Today’s guest post is by Peppercommers Matt Purdue and Joseph Checkler.
The NFL is in trouble. Unless you’ve been living under a rock with Donald Trump, you noticed that last weekend’s wild card playoff games were terrible. The Steelers-Bengals debacle looked more like a mixed martial arts fight than a football game, and the Seahawks-Vikings frigid farce ended in a missed chip-shot field goal.
The so-called product on the field is disintegrating. So how do we fix America’s game? Here are seven steps the NFL should take to right the ship.
- Expand the playoffs to eight teams per conference. Under the current format, the best players on the best teams sit out during wild card weekend, leaving us the dregs of the Chiefs’ Spencer Ware (who?) vs. the Texans’ Brian Hoyer (ugh). Getting rid of byes for the top teams would at least give us a chance to see the likes of Brady, Manning and Kuechly play another week. And the lower-level of competing for first-round favorites shouldn’t punish the top seeds too much.
- Institute soccer-style yellow cards and red cards. The Steelers-Bengals game was a joke with a combined 18 penalties, and some games have had even more. It’s time to bring down the hammer and borrow a page from soccer. Any player receiving a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gets a yellow-card warning. Their second penalty results in a red card – and they’re out of the game.
- A player loan system. Another soccer idea. Every year, a handful of elite quarterbacks (Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, this year, for instance) find themselves playing golf in early January, while playoff teams are stuck with things called Brian Hoyers starting postseason games. Whether it’s because of injury or bad management, it’s a problem. What if, before its game against the Chiefs last weekend, Houston was allowed to send the Chargers a third- (maybe second? Would they go as high as first?) round draft pick to rent Rivers for the playoffs. Loan talks could begin the moment the coveted player’s team is eliminated from the playoff race, to give the guy a chance to learn the new system. Loan deals could involve any combination of players and picks. And needless to say, the lent player would be ineligible to play against the team that owns him. What? This wouldn’t be awesome?
- Eliminate the excessive celebration penalty. Everyone knows the NFL is the No Fun League. So let’s establish a 10-second celebration clock. After a touchdown, players can bust out with choreographed moves; fans can vote for the best on social media. At the end of season, the best celebration gets the Ickey Woods Trophy.
- Expand replay to include certain penalties. Incorrect penalty calls – or missed calls – that decide important games have to go. On one play, a cornerback commits what 37 U.S. states would consider second-degree felonious assault and the ref misses it, while on the next snap, incidental contact results in a 52-yard pass interference call that flips field position and, ultimately, the game. The fix? The NFL uses some of its excess cash not being used to study concussions to train and hire a team of 100, tasked with monitoring every play of every game in real-time. These are the men and women who should be in charge of replay. By the time a coach throws the challenge flag, the replay committee should already have an answer, or something close to it. (Also, all pass interference penalties of more than 20 yards should be automatically reviewed)
- Kick out the extra point. The new extra point rule makes them a little less than automatic, but let’s take it further. Teams should be forced to go for a one-point conversion from the one-half yard line, or a two-pointer from the two. The layers of strategy this adds to the game would be excruciating for coaches, but boo hoo. We fans would love it! The extra point is not a natural part of football. (Frankly, neither is the field goal, but baby steps.)
- Enact the three-strikes law. It’s time to clean up the NFL. If a player is arrested for anything, he gets an automatic four-game suspension. If he’s arrested again, he’s suspended for a season. If he’s arrested a third time, he’s out of the league. Period.