NFL could try this for a change
Photo above: the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks won, 43-8.
The NFL is at a precarious point in its history. Fan support is at an all time high but there are many troubles that pose a risk to the league. Off field player conduct has been a major issue but has yet to hurt the viewership of games. Lawsuits abound over the effects of concussions, but that does not keep fans from thirsting for more violent hits.
Meanwhile, the league would like to expand the season to more games and into more markets ,but the players association is not keen on the travel to Europe or for exposing their players to more hits. There is a way to expand the league abroad and also increase the number of games played without increasing the hits players take. The answer lies in shortening the game.
NFL teams currently play sixteen games that are sixty minutes in length for a total of 960 minutes a season. If games were shortened to four 12-minute quarters, teams could play a 20 game season for a total of 960 minutes. With four added games to the season, teams could receive an extra bye week, which makes staging games in England, Spain, Germany, and Mexico easier to do. It also has the benefit of making for a longer season, which would add to the television revenue the league desires.
“But the season is long enough,” you say. No problem. You eliminate two preseason games. Teams rely more and more on off season workouts and practices along with scrimmages with other teams to determine roster decisions. A 20-game season makes it possible to eliminate the entire preseason if both the league and players desire.
With a longer season, teams could be given another category to place injured players on rather than season ending injured reserve. A longer season will allow a team that loses a player to a moderate injury to continue to carry that player and allow him time to heal while still being able to return later in the season. And with more games, coaches can now afford to sit a player and let him rest up a bit since each game would only count for five percent of the season.
Along with shortening the game, I would realign the league into four regional divisions of eight teams in order to cut down on the amount of travel. Teams would play their regional rivals twice and still have six other games, two against each of the remaining three regional divisions, to make up their slate of twenty games.
For the playoffs, each of the regional division first place teams would receive a bye week while the second and third place teams would play first round playoff games. Those winners would be pitted against the first place teams in a round of eight. The following week would be the conference finals followed by the Super Bowl.
Here is what the regional divisions would look like:
New York Giants
New York Jets
Los Angeles (St. Louis)
Some rivalries are hurt by this, but the league can schedule a slate of classic rivalry games so teams like Dallas and Washington can play each other every year.
Just like the NFL/AFL merger marked a major turning point in league history and ushered in a new era of football, this too would do the same. The game would grow without increasing the injury risk as it now stands for players and allow the game to grow beyond our borders making it more than just America’s game.
James Moore is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching and currently runs his own personal training business, In Home Jim, in Hemet, CA. Jim’s writings are often the end result of his thoughts mulled over while riding his bike for hours on end.