NFL

NFL AM: Goodell Says Playoffs Likely To Expand

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Roger Goodell says playoffs likely to expand:

Roger Goodell spoke to Jacksonville Jaguars season ticket holders, and at one point during a question and answer session, the commissioner was asked if he thought the league might consider expanding the playoffs in the near future. There’s a joke there, but we’ll be nice.

While he didn’t sound like anything was imminent, Goodell conceded that a larger playoff field will likely be something we likely will see, at some point.

“It’s a tough one,” Goodell suggested. “And the reason I say that is it works so well right now. We have 12 teams that qualify for the playoffs and what it does is it’s not just the number of teams in the playoffs, it’s what it does to our regular season. I think that’s what makes the NFL great is every game means so much. That game means a great deal. You don’t ever want to lose that. You don’t want to lose the fact that every regular-season game is important. And only having 12 teams qualify, which is the smallest of any of the professional leagues by far, that’s a good thing for us …

“Could you do it? Yes, you could do it. From a competitive standpoint, our competition committee said ‘we think we can do it properly.’ We’re still looking at the broadcasting side of it and then there’s a labor-relations side of it too, which you have to deal with the union. But it will continue to get discussion.

“It likely will happen at some point, but we want to be really cautious because we really like the balance we have with the importance of the regular season and the postseason and you don’t want to mess with that balance. You have to be really careful and cautious.”

The reality is, once the NFL and the NFLPA can come together on compensation, this is something that isn’t that hard to accomplish at all.

Initially the thought of the NFL tinkering is a little jarring, I get it. It’s easy to want the league to just leave well enough alone. They’ve already screwed up an overtime period that didn’t need fixing, and while it worked out better than just about anyone could have hoped, you still have to wonder if moving the extra point was necessary.

While you might initially think expanding the playoffs would just be gluttony, and Goodell’s concerns about watering down the regular season product are warranted, it seems from his statements that the commissioner is failing to realize that the league could add importance to the regular season by expanding to a 14-team playoff.

If the NFL expanded to a 14-team playoff, that would result in three Wild Card Round games per conference, with only the top seed receiving a first-round bye. Nothing could make the regular season more important or a late season race for the No.1 seed more exciting than knowing that only one team gets that first-round bye in attempt to reach the Super Bowl.

This is really a perfect solution. The race to each conference’s only playoff bye will add drama to late season football, and there isn’t a football fan alive who wouldn’t love six games on Wild Card Weekend.

Get it done, Rog.

NFL to discontinue the Rookie Symposium:

The NFL has decided to do away with the rookie symposium, and instead replace it with new “transition program,” which will be run by each team individually, for its own rookies. The league believes it’s best to offer each team an opportunity to instill their own values as NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent explained.

“Every team has its own set of values and culture. That’s one (reason for the change),” Vincent, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.

Of course, another reason for the change could have something to do with the league’s desire to hold teams accountable when their players misbehave. If individual teams, and not the league are responsible for teaching these young men how to act away from the football field, then it’s those teams who can be held accountable when those players don’t do the things the league expects of them.

One major issue that this move addresses is the number of rookies the symposium left behind. While the symposium was focused on drafted rookies, the league is full of guys who go undrafted. Those undrafted players who would not have been a part of the symposium will be a part of each team’s new transition program.

“Most important is we have an opportunity to capture 100% of all new members,” Vincent said. “Of all new players, of all new employees, where before the focus has always been on the drafted, and 55% of (rookies on) your roster is made up of undrafted rookies the last five years.”

Regardless of the motives, this seems like a mostly positive move. While the symposium could have promoted better relations between players on opposing teams, a team-led transition program will allow all rookies to participate, and hopefully will help those teams build comradery within their rookie classes.

Bengals work out Hakeem Nicks and Mike Williams:

You may remember how we wrote about the Cincinnati Bengals desperation at wide receiver last week when the team signed Brandon LaFell after an awful season in New England in 2015. Despite suggesting the team could look to draft as many as two or three receivers, we apparently underestimated just how desperate the team is to add depth at the position.

On Tuesday, Cincinnati worked out a pair of once-promising young receivers turned disappointing veterans. While Hakeem Nicks once looked destined to be as good as just about any New York Giants receiver before him, and Mike Williams had once reminded Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans of another receiver who wore 19 in Tampa, the two are now trying to hang onto an NFL career for dear life.

Nicks took a drastic turn in production after getting off to a very good start in New York. After a nice rookie season, the former Giants receiver racked up 155 receptions and 18 touchdowns in his second and third seasons. In the four years since, Nicks has only pulled in 154 catches and seven touchdowns.

Mike Williams started his career with three solid 60-plus catch seasons in Tampa and was rewarded with a big new contract. He was never the same. Williams is a perfect example of an athlete who got a big pay day and got lazy and stopped giving a damn. The Buffalo Bills gave Williams a shot and he responded by pulling in eight catches in 2014. After a year out of football, the former Buccaneers and Bills receiver is trying to get one more opportunity to play in the NFL. Honestly it will be quite a surprise if he does.

 


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.