There was a time, not all that long ago, when the NFL seemed on the verge of expanding its playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.
Then it didn’t happen. Not then. Not now.
Or at least not yet.
So what’s the deal? Will it ever happen?
That’s a very definite maybe.
In May 2014, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he expected the expanded playoffs to take effect in the 2015 season.
“I do believe it will be approved for the 2015 [season],” Goodell said then.
He also said at that point: “I think we want to see one more year of, ‘Will it impact the regular season in a positive way from a competitive standpoint? Will it create more excitement, more races towards the end about who’s going to qualify for the playoffs?’ And we also want to absorb the additional inventory into the marketplace from an advertising standpoint. We’ll be able to do that. … So far we see positive signs in the marketplace. So that’s how we’re going to approach it.”
But then it didn’t happen. The owners, who must ratify such a change, simply seemed to lose interest. And the measure, it appears, generates very little discussion these days among league leaders and the owners.
That doesn’t mean the idea has been discarded for good, however. It’s been put aside, for sure. But it could be revisited in the next round of deliberations over the league’s television contracts and its collective bargaining agreement.
The entire conversation goes back to the last set of labor negotiations leading up to the 2011 CBA. The owners, remember, proposed an 18-game regular season with a reduced preseason. The players vehemently objected to a longer regular season and the owners dropped the proposal. They said they never would lengthen the regular season without the players’ approval.
But the owners did not drop the idea of shortening the preseason. Needing a way to boost revenues to offset the loss of revenues associated with a reduced preseason, the owners turned to an expanded postseason field, with a couple extra playoff games to sell to the TV networks.
Under the proposed measure, seven teams in each conference would qualify for the playoffs instead of six. There would be only one team per conference given an opening-round postseason bye instead of two. So there would be six first-round playoff games leaguewide instead of four. One of them probably would be played on a Monday night.
But there were (and are) issues. There were concerns about watering down the playoff field by allowing 44 percent of the league into the postseason rather than the current 38 percent. There also is a potential conflict between the prospective Monday night first-round playoff game and the college football playoffs.
Does that mean it will never happen? No, it doesn’t mean that.
At some point, the NFL calendar will be revisited. The preseason still could be shortened. A longer regular season, either 17 or 18 games, could be reconsidered, although the players’ approval remains the obvious obstacle there. So the expanded postseason could be reexamined as the revenue-boosting alternative. The current labor deal runs through 2020, and it makes sense to sort all of this out as the CBA and the next set of TV contracts are being hammered out.
… AND TEN
1. Seahawks say no to Kaepernick … The Seattle Seahawks have taken a pass, at least for now, on signing Colin Kaepernick as their backup quarterback. That means their main alternative to Russell Wilson is Trevone Boykin. They’d better hope their offensive line is much better than it has been or that Wilson remains as elusive and fortunate as he has been.
2. Next for Kaepernick?… It now becomes a waiting game for Kaepernick. Teams are into their offseason programs and there is no catalyst, it seems, to prompt a signing sooner rather than later. It now appears likely that it will be at least into training camp before a team reconsiders its quarterback options and Kaepernick becomes an alternative somewhere.
3. What about RGIII?… If Kaepernick can’t get a job, are there any prospects for Robert Griffin III? Could a team justify passing up Kaepernick, coming off a 16-touchdown, four-interception season in San Francisco, in favor of Griffin, coming off a two-touchdown, three-interception season in Cleveland?
Of course, teams justified signing quarterbacks such as Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Kaepernick. So perhaps signing Griffin wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
4. Seahawks’ strife … The Seahawks have done their best to try to dismiss the report by ESPN The Magazine about internal strife stemming from cornerback Richard Sherman’s inability to let go of the ill-fated play call on the goal line that led to Wilson’s Super Bowl-losing interception against the New England Patriots. Fine. It probably won’t be an issue if the Seahawks have a successful season. But if things don’t go so well, it won’t be as easy for them to put this aside.
5. Ravens’ OTA injuries … Injuries obviously are part of football. But nothing is worse than injuries occurring in offseason practices. The Baltimore Ravens have been particularly hard hit this offseason with the torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered by cornerback Tavon Young and the hip injury, reportedly career threatening, suffered by tight end Dennis Pitta. Little to nothing is won in the NFL during the offseason. But plenty can be lost.
6. Offseason restrictions … Keep such injuries in mind the next time NFL coaches talk about the need to roll back some of the restrictions on offseason practices put in place in the last labor deal. The NFL Players Association is very, very unlikely to agree to any rollbacks of those restrictions.
7. On Norman … Josh Norman’s recent comments to Bleacher Report about Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. were relatively tame, by his standards. Norman can say what he wants. But, really, has he played well enough since moving from the Carolina Panthers to the Washington Redskins to justify such inflammatory remarks? Not really taking a stand on that. Just wondering.
8. On Cruz … Norman’s comments came nowhere close to those made recently by Victor Cruz, however, after the veteran wide receiver signed with the Chicago Bears. Does Cruz really believe that the New York Giants purposefully suppressed his pass-catching numbers to make it easier to release him? This was a team that was starved for offensive production after a successful remake of its defense. If Cruz really believes that, he is deluding himself badly.
9. On Osweiler … Just how Browns-ian would it be for Brock Osweiler to actually emerge with the starting-quarterback job in Cleveland? It simply must happen.