AROUND THE NFL
The NFL realized that the Sean Payton Rule, while well-intentioned, will only lead to more discussion of what is pass interference, not less. To more delays, not less. To more rulings that lead to anger, not less. So they are trying to put part of the genie back in the bottle. The AP:
NFL owners meeting Wednesday will consider a proposal to refine the new rule that allows challenges involving pass interference, and may also announce locations to host upcoming drafts.
Owners voted in March to allow interference calls or non-calls to be challenged by coaches and reviewed via replay as a one-year experiment.
The tweak proposed this week would take the decision to review pass interference in the final two minutes of each half out of the hands of the officials. Reviews in the final two minutes would require a coach’s challenge, too.
“The concern is how many stoppages will we end up with in the last two minutes,” Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said Tuesday. “One thing we do not want to do is be a game that has multiple stops in the last two minutes.”
Under the rule adopted in March, in the final two minutes only officials in the booth can stop the game for reviews involving pass interference, as is the case with other reviewable plays.
Owners are expected to vote on whether to let the NFL competition committee decide on changing the rule after it discusses the subject with the league’s coaches. McKay, a member of the committee, said the group has conference calls with coaches scheduled for early June.
Owners will also consider a proposal to exempt Hail Mary passes so they’re not reviewable. That would require the league coming up with the definition of a Hail Mary.
“I actually don’t think it’s that hard,” McKay said. “It’s going to be from what yard line was it thrown, were there multiple receivers, how much time is left on the clock. But you want to get input from the coaches — what definition are you comfortable with?”
Future host sites for the draft will also be discussed. The 2020 draft will be in Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders.
It’s uncertain whether owners will act on a proposed rule change that would require each team to have one possession in overtime. The change is being pushed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost last season’s AFC championship game without getting the ball in overtime because the Patriots won the toss, received the kickoff and scored a touchdown.
Thoughts from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Competition Committee will now have the power to revise the rule to eliminate automatic review of pass interference in the final two minutes of either half and to replace it with replay review sparked by a coach’s challenge.
It’s unclear whether the Competition Committee also has the power to eliminate automatic review in all instances (overtime, touchdowns, turnovers). The obvious concern comes from the fairly low standard for initiating replay review — if the ruling on the field is not clearly and obviously correct, replay review is required to explore whether it is clearly and obviously wrong. With pass interference, the jostling and shoving and incidental contact would potentially require every play involving two or more tangled bodies to be sorted out via replay review within the window of automatic review.
Instead, it will be for coaches to throw the red flag when they believe that it’s clear and obvious interference happened (or didn’t happen). It will become even more important for coaches to save their challenges and time outs; otherwise, a late-game debacle like the one that happened in the Rams-Saints NFC title game may not be fixable.
That’s why the Sky Judge option continues to be the best option, by far. Coaches shouldn’t have to extend the guessing-game-within-a-game exercise of wondering whether an early officiating error should be rectified and whether the perceived incompetence of a given crew requires holding a challenge as insurance.
Maybe after the NFL bumbles around for a year with replay review for pass interference (the rule change is temporary, not permanent), the league will decide to make the investment of time and money needed to add an eighth member to each officiating crew, to put that eighth crew member in a booth with every available camera angle, and to authorize the eighth crew member to communicate with the referee as part of the first look at the play, bridging the gap between what the on-field officials see (while trying not to be trampled) and what the rest of us see at home.
There are reports that Cleveland/Canton is the front runner for the 2021 draft. More from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com:
Also on the agenda: the site of 2021 and ’23 drafts. Both could be awarded on Wednesday. Why not 2022? From what I understand, it’s based mostly on what teams have bids and planning in place, and there are cities that have sketched out doing it ’21 and ’23, but there’s no bid ready to go for ’22. As for who could get it, it’s worth mentioning that Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Houston and Kansas City bid and lost out on ’19 and ’20. (Next year’s draft will be held in Las Vegas).
And this for player safety from Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com:
The NFL has asked teams to eliminate some high-impact drills — including the iconic Oklahoma drill — from training camp practices as part of the league’s ongoing effort to reduce concussion numbers.
The league acknowledged the request Tuesday during its spring meeting in Key Biscayne, Florida. The recommendation came in response to data that showed a high rate of concussions during the early part of training camp in recent years. The league convened an April 17 meeting among current and former NFL players, coaches and executives to discuss ways that would address the issue.
Banning certain drills was among the group’s recommendations.
The Oklahoma drill, among others, has been used far less frequently in recent years, but its history is rooted in reacquainting players with full contact after the offseason.
It pits a defender against a blocker who is trying to make room for a ball carrier. Teammates and coaches usually surround the drill area to create a battle-type atmosphere.
In 2015, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that the drill quickly answers the most essential questions in football: “Who is a man? Who’s tough? Who’s going to hit somebody?”
Year-over-year reported concussions dropped 25 percent in 2018 following a “call to action” by chief medical officer Allen Sills.
The league joined the NFL Players Association to produce a three-part concussion-reduction strategy: prohibiting underperforming helmet models, instituting a series of rule changes rooted in biomechanical research, and intervening in early training camp practices.
That initial camp intervention failed to change the numbers, leading to the April 17 meeting.
“We saw a certain area at the beginning of training camp where we felt could make greater improvement,” commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday, “and I think removing some of these drills across all 32 teams is the right way to do that. We also believe by prohibiting some of these drills, that will happen at the college and high school and youth football levels, which we believe should happen.”
Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Wednesday that, “I think some of the coaches were a little defensive at the start, and probably the biggest advocates at the end.”
QB MATTHEW STAFFORD has spoken for the first time since his wife’s brain surgery.
Stafford was a guest of The Mitch Albom Show on Wednesday (May 15, 2019) at Ford Field for Taste Of The Lions, the team’s annual event that helps raise money for the Eastern Market’s community outreach programming. The Lions quarterback spoke about his wife’s brain surgery and recovery for the first time.
“She’s doing good,” Stafford told Albom. “I think she’s kind of right where the doctors want her to be at this point of her recovery. We appreciated everybody’s well wishes, thoughts, prayers, all that. People have been really supportive and I know she and I really appreciate it.”
Now entering his eleventh season in Detroit, Stafford said it was a relief to get back to football.
“Yeah, no doubt,” he said. “It’s good to be back working with the guys. We got a bunch of new teammates. We got a bunch of really good players through free agency and then some young guys that we just picked up in the draft that are trying to make a name for themselves. So, every year is a different year and a new team and a bunch of new guys to try to get to know and try to be as good as we possibly can. That’s part of what makes this game so fun.”
Wow, 11 seasons for Stafford already.
QB AARON RODGERS on traveling to Belfast to be an extra on “Game of Thrones” with and his candid assessment of the alleged finale (spoilers!). Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com:
No, that wasn’t Aaron Rodgers standing the battlements of King’s Landing as a member of the Lannister army prior to the last war of “Game of Thrones.”
And no, the Packers quarterback wasn’t the peasant burned alive in an alley by Daenerys and Drogon in the penultimate episode of the eighth and final season of the hit HBO show.
“I’m disappointed in every person who actually said that was me,” said Rodgers with a smile at his locker following the first public practice of organized team activities Tuesday. “Because, if you watch that person run, they’re a total non-athlete. Total non-athlete.”
When asked if he was the man seen running from a tumbling bell tower behind Arya near the end of episode, Rodgers replied “sure” with a wry smile.
A longtime fan of the show, Rodgers arrived on set in Belfast, Ireland, around 6 a.m. local time and was one of two Americans in the sea of roughly 400 extras for the shoot with star Maisie Williams, who played Arya Stark.
While the two-time MVP quarterback is easy to spot in a crowd whenever in Wisconsin, Rodgers had full anonymity on set.
“In Belfast, they didn’t care at all. They had no idea who I was,” Rodgers said. “It was fun to be a part of it. I love the show. It’s a fantastic show. A lot of great seasons.”
Rodgers also was one of the 13 million who watched Sunday’s series finale, “The Iron Throne,” which has been met by some criticism this week for how the story concluded.
Like many, Rodgers wasn’t satisfied with the decision to have Bran Stark on the Iron Throne after the death of Daenerys Targaryen and the imprisonment of Jon Snow, the two main protagonists of the 73-episode series. He didn’t like the ending, and he explained why.
“No. I love the show and it was a great 10 years, but no,” Rodgers said. “You come down to the end and Tyrion says the person with the best story is Bran? Who, by the way, three episodes ago said he wasn’t Bran Stark anymore. No, Jon had a better story. Dany had a better story. Arya had a better story Sansa had a better story. Tyrion had a better story. Varys had a better story. Bronn, a lot better story. Jaime better story. Cersei, probably better stories. Any Baratheon better story.”
So who does Rodgers believe should have won the “Game of Thrones”? Rodgers has a name and theory of why the show played out like it did.
“I think Dany should’ve been on the throne,” Rodgers said. “Here’s my last theory about it – if Bran, the three-eyed raven who is all about the health of the realm, he basically wanted the throne the whole time – because he’s the one who told the Starks, knowing Sansa would tell Tyrion, knowing Tyrion would talk to Varys, knowing they’d scheme for Dany’s death, knowing that would (tick) her off, which led her to be the mad queen.
“So he the entire time kind of set this whole thing up? And at the end he said I don’t want to be King, but why did I travel this whole way to be here? No, look. I love the opportunity to be on the show, which most people don’t think I was, but I was there. I love the show, but the writers are also doing ‘Star Wars,’ so I think they might have been a little busy this last season.”
The Patriots would love to take TE KYLE RUDOLPH off the hands of the Vikings. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com says the teams have talked trade.
Positive news on the health of G GREG OLSEN. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Tight end Greg Olsen‘s been limited to 16 games over the last two seasons because of foot injuries, but those difficulties didn’t stop him from returning to the Panthers for the 2019 season.
They also aren’t stopping him from taking on a full workload at the team’s organized team activities. Olsen said Wednesday that he is working without limitations as the team continues preparations for the regular season.
“I’ve been cleared for everything for awhile now,” Olsen said, via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer.
Olsen had three straight seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards before the foot injuries knocked him out of action the last two years. A return to that level may not be in the cards, but the Panthers would certainly like to see what he still has to offer the offense over the course of a full season.
The fans/media of Tampa Bay seem to miss DT GERALD McCOY more in his absence than they coveted him when he was a member of the team. So they don’t feel that Coach Bruce Arians is showing the proper deference to his departed greatness. Not a big media name, River Wells of the Florida Alligator, with commentary that is typical of Tampa Bay talk radio at the moment:
“He’s not as disruptive as he was four years ago, but he’s still a good player.”
That was what Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians had to say about defensive tackle Gerald McCoy this offseason. He told ESPN that he needed to “evaluate” him, and that McCoy was at the age where “production and (pay) don’t match.”
On Monday, McCoy was released from the team, and he’ll end his career with the Buccaneers with zero playoff appearances and only two seasons with a winning record.
Four-time All-Pro. Six-time Pro Bowler. Zero team success.
There’s an inherent problem in the way Arians spoke of McCoy to the media. To some, Arians’ words could be interpreted as merely speaking the truth. McCoy certainly hasn’t been as productive as he once was — ever since his 9.5-sack season in 2013, that number has declined — and his 13 million dollar price tag doesn’t reflect well on those numbers.
To the people that matter, though — the players in the locker room and the coaches — it could be a precedent for the future.
To question McCoy’s work ethic and on-field presence does little to give justice to the career of the third-overall pick, and there were those in Tampa who expressed their anger at the decision to release him.
“You tweeting me talking (about) how good this situation is very very [sic] irrelevant,” Tampa middle linebacker Lavonte David tweeted, after tweeting out an angry emoji a few minutes earlier. “I’m literally the last person you should try to convince!”
McCoy was notorious for being vocal about his detractors, even going as far as to rant on an Instagram story and to assure his critics that he is “an All-Pro on and off the field.”
It’s likely that what Arians said didn’t sit well with McCoy. His release did not sit well with David, either, and with the new regime coming in for the 2019 season, there is good reason for players to wonder if Arians could call them out next. McCoy has been a staple at Raymond James Stadium since his first season in Tampa in 2010, and by calling out such a high profile player and locker room leader, Arians risks something that any new regime can’t risk: losing the support of its players.
And this from an AP story:
Coach Bruce Arians did not want to talk about the decision following one of the club’s OTA workouts Tuesday, saying he had wished McCoy well in a statement released by the Bucs, and that “there’s no need for answering questions about that.”
“We’ve already moved on,” the coach, preparing for his first season in Tampa Bay, said.
Some injures at 49ers OTAs. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
San Francisco 49ers rookie defensive end Nick Bosa suffered an apparent hamstring injury during Tuesday’s OTA, NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz reported. He received treatment from a trainer and limped to the team huddle at the conclusion of practice. Kyle Shanahan said he doesn’t know the severity of the injury.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo won’t be cleared for team drills (11-on-11) until training camp, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Garoppolo is still recovering from a torn ACL he sustained in Week 3 last season but has participated in 7-on-7 drills during OTAs.
The 49ers are down a few other players as well.
Shanahan said linebacker Fred Warner had a procedure done on his knee and will not participate in OTAs but is expected to be be available for training camp. Running back Matt Breida has a slight tear in his pectoral muscle and will miss OTAs and minicamp. Finally, running back Raheem Mostert had another surgery on his broken forearm, which delays his return a month.
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The attempts by some in the media to poison DE NICK BOSA with his teammates due to his political views have not worked, yet:
Nick Bosa, the 49ers’ first-round draft pick, has taken quite a bit of criticism for social media posts that some saw as racist, and he pledged to get off Twitter so he’d avoid stirring any controversy in San Francisco. One veteran in the locker room says that’s unnecessary.
Teammate Dee Ford said Bosa is already blending in well during offseason work and it doesn’t matter what opinions he has expressed on social media.
“Yeah, he’s a great guy,” Ford said, via Jennifer Lee Chan of CSNBayArea.com. “Social media is social media. I could care less. Honestly, who you are at work is important to me and he’s a great guy. I don’t even have a social media. I’m not even up to speed with the quotes and all that. I don’t care. Who he has presented to us is a great guy that’s ready to work and that’s all that matters to me.”
The 49ers also didn’t seem concerned about anything Bosa has tweeted, taking him with the second overall pick.
LB BOBBY WAGNER is eying a huge deal. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
C.J. Mosely’s new contract with the New York Jets blew the linebacker market out of the water. Seattle Seahawks star LB Bobby Wagner wants to beat that pact with his next deal.
The context surrounding Mosely’s contract doesn’t faze Wagner’s desire.
“I mean, the number is the number, the market is the market,” Wagner said of Mosley’s deal, which was handed out by Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who was fired last week.
“That’s the top (of the) linebacker market,” he added, via the Seattle Times. “That is the standard. And so that is the plan to break that.”
Mosely earns $17 million per year on his new contract, easily outdistancing Luke Kuechly’s $12.359 million per season. Wagner earned $10.750 million per year on his previous deal.
With the Seahawks backing up a Brink’s truck for Russell Wilson, questions will swirl during the final season of Wagner’s contract whether Seattle can afford to pay an inside linebacker who turns 29 in June more than $17 million per season.
Wagner has been getting ahead of the storyline, telling NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz earlier this month he is preparing for the possibility that it’s his final season in Seattle. He doubled down on those feelings Tuesday.
“I’m a professional,” Wagner said. “This is what it is. As of right now, my contract ends at this year so that’s where it stands. I am honoring the contract, I am here, participating, helping the young guys to be the best they can be. So I am here and that’s what I want to do, this is my decision, so as of right now there is no other years for me left here so that was just a very honest opinion that if I don’t get a deal done, that’s it (in Seattle). But I believe there is something that can happen.”
Wagner is a game-changing force on the interior who can almost single-handedly stuff the run and shut down tight ends or running backs in the passing game. Few inside linebackers are worth $17 million per season. Wagner might be one, even though he’ll pass the 30-year-old mark during his next contract.
Wagner is representing himself in negotiations.
“I know my value,” he said. “Nobody has to tell me my value. I know my value, so no team, no person, no agent, can tell me my value, and I believe in myself. I bet on myself, and either way to me it’s a win. You get a contract, you win. You don’t, it’s a learning experience, so you win. A lot of people are not willing to take that chance. I am.”
To show his worth to Seattle, Wagner is attending voluntary OTAs but won’t participate without a new deal. The veteran hopes to help coach up the young Seahawks corps, whether or not they will be his teammates beyond this season.
“I will be here — that will be my participation,” Wagner said. “I will be here helping the young guys, doing whatever I can. … You want to send the right message. You want to support the guys. I do feel like the quarterback of the defense is pretty important, so not having that piece would put a damper on the defense. I just feel like it’s important for our success, so I’m here.”
S TYRANN MATHIEU has a family member who tried to extort him per ESPN.com:
Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was the victim of a $5 million extortion attempt by a family member, according to federal court documents.
Geourvon Keinell Sears, 21, is accused of threatening to reveal personal information about Mathieu. According to the documents from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Sears allegedly ordered Mathieu in April to put $1.5 million in his bank account within a week before upping the demand to $5 million. Sears allegedly said he would contact TMZ if he did not receive the money.
Sears, who is described as a family member and close associate of Mathieu’s, allegedly sent a message to Mathieu’s friends that said, “I want 1.5 million by Friday or I am going to kill all you all.” He also told Mathieu’s agent that he planned to make a sexual misconduct allegation against Mathieu.
Mathieu is not directly identified in the court documents, but Denise White of EAG Sports, who represents Mathieu, told KMBC 9 in Kansas City that references to “TM” in the filing are to the Chiefs safety.
White added that Mathieu is dealing with a “private and personal family issue.”
Sears has been released on $25,000 bond, with the next court date set for June 21. His charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $5,000 fine.
Mathieu played for the Houston Texans in 2018 after five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs in March.
The Chiefs and the NFL have not commented on the case.
Three divas – two from the Steelers in WR ANTONIO BROWN and RB Le’VEON BELL, plus ex-Giants WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. – have all decided that spending time getting to know their new teammates and their new cities is a waste of their valuable time.
Here is Josh Schrock of NBCSports/Bay Area is worried, even if Coach Jon Gruden purports not to be:
When Antonio Brown first became a Raider, he promised to bring accountability to the wide receiving corps.
While the star receiver’s offseason workouts with quarterback Derek Carr have been well-documented on social media, Brown was not present Tuesday during the first day of the Raiders’ organized team activities program.
Having a player like Brown be a no-show for the first day of OTAs would concern some coaches, but Raiders head coach Jon Gruden didn’t seem bothered by Brown’s absence.
“Nah, he’s not here today,” Gruden said after practice Tuesday. “Hopefully, we’ll see him here in the next couple days. He’s been working extremely hard learning our offense and excited to get him out here. But in the meantime, we have plenty of balls to throw and plenty of receivers to throw too.
“I wouldn’t read much into this, but I’m sure people will.”
Brown’s tumultuous exit from the Pittsburgh Steelers was well-chronicled. His relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger deteriorated over time, something Roethlisberger apologized for Monday. An apology Brown appeared to respond to with a cryptic tweet.
The four-time All-Pro selection has appeared to be making an effort to build a strong relationship with his new quarterback Derek Carr, although it was put on pause Tuesday due to Brown’s absence.
Gruden wasn’t interested in playing quarterback-receiver matchmaker Tuesday.
“I’m not going to get into the relationship business,” Gruden said. “You know, I think Brown is a great guy. I love having him here. Derek’s a great guy. You can’t rush a relationship. You just don’t have a great relationship in three weeks or two months. It’s something that you got to really earn and really work at and that’s why it’s important that we spend time together. I’m a little worn out with all the relationships and all the things that really don’t matter right now.”
While Brown was not present Tuesday in Alameda, the rest of the Raiders’ new offensive weapons were.
Carr connected on a deep pass with free-agent signing Tyrell Williams, and rookie Hunter Renfrow made a couple of nice snags during the day.
“I mean a lot of football today is run-pass option where you stretch the team laterally,” Gruden said. “Bubble screens, fly sweeps, but you also have to stretch them vertically. And if you can stretch the field vertically and horizontally you become a much more difficult offense to defend and that’s a goal that we have had as we put together our team.”
Brown will be a big part of that plan heading into 2019, and although the workouts are voluntary, it should be a little disconcerting that Brown was not present to work with his new offense.
It might not worry Gruden now, but it’s an inauspicious start to Brown’s Raiders career.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Owner Dean Spanos tells both Chargers fans not to worry about a deal for QB PHILIP RIVERS. Gilbert Manzano of the Orange County Register:
Chargers owner Dean Spanos isn’t big on making win-loss record predictions for his team.
“Every year is different,” Spanos told reporters Tuesday at the second annual Chargers Invitational Golf Tournament.
Spanos also didn’t predict how Philip Rivers’ contract situation will play out. He took it a step further by guaranteeing that the two sides will eventually agree to a new contract. Rivers is entering the final year of his current deal.
“It’s gonna happen, it will happen,” Spanos said about re-signing his long-time star quarterback. “We have an understanding, as long (Rivers) wants to be here, we want him here. We love Philip Rivers, you can’t say enough great things about him. I don’t think the contract issue is a big thing for us or for him.”
Spanos’ assurance falls in line with general manager Tom Telesco, who recently said Rivers isn’t going anywhere. Although there’s confidence from the organization, there’s no telling when the two sides will come to a contract agreement.
Rivers said he’s in no hurry to get a deal done and is fine with playing out the final year of his contract.
A Bengals guard, one ALEX REDMOND, makes news which is not something that usually happens with guards for the Bengals. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Bengals are working through their possible offensive line combinations and whatever group they settle on for the start of the season won’t include guard Alex Redmond.
ESPN reports that Redmond has been suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Redmond started 15 games at right guard for the Bengals last year while dealing with injuries to his shoulder and hamstring.
The Bengals moved Cordy Glenn to left guard this week with first-round pick Jonah Williams taking over at left tackle. Clint Boling was the left guard last year, but is not currently practicing due to an undisclosed injury. The Bengals also signed former Bills guard John Miller as a free agent and drafted Michael Jordan in the fourth round as part of their effort to upgrade their line.
THIS AND THAT
Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com looks at the idea of an NBA-style draft lottery:
We discussed this on the podcast last week, and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of an NBA-style draft lottery for the NFL. I’m not sure how the mechanics of it would work. I do know that it would add another interesting night to the calendar for a league that’s always looking to fill all of our time with football.
I do not think NFL decision-makers agree with me.
I ran an informal poll on Wednesday morning, and got responses from 13 GMs or top decision-makers. Ten said they’d vote against the league adopting a draft lottery. Three said they’d be for it. A few pieces of reasoning from those guys:
• “I would be in favor of it to keep anyone from attempting to tank for a player like Andrew Luck, Tua [Tagovailoa] next year, etc.”
• “I like the formula we have now. I think it’s fair, keeps the league competitive, allows for teams to bounce back after a bad year. So it keeps fans engaged. It’s worked as far as I’m concerned. I don’t see a reason to change it.”
• “It would be an interesting night—another really good day of NFL drama and content. I’m not smart enough by any means to design it, but after [the NBA lottery] last night it has to be on the radar of a lot of influential people in the NFL.”
• “I just think the worst team should pick first.”
One veteran member of the competition committee told me the idea of a lottery hasn’t really come up in his time with the group. But it’s fair, I think, to ask whether or not it should. And with the next two draft classes expected to include quarterbacks worthy of going first overall—Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert in 2020, and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in ’21—the topic will come up.
So here, after talking to a couple team president types, are some pros and cons on why it might or might not work.
The obvious: It could take away a race to the bottom, and erase regret in other cases. Consider that if the Browns hadn’t botched a field goal against St. Louis late in 2011, the Rams, and not the Colts, would have had the first pick in 2012. Then the Rams get Andrew Luck and trade Sam Bradford (who was very highly thought of then) for a haul. Does Jeff Fisher thrive? If Luck crushes it, and the team contends, does it stay in St. Louis? All of that rode on the Browns screwing up. Another example: A three-game winning streak in early 2017 cost the Jets the three second-round picks they spent to trade up for Sam Darnold. In both cases, it’s hard to objectively say the teams were better off winning games. A lottery could eliminate that.
The content: The NBA lottery drew a 3.9 rating last week. By NFL standards, that would be bad. It’s half the Pro Bowl’s number. But consider that it wasn’t far off from the number posted by Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals (5.8), which aired right afterward. And it was just about even with the number posted by Game 7 between the Raptors and Sixers (4.0). An NFL lottery wouldn’t draw what a conference championship does (Patriots/Chiefs had a 31.2), but if you put it all together, it’s fair to assume it would probably be some multiple of the NBA lottery. Which would add to a big audience.
The calendar/hype: The league could put the lottery a week after the Super Bowl—as part of the never-ending quest to fill our calendar with football—and use it to start building up the combine, and introducing the draft class to those who don’t watch the college game. The idea of it … is very, very NFL.
There’s rarely a player worth tanking for. That’s just the makeup of the NFL compared to the NBA. Luck would be one of a few examples—Peyton Manning and John Elway would be a couple others. Most years, there’s genuine debate over who should go first overall, and difference in opinion from team to team. Also, in the NFL the value across the first round is better. Everyone can get difference-makers. Those are much fewer and farther between in basketball, making the gap between the first pick and, say, the 10th pick potentially cavernous, giving NBA teams real reason to be intentionally bad. And of course, having superstars for those teams is paramount.
Tanking in other areas. If the lottery is weighted like it is in the NBA, there’d be motivation for, say, the 14th and 15th worst teams in the NFL to wave the white flag at the end of the season, increasing their chance at making a big jump up the board. Or, if you decide only to make, say, half of the 20 non-playoff teams (there are only 14 in the NBA) eligible, a team might want to lose at the end of the year to get in the bottom 10, which would be a problem. So the issue you’d create could involve not just bad teams, but mediocre ones.
The current system is not broken. While the NFL has never stayed stagnant just because something has worked in the past, there really hasn’t been a tanking issue in pro football. So there’s not a baseline reason to change. And if the league wanted to add lottery-style content, one executive brought up this idea: Do away with the tiebreaker rules for the draft, and instead have the order for teams that finish with the same record established by a drawing. Yes, people would watch.
A significant change in NFL broadcast policy as every market will have three games every Sunday. A tweet from Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal:
NFL has dropped the single-header rule in all markets for 2019, meaning that all markets will get at least 3 games in the Sunday afternoon windows.
The single header thing is one of the most common complaints I’ve heard in social settings after I tell them what I do for work, so this should be a crowd pleaser.