NFL owners today tabled a proposal to add two more teams to the playoffs until their next meeting in May, when it likely will be voted on for implementation next season. They also voted down a proposal that would have called for a one-year experiment to allow both teams in overtime to have at least one offensive possession of the football.
The league's annual winter meeting adjourned at midday after lots of talk and a modicum of action over the last four days. Expanded playoffs and the overtime issue drew plenty of debate, and Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier told owners the current system was better than any in the game, including college.
According to several people in the room, including Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Spurrier also told the owners and various club officials that the current system creates excitement because of the tension of sudden death. He also compared it to golf, another of his sporting passions, and said most fans would rather see a tournament end with win-or-lose drama on the 72nd hole rather than an extended playoff.
"Steve did a great job," Snyder said. Spurrier was not immediately available to comment, checking out of the league hotel early this afternoon.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Spurrier also expressed concern about adding an element of conservatism to the game with each offense getting one possession. Some felt even more ties might be created, something the original sudden death rule in 1974 was designed to avoid.
Last season, 25 games ended in overtime, and only one -- Atlanta at Pittsburgh -- ended in a tie. There were 17 yes votes for a proposal on the table that would have provided for a one-year experiment with two offensive possessions, well short of the 24 necessary to pass it. The Redskins were among the 14 no votes, with Oakland abstaining.
No vote was taken on expanding the playoffs. Tagliabue said a bit more time is needed for the Competition Committee to study a proposal that would have added one team in each conference, with one bye in the first round for the division winner with the best regular season record.
That bye was felt by many to be too much of a competitive advantage, and Tagliabue also said the league wanted more time to consult with its network partners. Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who offered the proposal along with New England, said he thought the 14-team postseason had a chance to pass in May but admitted expanding to 16, which he prefers, had none.
"Lamar has great vision," Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis said with a sly smile. "I hope I'm alive when they do it. . . . We'll go either way on it. We just want to be in it."
Tagliabue indicated that the league's initiative to increase diversity at all levels of the league was making progress but said that his inquiry as to whether the Detroit Lions bypassed a new league policy by hiring Steve Mariucci as their head coach without interviewing a minority candidate was still ongoing. There may be a decision on a possible penalty before the next meeting May 20 in Philadelphia.
Owners also decided to leave replay rules in place for another year. There were several rules changes, including eliminating a re-kick on a penalty in onside kicking situations, but only in the last five minutes of a game.
Note: Washington Redskins officials have had discussions with the representative for tight end Ernie Conwell, who had 34 catches for the St. Louis Rams last season, and might try to sign the free agent. Conwell would give the Redskins another receiving threat, but it's unclear whether the negotiations will lead anywhere. Conwell would be relatively expensive, and Coach Spurrier's offense can function smoothly without a major pass-catching threat at tight end. The Redskins signed tight end Zeron Flemister to a contract extension at the end of last season and like youngster Robert Royal, a fifth-round draft choice a year ago who missed all of last season because of an ankle injury.
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report from Washington.