product, albeit not really doing much in terms of special content. In football, its doing the same thing, but in a league where rules may hamper its ability to be a sustainable product. Here are my reasons to love and hate Flawless.
1. You Should Love the On Card Content
In football, we have become accustomed to sticker based autograph content. Its literally a part of every product except Five Star. Panini is one of the worst offenders, but some how got their shit together enough to make flawless happen. There will no doubt be redemptions, but you have to give them credit for making this work as early as they have. They have had the foresight to add more non-rookie on card assets to National Treasures, but nothing like this has been done by Panini. Although it doesnt make up for the tidal wave of stickers they have unleashed on the hobby, it is definitely a reason to love the product.
2. You Should Hate the Checklist
If there is one reason that Flawless is destined to be an unsustainable format at the price it is at, the checklist is one of the reasons. In fact, checklist quality has always been an issue with high end Panini products. They have gotten a lot of big names with hard signed cards in the boxes, but they also have a shit storm of autographs that most collectors will be hard pressed to know who they are. Add this in with autographs from ALL 40 rookies at the premiere, including guys like Devonta Freeman and potentially Connor Shaw, and all of a sudden it becomes quite the uphill battle. In Basketball, they were not required to have a certain percentage of rookie content the way they are in the NFL, and the impact will be palpable when you see the checklist.
Here are just some of the low tier names on this checklist: Danny Amendola, Torrey Smith, Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, Michael Floyd, Paul Warfield, Doug Martin, Zach Ertz, Carl Eller, Jan Stenerud, Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, Cordarrelle Patterson, DeAndre Hopkins.
Hell, that is just from one preview. I didnt even go back through!
3. You Should Hate the Cost of the Boxes
Basketball is a sport that thrives in a super high end market. International collectors increases demand for nice cards, which means that the market can withhold a lot of the pressure a high end product creates. In football, there is an ever dwindling pool of collectors, and many of them have been conditioned to give up on a box after a week. Dealers got to buy in on Flawless football at 800 bucks. Add in the normal 16% markup that Panini MAPP requires, and you get 928 bucks a box. Lets call it 950 for the sake of argument. Although that price is still off the charts, its not even close to 1350, which is the price dealers arbitrarily put on this release.
Additionally, the rookie class’ big names are playing mediocre at best, with the exception of Sammy Watkins, who is not a QB. Unless the Browns make some uncharacteristic type of move, the box price will be a joke. Even if Manziel was playing well, it would still be a joke. Football is not basketball.
4. You Should Love the Design
Flawless has looked good in Basketball for a few years, and football is no different. I mean, its not hard to copy and paste, and that’s exactly what happened. If this had been left to the current design team to come up with all on their own, I know it would have been as bad as the other crap from early this year. I think there are a few dogs in the set in terms of the design, but many of the cards look quite impressive.
The fact that Panini has not used A) Any foil board stock, B) goofy studio pictures, and C) horrrendously busy designs show that they are invested in this product. I cant say the same for their other “attempts” at designing good looking cards.
5. You Should Hate What This Does to the Market
Exquisite started in Basketball in 03-04 and was the perfect set for the perfect rookie class at the time. To this day it remains one of the most sought after products in Basketball history. Upper Deck ported it over to football in 2005 with minor initial success, mainly due to the class of rookies at the time and Football collectors willingness to accept a high end product that cost that much. However, it did have Upper Deck’s brand, which to this day remains the best in all of sports cards. Panini has none of that, but they do have a mediocre class that could end up being great in the long run. Flawless is swimming in a sea of products that will be diluted as the year moves on, and we should not be excited for what precedent may be set by this release. There just isnt room for a product who’s content doesnt offer something that isnt available in Five Star or National Treasures. If Panini thinks they can ramrod this through, they might have to learn the hard way. Not a good thing considering their exclusive will kick in come 2016.
Flawless is shaping up to be a great singles product in a buyers market. Never a good thing for sales prospects of the boxes which cost about 400 dollars more than they should.