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NFL Could Stumble With Plans To Expand

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NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had some harsh criticism for the NFL recently. Photo by Richard Mcblane/Getty Images for SXSW.
NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had some harsh criticism for the NFL recently. Photo by Richard Mcblane/Getty Images for SXSW.

By all measures the NFL’s thriving. But it’s a short step from pleased and prosperous to fat, dumb and happy.  

NBA owner Mark Cuban, never afraid to start a controversy, came out last week with a few interesting observations about the NFL. He said the league’s going to be oversaturated if it expands to games on even more days of the week. He specifically said the Thursday night games weren’t very good.  

He’s right about that. I can recall some clunkers, and in general, Thursday night games were poorly played. In fact, I don’t remember any really compelling ones.  

But Cuban was making more of a prediction than he was talking about the present. He might be right about the future. What happens if the NFL expands to, say, Friday or Saturday? In fact, why not every day of the week?  

That would be a schedule-maker’s nightmare. And don’t players need time to recover from the beating they take in a game? And what if the league fields a team in London or Mexico City?

One thing's for sure: Anything that detracts from the high level of competition could lead to major problems. The NFL can't afford to give up quality for quantity.

I don’t know what the league’s plans are. But it seems to me that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to expand the season the schedule and at the same time make the game safer. Commissioner Roger Goodell has skillfully juggled a lot of balls, but I’m not sure it will continue indefinitely.  

Lesser-known than Cuban’s comments are those of the Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin. Frankly, I expected an ego trip that was silly. In fact, Gosselin’s suggestions for the NFL made a lot of sense.

Here are Gosselin’s ideas:

First, have two more teams in the playoffs, one in the AFC and one in the NFC. There would be a play-in game to advance, as in the NCAA basketball tournament and in Major League Baseball.

Second, there would be two fewer preseason games.  

Third, the NFL would add a 17th game to the schedule. It would be played at a neutral site. The teams in the East would play in London, the others would play in Los Angeles.  

This change would create complications and might take time to implement. But the ideas are practical and address some major concerns.

The preseason is a big joke. Many key players don’t even suit up. It proves nothing, except to help (a little) in selecting the team. It’s terrible for season-ticket holders, who are forced to buy tickets to these useless, idiotic exhibitions. Inevitably players get hurt in these scrimmages. Two preseason games is enough.  

Seventeen is a strange number of regular-season games. Would the players go for it? It enhances the possibility of serious injury, but then with two fewer preseason games, it might turn out to be a wash.

I like the notion of a play-in playoff game. It would address the inequity of a team such as the Arizona Cardinals being out of the playoffs at 10-6. It also rewards division winners and makes it a bit tougher for wild-card teams.  

I think the stumbling block for Gosselin’s proposal centers on games in Los Angeles and London. Because that would mean that neither city would get its own franchise. And would both those cities attend games without a home team? Tough one. It’s a good deal for London, which would get additional games.

Otherwise, Gosselin's plans have much to recommend them. The NFL still has plans for the nation’s second-largest city, and I think the Rams, Raiders or Chargers might well end up here. (And I think owners wouldn’t like the idea that they’d lose some leverage regarding stadiums and leases. Not that I care much about gazillionaires.)

No one has a crystal ball. But the NFL won't stand still. I'd love to know what Roger Goodell has up his sleeve.