I happened to catch SportsCenter this morning, and evidently, in lieu of an 18 game schedule, Roger Goodell is now trying to push the idea of adding 4 teams to the playoffs. In other words, if a new 16-team playoff system were to be adopted, half the NFL would make the playoffs. Said Goodell:
Something we’ve discussed in the past before is expanded playoffs. That is something that we teed up today. We’ll probably be looking (at expanded playoffs) with the committee over the next several months.
Right now we’re 12 teams, obviously. We’ll look at probably 14 or 16. The committee will be looking at that.
Then Adam Schefter explained the reasoning, which keeps coming back to the preseason:
The league has been looking for a way to somehow reduce the preseason, which the NFL is not happy with, which fans are not happy with, and if they can find a way to eliminate some of those preseason games with added playoff games that’s something the league would be interested in doing. If it were to go to 16 teams that would mean the elimination of the bye week, but the way it would probably be impacted would be on the preseason. We’ve heard a lot of talk about an 18 game schedule. Maybe the league shies away from an 18 game schedule and instead opts for an expanded playoff field. One way or another, it all seems tied to reducing the amount of preseason games, which nobody likes at 4.
With a 16 game format, three 8-8 teams would have made the playoffs in 2011. That’s rewarding mediocrity. I could go on and on why a 16 team playoff would be terrible, but that’s not what I’m going to focus on. It’s Schefter’s last sentence that bugs the hell out of me, which I’ll note again here:
One way or another, it all seems tied to reducing the amount of preseason games, which nobody likes at 4.
That’s an inaccurate statement. I don’t think the majority of fans necessarily want “less preseason games,” as Goodell has suggested many times in the past. Personally, I just don’t care all that much about the preseason. The preseason is a time for the players to work out the kinks and get ready for the regular season. Would I miss them if they were taken away? Probably not. But do I actively want them taken away? No. I just don’t care. I certainly don’t “dislike” the preseason, even though I’ve been told by Roger Goodell that I do.
But I’m not a season ticket holder. Season ticket holders despise preseason games because they’re forced to purchase them at regular season prices. I certainly can’t blame them. I’ll use analogy that I’ve used in the past on this situation:
For those of us that enjoy pizza, we know that a large pizza will typically be cut into 8 slices. Let’s say you live in a town with only one pizzeria, and there are no other pizzerias within 200 miles. Now let’s say you love this pizza. Your 8-slice pizza costs $16, but as part of the deal you also have to buy 2 additional slices that fell on the floor and the busboy spit on, for an extra $4. You’re still happy you got your pizza, but you leave that pizzeria a little pissed off every time you do business with them. If your motivation is really to be more “fan friendly,” maybe you just don’t force your customers to buy the pizza that fell on the floor at the same price as the tasty pizza.
Major League Baseball has roughly 30 spring training games every year (it varies by team). Have you ever heard baseball fans complain about spring training? Nope. And why is that? Because MLB can’t force their best fans, the season ticket holders, to purchase tickets to spring training games.
Roger Goodell’s entire regime has centered around squeezing as much money as possible out of the NFL product, and he (or perhaps more accurately, the owners) are willing to compromise putting the best possible product on the field in order to do so. We saw it with the absurd referee lockout earlier this season, and the 16 team playoffs would be another great example.
If the NFL truly wanted to end fan angst about preseason games, they’d simply stop forcing the season ticket holders to pay for them. I guarantee you’d never hear another complaint about the preseason again.