With word that National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is advocating expanding the teams that make the playoffs from 12 to 14, it’s time to start viewing some of the recent proposals that have come from the league office with some skepticism. Everything from an eighteen game season, to playing more games outside the United States, to having a permanent team in London all scream of one thing. Money. Specifically more money for Goodell’s bosses – NFL owners. This latest talk of expanding the playoffs is of the same vein.
Allowing two more playoff teams doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world, especially when you consider that multiple wildcard teams have won the Superbowl in recent history. So why should it be an issue? It’s an issue because it would slowly begin the dilution of the importance of the regular season. Making it easier to get in the playoffs is not the way to increase competition or improve the overall quality of the product. Ideally only elite teams should get in the playoffs. Any given year there are not fourteen elite teams in the whole league. The playoffs should be an exclusive club with a VIP section that everyone wants to get in, but can’t. Flawed teams like the 10 win Arizona Cardinals will champion Goodell’s proposal, as they would’ve been the beneficiaries of the new “open-door” playoffs had they been in effect for 2013. They would’ve been in. But if they hadn’t lost at home to their division rival San Francisco 49ers in week 17, they would’ve been in too. That was their play-in game, why would they need a play-off game? They didn’t earn it so they didn’t deserve an invite. It was an exciting game, why did it need to be any different?
Because if it’s a playoff game the coverage it gets would be amplified. Television contracts could be increased, more premium ad space sold on playoff airtime, increased viewership… all that equates to more profit. Which is great, however when you put it all together with other proposals, where will the line in the sand be drawn by longtime NFL fans? If the playoffs aren’t immune to Goodell’s radical expansionism, then what’s to stop him from moving the Superbowl to London as had been floated about previously? Where does it end? The game is being fundementally altered, with the integrity of the sport being sold out for pure profit, but the league office still refuses to hire full time referees to improve the product. That shows where the true priorities are.
Twelve playoff teams are plenty. We don’t need wildcard welfare to be more interested in late season football. True NFL fans know the implications of late season division games. Stop watering down the league to protect your precious parity, as truth be told, parity is just an excuse for mediocrity. It’s just a guise to keep fan bases of 6 win teams hopeful the last few weeks of a season.
Leave the playoffs alone.