ESPN The Mag’s “Super Bowl Confidential” gets NFL players to open up


What didn’t make the graphic?
“The only question that didn’t make The Mag graphic because of space was ‘Yes or no: Within the next 10 years, I think the Super Bowl will be played outside the United States?’ We had 301 answers to that question, with 201 players answering no and 100 players answering yes.” See the version here.’s NFL Nation deputy editor John Pluym breaks down the making of “Super Bowl Confidential,” a special survey in which more than 300 NFL players share their views on what fans really want to know.

The Mag worked with’s NFL Nation – covering all 32 teams in the league – giving reporters 10 weeks to compile answers from 10 players on each team. The questions were asked during open locker room periods when the reporters had access to the players.

The reporters compiled and entered the results in a shared document. Pluym shares additional details about what makes their questions standout, how the reporters gain athletes’ trust and more.

Who determines what questions athletes will be asked?
I sent an email to the NFL Nation reporters asking for questions for a Super Bowl Confidential. After getting a list of more than 20 questions, we narrowed the list to 12 we thought would get really good responses.

What is the key to gaining the athletes’ trust?
We told the players it was an anonymous survey. However, we also told them they could comment on the record, which some of them chose to do. We wanted challenging questions that had historical value, as well as looked forward, plus we wanted questions that were fun for the players to answer.

For example, we asked players about which running back should get the ball from the 1-yard line. [Seattle Seahawks running back] Marshawn Lynch not getting the ball with the game on the line against the [New England] Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl was very controversial. And the question really made players think when you consider the vote was 108 to 104 for Lynch over [Minnesota Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson.

We also asked players about instant replay, knowing that question would spark interest because most players seemingly don’t trust it. Looking forward, the questions on which quarterback and which team will win the most Super Bowls always creates a ton of debate, which is what you want when you’re doing a survey. And asking the players who they would want for the halftime show provoked exactly 100 different answers, with Drake the most popular answer by six votes over Beyonce.

How does this “Confidential” compare to others The Mag has previously done?
This survey was executed by NFL Nation. This survey was similar to the initial NFL Nation Confidential we did in 2014 in which we had 320 players participate. We’ve also done confidentials on the Redskins nickname, Michael Sam and concussions. But those surveys were not on the same level as the Super Bowl Confidential or NFL Nation Confidential in which we had 300 or more responses to each.

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