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Expanding the Playoff Pool is a Bad Idea

I assert that Goodell's newest proposal will hurt the game long term.


I don't think this proposition is all that controversial. In fact, I imagine that a lot of people will have negative feelings toward Roger Goodell's potential proposal to expand the playoffs to a 14 or 16 team affair. And to be frank, they are probably right.

I want to say a couple of things, though, before this debate gets off and running for the next couple of weeks, and it involves comparing sports. Obviously, Baseball has done something similar recently. The expansion of the playoffs resulted in a second wildcard team from both leagues. As Football fans, the second wildcard is fairly natural for us. It works in Football because it allows the top two teams to have byes, thus incentivizing competitive play late in the regular season in order to secure a number one or two seed. In Baseball, the same is not true. Moreover, we like seasons to be decided by one game as Football fans. That doesn't work in Baseball. Not at all.

So, I think we need to learn from Baseball. Expanding the playoffs, while it increases revenue, does not always equate to a better playoff experience. I don't think letting every 9-7 team limp into the playoffs just to have them all beat up on each other for a week before the elite teams start to play will make the experience better. I just don't buy it.

But I bring up Baseball for another reason than just direct comparison. Baseball, like every other sport in this country, plays second fiddle to Football. America's sport is Football. The money proves it; the merchandise proves it; T.V. ratings prove it. Football is number one. Expanding the playoffs is a revenue grab - plain and simple. It's an attempt to expand Football's audience in the US. I'm not sure how successful that can be. With demand for Football so high, I don't think the NFL can just flood the market with a greater amount of supply and expect proportional increases in interest. The return on the investment just won't be there. Long term that is. I have no doubt that an expanded playoff pool would increase the monetary influx.

That said, I would encourage the NFL to accept its status as top dog and make sure that the product in its current form is the best product it can be long term. Set the league up for future success so that the NFL pie keeps growing organically rather than through expansion of the playoffs. Don't dilute the product (which is what playoff expansion would be) for more money. Solidify the product long term so that it can continue to generate bundles of money.

How do you do that? Actually follow through on the promises that you will make the game safer. Player safety is the only way this league has a shot at being around in 30 years. Make the game safe, and the revenue will be safe. And, well, let's be honest, adding more games does not make the game safer. It makes the season longer and more arduous.

I think this would be a bad move for the future of the NFL.