Hello and welcome to the What-If portion of my mind!
That’s like totally most of it most days but whatever! From last year into this year, there seems to be an unusual amount of unrest associated with the NFL. Many longtime fans (Vin Scully included) have said they plan to stop watching the games, TV ratings are down and more people seem to talk about the people associated with the league as opposed to the product on the field. So let me take this chance to throw my hat in the ring to be the next NFL commissioner…unless that Tweet from earlier nets me the University of Tennessee head football coaching job.
Where to begin? Many years ago in this galaxy that now seems far, far away there was pro football. Each team had their stars and quasi-stars that usually started with a handsome and enigmatic quarterbacks. The team’s starting quarterback was the face of the franchise and he was well-established. Oh how things have changed. Today there are 32 NFL football franchises and if you can correctly name all 32 starting quarterbacks this week, you are either a liar or some sort of fantasy football stalker. Due to age and injuries, the league has been robbed of its star power over the last handful of years. So far this year there have been 40 guys play quarterback in the NFL. OF those 40 guys, only 17 have passed for 2400 yards. Why is that number significant? Because that would represent an average of 200 or more yards passing per game based on 12 games thus far this season for each team. Now some of the guys on that list missed that threshold due to injury or benching or other reasons, but just barely over half of the teams out there can feature a quarterback who has thrown for 200 or more yards per game. And that isn’t all that great in and of itself. What makes the NFL exciting to watch: Big plays, big hits, non-stop scoring and the anticipation of something happening. Once Deshaun Watson got hurt, a potential ascending QB, a big heavy hand punched the NFL in the virtual kidney area. The league is doing a poor job of marketing/promoting its stars and even when they do market/promote them, they get hurt and the backlash intensifies. Wow this guy is cool and exciting. Oh he’s hurt until next year? OK I’ll maybe remember to tune back in then.
Get it right on getting it right.
Years and years and years ago the league implemented instant replay review to ‘get the calls right’. Simple enough concept but for some reason the replays take too long and often-times the call is still not right. The most common scenarios are: Did the guy get far enough definitively? Was he ‘down’ in any way on the alleged fumble? Did the receiver possess the ball before going out of bounds? Other than these common examples, it’s mostly a waste of time. In this day and age of mobile technology, it is shocking that each field and stadium cannot be outfitted with a grid of electronics either under the turf or virtually overlaid on the field (or both) to track ball movement, first downs, penalties, etc. Then all you have to do is microchip the balls in 8 different places and boom good to go. Make it like laser tag. Got a first down? The ball and marker sensor will light up green and you move the sticks. Didn’t make it, the light stays red. Simple. High tech solution to a decades old problem and even the fans in the nosebleeds can follow along.
Penalizing the fans.
What is the worst part of watching football games besides the long commercial breaks and seeing someone get hurt? The penalties. Literally on every stinking play there can be a penalty called (which is all subjective anyway) and it is trending the wrong way at an alarming rate. I say take a page out of the NBA’s book. In the NBA a foul used to be anytime a player contacted another player, now there are seven foot behemoths body-quaking one another for 20 seconds before a shot gets put up. Only the most egregious ‘fouls’ are called, allegedly. So bring that to the NFL field where the players already have helmets and pads. For the play start there is a ‘line of scrimmage’. I propose, inspired by the movie The Purge, that within five yards of the line of scrimmage that all ‘holding’ is legal. This covers five yards into the offensive backfield and five yards into the defensive defended portion of the field from that imaginary line of scrimmage; all the players can hug it out any way they want. This would alleviate a ton of un-necessary penalties and promote more offense – especially for the less gifted (talent-wise) teams. Plus this change would give the fans back some of the aggressive, American Gladiator-type moments in the game that has been regulated out in recent years (defenseless receiver, too rough with the quarterback, etc.).
Spice up the stew.
Watching the NFL is so hard to do these days with the mediocre talents playing in place of the injured star players or just plan average dudes overwhelmed by the stage. Now toss in some coaches who have stayed too long at the dance and it’s time to move forward. With the size of today’s players and the speed of the game, injuries are going to happen. So when that does occur, let’s make the most of a bad situation and still give the fans something to tune in for.
I’m going to keep this short because this topic has been beaten to death. If players want to protest something as a person, fine. But do it on your own time and not at your (owner’s) place of business. I do not walk into my place of work and make a demonstration or physically post pictures of things I find offensive or push my agenda on my co-workers, management and my company’s clients. But if I want to take to social media or post a sign at my house or do something in the private realm of my life – that’s OK. These players are showing up to their ‘work’ and trying to get exposure standing on the shoulders of their employer and it is wrong. If the player or players meet with their employer and say we want to protest as a representative of your business, most of them are going to be like, um no. And that is correct and just as their employer. Special interest groups or minorities or whatever grouping you can think of – keep it on your own time and that is OK. You want to post on social media or organize a rally in your town on your own time, go for it. More power to you. Stop trying to drag the NFL into your fight. Teams should give their players the option to stand on the field for the National Anthem or they can remain in the locker room until the anthem is done.
Imagine a better image.
There are a zillion companies out there fighting for territories and trying to best a competing product. It’s tough. You can lose ground just doing nothing or still doing everything right but a technology shift puts you on the outside through no fault of your own or something of the same ilk. The NFL needs to clean up its image and limit the black eyes it gives itself. Having hundreds of players, coaches, staff and owners associated with their franchises – it’s inevitable that someone is going to mess up. It may be a small percentage but it is going to happen. Don’t let that color how the majority is viewed. This is where a strong, reasonable commissioner is needed. If given the post of NFL Commissioner, I will work with the players union to develop standardized infraction penalties like some of the ones noted below:
- Domestic Abuse Allegations – 4 game non-appealable suspension, team penalty TBA after that
- Animal Abuse Allegations – 4 game non-appealable suspension (Michael Vick Rule), team penalty TBA after that
- Other felony charges – 4 game non-appealable suspension, team penalty TBA after that
- Misdemeanor charges – 1 game non-appealable suspension, team penalty TBA after that
- Wellness Program Infraction – 1st offense, 4 games, 2nd offense 8 games, 3rd offense 16 games, 4th offense 32 games
- Cheating (player) – 2 game appealable suspension, minimum 1 game required penalty
- Cheating (team) – 2 game appealable suspension, minimum 1 game required penalty
- Fighting in game – if occurs in 1st quarter, player can return in 3rd quarter, if occurs in 2nd quarter , player can return in the 4th quarter, if occurs in 3rd or 4th quarter, disqualified for the game
Other than that the product can remain the same. It’s the foundation for what made the sport so popular to begin with. Use a little common sense. This isn’t manipulating an Excel spreadsheet. This is supposed to be entertaining and compelling to watch. The money is good, stop being so overly greedy and get the train rolling again.
My fee (talking turkey)
Roger Goodell is asking for like $50,000,000 per year and health insurance for life and a private plane and yadda yadda. I will do the job for $9,000,000 annually and I will request four advisors with annual salaries of $250,000 each. We will all agree to pay our own medical benefits and take Southwest Airlines to all of our meetings. That will be a savings of $40,000,000 per year plus the medical benefits and the plane fee thing. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal for the NFL. What do you think? Have their people call my people.
Have a great month everyone!