The National Football League held its annual fall meetings this week in Washington, D.C. Here are four things we learned when 32 owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell got together to discuss the status and future of the nation’s most popular sport.
1. The dream of more games lives. NFL owners are considering adding two teams to the playoffs as soon as 2015. The current format includes 12 teams (six from each conference) that play a total of 11 games. A 14-team format is still to be determined. Goodell says it would probably involve six games instead of four on the first weekend of the playoffs. Those two additional games are what the NFL wants most out of the change. More high-stakes games are an obvious way to make more money. Adding playoff teams has worked well for Major League Baseball. It should also be an easier sell to players than the league’s long-frustrated ambition to expand every teams’ regular season from 16 to 18 games.
2. Hard Knocks for (almost) everybody. The league passed a new rule that allows it to compel teams to participate in Hard Knocks, the “reality” series it produces with HBO. The show covers one team in depth each preseason. The league likes the show because fans love to peak inside locker rooms, coaches’ meetings, and players’ homes. Teams have often refused to participate because they don’t want fans peaking inside the locker room, coaches’ meetings, and players’ homes. The new rule exempts teams that have a first-year coach, have been on the show in the past decade, or have made the playoffs in at least one of the past two seasons. It’s cleverly crafted to give fans more chance to see more teams while protecting those least able to handle the extra scrutiny. And if a team complains, it’s the team’s own fault for failing to make the playoffs.
3. The Washington Redskins name is a pest that won’t go away. As the Associated Press reported, the possibility of a name change for the Redskins was not on the agenda in Washington, “yet it was the subject of four of the first five questions posed” at Goodell’s Tuesday news conference. Goodell, who has softened his stance of late, told reporters that the league needs to “make sure we’re doing what’s right.” The push to change gained new momentum over the weekend when President Obama said he would think about changing the name if he were the team’s owner. The actual owner, Dan Snyder, then wrote a letter to season-ticket holders saying that he had thought about it, thanks, and wasn’t about to budge.
4. What League of Denial? The PBS Frontline (and formerly ESPN) documentary on the NFL’s handling of its concussion crisis, League of Denial, happened to make its debut during the league meetings. It covers the NFL’s history of pretending there isn’t a problem. This is what Goodell had to say about it:
Goodall says too busy to watch PBS documentary on concussions and NFL, says won't comment on something he hasn't seen— daniel kaplan (@dkaplanSBJ) October 8, 2013