SBD/December 17, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Execs Reportedly Surprised By Timing Of Goodell's Playoff-Expansion Talk

Goodell's plan would involve expanding NFL playoffs to 14 or 16 teams
Some NFL execs at the Dallas owners meeting Wednesday “were surprised by the timing” of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s talk of playoff expansion, considering he “never mentioned it on a day he was answering questions about former commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s decision to vacate Goodell’s suspensions," according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Mortensen said of the competition committee, “Specifically, Chairman Rich McKay sent out a memo last month that said they definitely will engage in playoff talks in March” (“Sunday NFL Countdown, ESPN, 12/16). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said of the proposed playoff expansion, “The players union would have to agree to any such change. So if the NFL wants to do it, the NFL is going to have to give something in return to the players union.” SI’s Peter King added, “They believe the best chance is to give up two preseason weeks, which are useless anyway, and to trade those to add two playoff teams” (“Football Night in America,” NBC, 12/16). NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi said, “I’m thinking at times, this could make sense. But then I start watching teams like, do you really want to watch the Jets in the playoffs if they were to be the final team? … I think you have to look at it over the landscape over the last ten years. Has there been a team that could’ve gone into the playoffs and played well? My sense of it would be no” (“NFL GameDay Morning,” NFL Network, 12/16). Fox’ Michael Strahan said, “You have to play well. That’s what the playoffs are about and if it takes away from the quality of your team maybe you should write a letter to the owner and say ‘bring in better players’” (“Fox NFL Sunday,” Fox, 12/16).

NUMBERS GAME: In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote going to “16 teams -- two more in each conference -- seems like too much.” That number means “you’re talking about either no byes in either league, which would deemphasize the end of the season for conference leaders, or adding another weekend to the playoffs, which could only happen with the elimination of two preseason games.” Going to 14 teams is “much more viable” (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/16). In Minneapolis, Mark Craig noted expanding the playoffs “appears to be the NFL's Plan B for not being able to force-feed the players an 18-game regular season.” Craig: “And, yes, more money will be raked in. But one has to wonder if there's a point -- years from now perhaps -- when this Golden Goose could suffocate with the hands of 32 owners and one commissioner squeezing so tightly around its neck” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16).

MULLING IT OVER: In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote the idea of playoff expansion is “not a new idea,” but it “should stay an old idea.” Myers: “Why add more teams just to give the networks additional inventory and make 7-7 teams having disappointing seasons even more relevant than they already are in the wild-card races?” Giants President & CEO and Competition Committee member John Mara said, “I’ll listen to discussion about it. At this point in time, I’m not ready to support that. The system we have now works pretty well. I would be hesitant to water it down. It’s hard to get in. It means something when you get it.” Myers noted Goodell’s intention to “make the game safer and his concern for players is genuine, but there are some inherent inconsistencies with the way he’s gone about it” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16). In Seattle, Danny O’Neil wrote Goodell “does not necessarily see the players as a product.” He sees them as “a workforce to be molded so they play the game the way he wants it played.” Goodell is “trying to change the league,” and it is how he is “trying to do it that is problematic, something that Tagliabue not-so-subtly pointed out in his ruling regarding the Saints' bounty program.” Goodell's approach “could use a few more carrots and less use of the stick” (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/16).
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