More news emerged from the NFL owners’ Spring Meetings. The first announcement was that the league would use the exhibition games this summer to try out the idea of kicking PATs from the 20-yardline. I think that is a good idea in the sense that it gives a marginal purpose to meaningless exhibition games. I hardly think this decision is climactic; but it does no damage. Hi-ho!
The Commish announced that there is a “tremendous amount of interest” in expanding the playoffs. He went so far as to say it might even happen for the 2014 season. He added that scenario was unlikely and that one of the next steps would be talks with the NFLPA who should ultimately agree to the idea because it increases league revenue that in turn raises the salary cap and the salary floor. Despite that clear and present benefit for the players, you can be sure that the NFLPA will not agree to whatever the original proposal might be.
In the spirit of trying to be constructive, let me cobble together some of each of the above ideas and present an idea that might benefit everyone. My suggestion has 4 parts:
1. Open training camps a week earlier than they open now.
2. Cut the exhibition season from 4 games to 2 games.
3. Begin the season one week earlier than it begins now in order to accommodate a 17-game regular season schedule.
4. With expanded playoffs, there will be 7 teams per conference. The only team in each conference with a bye-week will be the one with the best record.
Here is how everyone benefits from that system:
Fewer exhibition games ought to be attractive to players. Owners will balk at first because that means they have only one home exhibition game to shove down the throats of their season ticket buyers. But they should be able to see past that. Fans need not see or pay for as many meaningless exhibitions.
Earlier opening of training camp and fewer exhibition games gives teams more time to practice. With free agency and player movement, that becomes a benefit for players and for fans.
The 17th regular season game will add revenue for the league, which will lead to increased salary caps for each team. Players benefit from that. Fans get an extra weekend of real football. Fans should like that. TV Networks get more programming that gets good ratings. Execs should like that. Moreover, by starting the season a week earlier, the added regular season game does not affect the standing schedule for playoffs or Super Bowls.
The expanded playoffs should not use a “play-in game” format. The reason here is if the league does that, it will retain two teams getting a bye as the field is cut from 6 teams to 4 teams. However, if there is a “play-in round”, two teams would have two weeks off and I do not think that is a good idea nor is it fair.
By the way, my proposed playoff schedule would require 6 games on the first weekend of the playoffs. Since the winners will have to advance and play the teams coming off a bye week, it would not be fair to have any of those games on Monday night. Nor would it be fair to make teams finish the regular season on Sunday and then have to start the playoffs on Thursday. The schedule would be 3 games on Saturday and 3 games on Sunday.
Having an odd number of games in a season does introduce a scheduling issue. Half the teams will need to play 9 home games and half would need to play 9 road games. Obviously, the schedule masters would have to assure that the teams alternated from season to season. Moreover, this gives the NFL flexibility to schedule a few more games each year at neutral sites or even foreign cities to develop interest in the NFL product there. Instead of 3 games in London as the NFL will do this year, the expanded schedule could allow for a half-dozen games per year in cities such as London, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Montreal and perhaps cities in the Far East.
Moving along… According to reports, Ed Hochuli’s son, Shawn, will be an NFL official starting this year. According to the reports, the only hurdles needs to cross are a physical exam and a background check. What is the OVER/UNDER on the number of weeks before one of the networks does a pre-game feature of father and son doing bicep curls? I am guessing FOX in Week 4…
NCAA Tournament action resumes this evening. Here is a recent Tweet from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Judging by early NCAA action — TV commercials, I mean — Charles Barkley is No. 1 seed in the Most Likely to Wear Out His Welcome bracket.”
I must take issue with Professor Molinaro here. Surely, Ricky Gervais in those Audi commercials has to be more annoying than Barkley. In addition, would someone please take the old guy in the Buffalo Wild Wings ads who adds nothing to the human condition by announcing that “the game is on,” and put him out of his misery.
I read a report that ESPN hired Ozzie Guillen to be part of their studio team for Baseball Tonight. Let me be clear; I like Ozzie Guillen as a manager. However, the tech guy whose responsibility it would be to “hit the 7-second dump button” needs to avoid the decaf when Ozzie’s microphone is live. Ozzie being Ozzie on live TV has the potential to get crosswise with the FCC.
Finally, here is another item from Bob Molinaro – this time with regard to starting the baseball season in Australia this year:
“Tidbit: The first time a big-league baseball team appeared Down Under was in 1888 when the touring White Sox played on the same cricket grounds used by the Dodgers and D-backs. Apparently, the American game never took off there.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…….