Thursday, September 05, 2013
NFL Season Primer: Five Ways to Improve the Game
As much as I love watching the NFL, I am convinced that there are a few ways to make the game better. Some of these ideas I did not come up with myself and I'll try to give proper credit if I can remember where I heard them. They are as follows:
Get rid of the extra point. The extra point is worthless. There is rarely an drama with it because they are so seldom missed or blocked. If the extra point was gone and teams always had to go for the two point conversion after a touchdown, the game would be more exciting. Fewer ties and slightly higher scores would only make the football more popular.
Expand rosters. Right now a team can have 53 players on the active roster, with seven inactive players each week. Each team also has an eight man practice squad. Those numbers were set a long time ago before the game became more violent with bigger, faster players. If team rosters were larger, there would more players for special teams and substitutions, and that would almost certainly lead to less injuries. Last season the Patriots lost Gronk, the second most important player on the team, to a broken arm when he was blocking for an extra point. That would not happen with larger rosters.
A special IR/Reserve designation for each team. This idea came from Bill Simmons of Grantland.com. He was talking about Bob Sanders, the brilliant safety who played for the Colts a few years ago. When Sanders was on the field, he was an unstoppable force who elevated his defense dramatically. The problem was that Sanders was injured all the time. His fearless play and small frame made for a bad combo. Simmon's idea was to have a special IR/Reserve designation for a player that can be brought back any time a team wants. With Sanders, he probably was not going to last a full regular season, and since the Colts always made the playoffs in the years he was active, the team could hold him in reserve until the playoffs. It would only apply to certain situations but would only make the game more fun. It would also drive Fantasy Football owners crazy if the player was on offense.
Replace the coin toss. Remember the XFL? The crazy minor league football league with unique rules and funny names on the jerseys? (Hehateme was my favorite.) One of their rules that I liked was that they did not use a coin toss. At the beginning of the game they would line up a player from each team next to each other. At the whistle, they would race 25 yards to a football. Whoever came up with the ball got to decide if they wanted to kick or receive to start the game. Their logic was that something as important as the first possession of a game or overtime should be decided by something football related, not a coin toss. If a race between players would expose them too much to injury, then how about each kicker lines up with a holder but no defense against them and kicks a 50 yard field goal. If both kickers make it, then they move back to 55 yards and continue like that until one misses. That would add much more intrigue to deciding who gets the ball in overtime. However, if entertainment is the goal, go back to the two players racing 25 yards for the ball, but require the two players to be nose tackles. Two 300 lb men running after a football? Pure entertainment for everyone but those two players.
Get rid of the Preseason. There are two guarantees with Preseason football. Boring games and injured players. At the start of the 2010 season Heidi and I went with Brad and Karyn Carlson to see the Broncos and Vikings play the fourth preseason game at the Metrodome. The fourth preseason game is where coaches almost never play starters and most of the players on the field are going to be cut from the team the next day. The Broncos coach at the time, Josh McDaniels, decided to play his starters for part of the game. After a quarter of play, his starting running back and his starting right tackle were both lost for the year with major injuries. Fans hate the preseason because in every game an important player on their team goes down with an injury. On top of that, the NFL charges fans for these meaningless games. There has to be a better way to prepare teams for the regular season without putting their start players at risk. It would be better for the game. Get it done, NFL!
Tonight the 2013 season kicks off in Denver. Go Broncos!