As I enjoyed playoff baseball on Wednesday night, watching the Cardinals defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates to advance to the NLCS for the third straight season, I was also multi-tasking by taking in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s state of the union speech from the owners meetings in Washington, D.C.
Goodell’s comments, specifically those in reference to expansion, made me consider adding a third item to my viewing list. In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” Michael Douglas breathed life into the character of relentless market forecaster Gordon Gekko and his signature line: “Greed, for lack of a better word,” is good. The NFL’s decision to add a third game in London, every year, is not without merit. Ultimately, though, is the net gain worth the trouble?
Undoubtedly, the league has invested time and money in terms of its global outreach initiative and branding of the greatest team sport on the planet. The United Kingdom fan base and those who venture over to London from Europe are fanatics about the NFL game, as well, and really can’t get enough. Yet questions remain about the long-term viability of this international series of sorts, chiefly in relation to more and more teams having their regular routines drastically altered at least once per season.
While on the subject of change, is the idea of expanding the present playoff system really the right direction? The league outwardly takes a heavy stand on health issues, constantly speaking of protecting players and making the game safer. The ever-changing landscape of the NFL has yielded additional up-tempo offenses, with some offenses getting off more than 80 snaps per game. Even if fans lap it up, does it make sense to potentially wear the players and the overall product too thin?
No, greed is not good. The TV exposure and cable revenue that could be netted by adding a few more games isn’t worth the risk of tainting the perfection as we know it now. Don’t dilute a great showcase. And what about the concern for the players’ health? What are the NFLPA’s thoughts on this? If I remember correctly, there hasn’t exactly been widespread support in the past for an 18-game schedule.
“Expanding the postseason would allow other teams to get into the dance, and they have (the) potential of going on and winning the Super Bowl – that’s a good thing for the fans,” Goodell said regarding the matter. “It’s a good thing competitively. What has happened is our league is so competitive right now and the games are so close, that’s realistic to think a team can have a great second half, get into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. We’ve seen it.”
Goodell went on to say that the NFL would probably target the 2015 season to introduce such expansion. At first glance, the idea of adding two teams and going from 12 to 14 contestants doesn’t seem like a big deal. But this should boil down to more than the revenue; it’s about the product. When I looked back at the clubs that narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2012 playoffs, those teams truly didn’t deserve to get into the dance. The 10-6 Chicago Bears were competitive, sure, but were caught on the outside looking in. The New York Giants struggled all season long just to finish 9-7. The Dallas Cowboys disappointed at 8-8, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And, despite beating up to teams within their own division – including the Super Bowl runner-up – did the Rams genuinely deserve to make the postseason with a 7-8-1 record?
As it stands now, the NFL is a 16-week sprint. Those who play the best, accumulate the most “Ws” and remain healthy down the stretch earn their way into the year-end tournament. It should be a fight to get in – not a structure that allows some teams that struggled to carry their weight for 16 games a mulligan at competing for the Lombardi Trophy.