I promised several months ago that there would be no more football posts until April. And like the pillar of integrity that I am, I kept my word. And this will likely be one of my few football posts until June or so. So savor this one, folks. Cherish it. Print it and read it during those dreary days where I'm not writing anything football-related. This one should get you through those depressing summer months.
Now I know this isn't the most appropriate time to bring this up, since it actually happened like a month ago, but in the NFL owners meetings, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt -- so illustrious a character is he that the AFC Championship trophy is named after him -- suggested that the NFL consider changing from a 12-team playoff format to 16 teams, seeding the teams one through eight like basketball and hockey, and eliminating the bye weeks for the top two teams in each conference.
With all due respect to Lamar (and I know for a fact that he is an avid reader of mine, so my respect is certainly appreciated), this is a godawful idea. Absolutely terrible. For two reasons.
First, the current NFL playoff format is impeccable. It's the best playoff system of all the four major sports (and yes, hockey is a major sport, haters). First of all, the bye week is the ultimate reward for playing well in the regular season. It gives the top four teams in the regular season a full week off to rest and game plan for the next opponent. It also gives those teams at least one game of home field advantage.
Lamar Hunt said that the reason he opposes the bye week in pro football is because it (and I'm paraphrasing) places the "showcase teams" of the league on a shelf for a week. In other words, if the Colts are the best team in the league (for the sake of argument), why would you want to have a week where they were not on television, in effect hiding them from public consumption. This is a very short-sighted argument. Which is a better option? To milk television ratings for one weekend or maintain the integrity of the current playoff format (which, by the way, after 17 seasons, has had very little downside). No league does a better job of straddling the line between rewarding the good teams, and allowing the other teams to have a chance, especially in post-season play.
The second reason this is a terrible notion is that the 16-team playoff format is, and will continue to be, a laughingstock. It's not like this is the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, where there are hundreds of schools to choose from, and 65 is actually a low percentage. The NHL and the NBA have playoff formats that basically assure that all non-terrible teams will make the playoffs.
But that is a laughable format for two leagues that each have 30 teams. Do the math, baby. That means that more than half the teams in those leagues make the playoffs. This isn't CYO basketball, where Bill Shannon's crappy 0-22 team of 8th graders still gets to play in the tournament. It's major pro sports. This year in the NBA's Eastern Conference (of course), three teams with records of .500 or lower made the playoffs. This is clearly not the intent of postseason sports.
In the NFL, good teams miss the playoffs. And that's how it should be. Back in the 2004 season, my favorites bunch of losers (next to my friends), the Buffalo Bills, would have made the playoffs under this 16-team format. But you know what? And it pains me to say this: they didn't deserve to. Had they won their last game of the season (a pathetic effort, getting blown out by Pittsburgh's third-stringers, a game which I attended and clearly jinxed), they would have made the playoffs anyway.
Interestingly, under this 16-team playoff format, Lamar Hunt's Chiefs would have made the playoffs in 2005, since they were the best team to be locked out of the playoffs in the AFC. Granted, Hunt has been pimping this idea for a long time, but still, intriguing no?
I have written before about the NFL being the league that is going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, tarnishing all that is great about the game for quick money. But if they did this, it would be a case of the league taking a very bad idea from a very good man in the interest of creating two more playoff games every season. I'm just hoping that the money-hungry owners of the league like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder don't try to continue their hostile takeover of the league by adopting this hare-brained idea.
The league is already perilously close to over-saturation, and that's coming from an erstwhile psychotic football aficianado.