The Chargers, Cardinals, Bills and Rams like it. George Halas believes it's fair and George Allen belives it's a conspiracy. A Colt executive loved it - before he got to the Colts. And the Raiders give you so many verbal stunts you're not sure where they stand.
The fuss concerns the National Football League's new schedule format, the three-year experiment that tries to match teams of equal strength as often as possible, and which in fact does seem fair to anyone who looks farther than his own face mask.
What this does is give strong teams a challenge and weak teams hope, and there seem to be built-in penalties for sandbagging, although the Raiders - naturally - insists it will be better to finish fourth than second in the AFC West this season.
But first a word about how all this works - and it's really not that complex once you get the hang of a lot of B-2, D-2s and realize that the force behind it was television.
The bottom number is 16 - the games in the expanded NFL schedule next season - and teams get huge start toward that simply by doing what they always have: playing a round-robin, home-and-home schedule within their divisions.
That means any team in a five-team division, the Redskins, for instance, has eight games immediately accounted for. But the teams in the two four-team divisions have just six. To lift that figure to eight, each plays the fifth-place teams in its conference, giving each fifth-place team a total of 12 games.
So more than half the schedule is complete already. To get everything even again, the teams that finish first through fourth in each division play each of the first through fourth teams in a division of the other conference.
For 1978, the top four teams in the NFC East play each of the top four teams in the AFC East. The AFC Central is matched against the NFC Central. Now everyone has 12 games.
The next step completes the schedule for the first-place through fourth-place teams - and it involves intraconference games. The first-place teams in each division play the first- and fourth-place teams of the other two divisions. Second- and third-place teams play nondivisional seconds and thirds and fourth-place teams by the other first- and fourth-place teams in the conference.
Now to get the fifth-place teams also up to 16 games. That simply involves their playing each other. Each plays a home-and-home series with the other fifth-place team in its conference, plus one game with each of the two fifth-place teams in the other conference.
With the accompanying diagram, it is possible to determine the schedule - with the exception of dates and starting times - of every NFL team for 1978 as soon as the 1977 season ends. You know who everyone plays - and whether the out-of-division games are home or away.
Note that the last-place teams have enough games with bad teams to make them better and that the fine teams also have enough games with the league dregs to keep them at the top, if they play the way champions are supposed to play.
What could be fairer? Well, the NFL could eliminate all wild-card teams from the playoffs instead of adding one in each conference next season, although its postseason thinking still makes more sense than the NBA's and NHL's.
What would make such as Tex Schramm, Allen, Al Davis, Ted Marchibroda and others scream foul even louder? What the NFL originally proposed: that all first-place teams play all five other first-place teams - instead of three - and at least three additional second-place teams.
That would have firsts playing first across the board, seconds playing seconds, thirds playing thirds and so on. And would be one sure way for at least one or two first-place teams to eliminate themselves and allow a lesser team to sneak into the playoffs.
"Frankly, we voted for that, too," director of operations Joe Sullivan of the Cardinals admitted, laughing. "We wanted it this year, because we were in third place."
Even though that would have been as close to a dream schedule as television might reasonably imagine, it was voted down - after shouting that sent tremors throughout the meetings.
The NFL, presented its new format to paying customers last week in the program "Pro." And one of the stories was under a headline that said:
"The Consensus: New Schedule Plan Is Fairer."
That is correct, or it would not have been approved. But Allen, Schramm and other negative voices were not included by the league mouthpiece.
"Everything in the league seems to be to knock down the people who work hard and help teams down the ladder." Allen said, "If you're down, you should work hard to improve and not be helped by all these gosh-danged rules and regulations. I voted for it because it helped the Redskins from a financial standpoint."
"I don't belive you should discriminate against success on the field," said the Cowboys' Schramm. "I believe we have enough mechanics - the draft, the waiver system, things like that - to help the weaker teams without the schedule being an additional burden.
"I believe it's fundamentally important for all teams in a division to play the same schedule. (In fact, each team does play 12 common opponent's in the new format.) Football has never been a handicap sport, like horse racing. But I do agree the old arbitray system of scheduling also was unfair."
Alredy the Raiders see a negative point, if they finish second in the AFC West to the Broncos this year. By doing that, the Raiders would have to play the second- and third-place teams in the AFC next season, which might well be Miami and New England from the East. Looking ahead, the fourth-place team might have to play Baltimore and the Jets - and that seems easier, Al LoCasale said.
"But I want you to make sure you put in there that the Raiders arean't looking past the Rams this week and then the Vikings and Chiefs," the excecutive assistant to Al Davis demanded. "We might be 12-2 this year and wild-card team on the ro