In his annual State of the League Address Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the possibility of expanding the current playoff system.
Goodell said adding another wild card team to each conference will make the league “more competitive,” increase viewership and league revenue. However, it is also a move that will greatly dilute the level of competition.
For a league that is already the richest in the nation, increasing league revenue does not seem like it should be the motive for switching up an effective playoff system. Goodell and the competition committee should focus their sights on instant replay and continuing to cut down on concussions. The committee is a board of eight members of coaches and managers who help decide rule changes and oversee competition for the league.
If the league approved the additional postseason teams, and there’s little doubt that they will, then an extra game would be added to the playoffs for each conference. Before, the two top seeds in both conferences got a first round bye, but now both seeds would have to play during the wild card round.
As a football fan, I would enjoy watching a couple extra games of playoff football. However, the first round bye formula for two teams is only used in the NFL, and creates an added incentive for finishing with one of the league’s best records. Do not take that away.
For teams that would sneak into that seventh playoff spot, of course their hometown would be elated at a shot to play for the Lombardi Trophy, but other ramifications make this irrelevant.
Anyone who follows the NBA knows that its inclusive playoff system has made many one-sided first round matchups and the longest post season of the four major professional sports, usually spanning two months.
Adding another team to the NFL format will take away some of what it means to make the playoffs. In the NBA, over half the teams in the league make the playoffs. Too often, teams with losing records do as well. How can a team be proud of a playoff season when they lost a majority of its games and were quickly swept out of the first round?
If the NFL adds more wild card teams, there will be years where a 7-9 team makes the playoffs. They will then face off against a 13-3 powerhouse. Now we all know that any given Sunday, any team can win, but I would not like the road team’s chances in that battle.
Imagine, this season, if my beloved Bears had gotten the seventh seed, they would have traveled to face off against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers would have probably demolished the flawed Bears. Not to mention the Panthers, or any team for that matter, would be playing an extra game, increasing the possibility of injuries.
Injuries are a major variable in every game. Allowing the mediocre teams in the playoffs will put Super Bowl favorites and MVP candidates at higher risk. Let’s say a Brady, Peterson or Manning gets injured in a wild card round game, the whole bracket changes. The legacy of that whole season is marred by what could have been.
I’m all for upsets. They make the games more interesting and mirror the hope we all have in life that we can beat the odds. However, who wants an upset to come because a quarterback, who should have been enjoying a week off after a stellar season, is suiting up against an average team, plays and gets hurt?
Injuries are a part of the game, but that does not mean the NFL should not try to avoid them. Creating these extra playoff teams would surely increase postseason injuries, a problem that was not much of a storyline in Sunday’s big game.
To fundamentally change what it means to be in the playoffs is what will really hinder the game. Should a team really be proud of a 7-9 year because it got into the post season?
We see this problem all the time in the NBA. Teams get stuck around .500 and make the playoffs every year just to be promptly dispatched. Then, because their record wasn’t bad enough, they get stuck with a middle level draft pick and aren’t able to really improve like the terrible teams do.
While the NFL has a much deeper draft, the idea would still be the same. Mediocre teams will make the playoffs and lose in the first round 99 out of 100 times. But they will not be viewed as mediocre just because they are playoff teams. Not because they are good teams.
Super Bowl XLVIII drew in the most viewers of any television program of all time. It is the fourth time in the last five years that the NFL has accomplished this.
Why tweak it? Why run the risk of diminishing the worth of making the playoffs? The way the Seattle Seahawks won this Super Bowl, the glory and the accomplishment, is perfect the way it is.
It was perfect for the Baltimore Ravens last year. It will be perfect for next year’s team.
What isn’t perfect is the fact that greedy Goodell and his boys are so concerned with increasing their already enormous wealth and stranglehold on an American sport.
The change seems inevitable according to various sources. Why wouldn’t owners approve? It means more games for their teams, more butts in the seats and more money in their pockets.
For the game itself, it will hardly enhance the playoff experience. Mr. Goodell has made strides in implementing instant replay and making the game safer, but as far as the postseason goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Tyler Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter at @tdavis_de.