Give me a chip and a chair
Well, it’s that day. The pinnacle of a long NFL season at the end of a trail of dashed dreams, broken hearts, and a bevy of fans already looking forward to next year. Unless you are a fan of ATL or NE.
Each year starts with everyone believing in an equal chance, their shot at the Championship on par with everyone else. But the longer one watches you start to understand that even then, not everyone has an equal chance
Players migrate towards better teams
The teams with past success are able to get their pick of talent. Oh sure, all the teams have the option to spend the money and in theory have an equal chance. But really, when it comes to free agency and players having to decide; what team would you choose? Jacksonville (no offense!) or New England?
All things equal players are going to want to play where they have the greatest chance of success. This is even more of a driving force for the very best players concerned about their legacy. Players go to NE expecting to have a great shot at a SuperBowl. Players go to Jacksonville to make a check and to play in the NFL. Sure, they want a championship too but all they need do is look at the rosters and they know the deck is stacked against them
Refs are people too
Which leads me to point two. The NFL viewership is down this year and I feel like it will only continue to drop. That is unless changes are made. The issue? There are too many arbitrary penalties in this league. How many games have turned on a pass interference call or a timely holding call? And it often is not about the calls that are made but rather the ones that are not.
Refs are people too. They know who the
teams are and even if they do not consciously consider it when they make calls, it certainly is a part of the decision. Why has the NFL never taken a long look at the role penalties, or the lack thereof, have on the outcome of a game?
Even players know this. Most recently, Grady Jarrett commented about one of the franchises who has most benefited from the officials: the Green Bay Packers.
Sure other teams can win against these odds, but it just makes it all the much harder. In a league where parity continues to grow, these small margins can make a huge difference.
Some fans love it, some fans don’t
Of course, the teams that continue to enjoy success and find themselves on the plus side of the officiating balance sheet will scream high and low that it is completely fair. But why wouldn’t they? Everyone likes to win. But even more so, there are those legions of fans who somehow believe that
their team’s success is somehow theirs. Now, that is fanaticism.
It is no coincidence that the teams that enjoy the largest fan bases are the ones who benefit over and over again from
missed calls or drive saving calls just when they need a miracle. Cowboys, Packers and Patriots are at the top of that list. Ever seen a call turn the outcome of a game when your team faced one of these:
And the fan base shrinks
At issue here is not whether or not this is true, it’s that it is the perception and fans are tuning out because of it. No one wants to waste time cheering for a team that has the odds stacked against it. And that, I believe, is the very core of the issue with the NFL today.
Steps need to be taken to remove or at least diminish the impact of judgement calls. How about we just say to heck with it, holding is no longer a penalty? Pass interference? No such thing. Get out there and earn that catch like the old time players. That would be a good start.
In this age of offense driven rating I doubt there is any chance of this happening. People want the excitement of an up and down the field shootout. So we are left with an imperfect system that favors the popular teams. We see the same teams over and over at the end of the year and when they are not we hear about how ratings are down. And that can not stand, the NFL is a business. It is not about a fair and partial league.
As made famous by Cuba Gooding Jr.,
Show me the money! And when you do I will show you the teams that find themselves at the top year after year.
Obligatory Super Bowl pick
My pick, for what it is worth, are the Atlanta Falcons. I think their offense is going to be able to overcome the NE defense and at the end of the day outscore the Patriots. I have no doubt that Brady and the NE offense will also put a ton of points on the board but I just feel the ATL Defense lines up better against the NE offense.
Either way here’s hoping for a great game. And even more so for a future in which the NFL addresses the growing concerns of the current rules systems.