Owners not expected to vote next week on expanded NFL playoffs beginning in 2015 season (updated)


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners are to discuss the expanded playoffs proposal when they meet next week in Orlando at the annual league meeting (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

NFL owners are not expected to vote next week at the annual league meeting on a measure to expand the playoff field beginning in the 2015 season, according to a person familiar with the deliberations on the issue.

A report will be given on expanded playoffs and the owners will discuss the issue when they meet next week in Orlando but will not vote on it, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league had not publicly ruled out the possibility of a vote. NFL officials and competition committee members said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters that the issue would be addressed next week and it was not clear if there would be a vote.

It appears to remain highly likely that the league will expand the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams beginning in the 2015 season. The influential competition committee has expressed its backing of such a maneuver, and several people close to the situation have said in recent weeks there is growing support for it league-wide. One of those people said this week that the owners are expected to approve it at some point, calling it “pretty safe to assume it’s coming.” But with the measure not yet scheduled to take effect in the 2014 season, there was no pressing need for the owners to take an official vote next week in Orlando.

Expanding the playoff field would enable the league to increase its television revenues, with a previous proposal by the owners to achieve the same result — lengthening the regular season to 18 games per team — apparently all but abandoned because of strong opposition by the players’ union. Under the expanded-playoffs proposal, seven teams in each conference would qualify for the postseason instead of the current six. Only one team in each conference would receive a first-round playoff bye and there would be six first-round games league-wide instead of the current four. One of those games could be played on a Monday night.

The owners are expected to vote on a wide variety of other proposals next week. The competition committee has proposed allowing the referee to be in contact with the league office during instant replay reviews and the New England Patriots have proposed moving the ball back to the 25-yard line for the snap on extra points. If the Patriots’ proposal is rejected, the competition committee would propose putting the ball at the 20-yard line for the snap on extra points on an experimental basis only for one week of preseason games, with no change for the 2014 regular season. Committee members also said they would enact a ban on the use of racial slurs by players during games through a point of emphasis to game officials that they enforce existing rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct.

Rule changes must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners. The point of emphasis does not require ratification by the owners.

Update (2:45 p.m.): Another person with knowledge of the matter said a vote is not needed at next week’s meeting or necessarily expected but cannot be completely ruled out. Whether or not a vote happens, that person said, will be based upon how the owners’ discussion on the issue proceeds. Under that view, a vote would remain possible if it becomes clear during the owners’ discussions that there is overwhelming support for expanding the playoffs.

“Let’s wait until the meeting to see,” that person said.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

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Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.

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Mike Jones · March 20, 2014

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