The NFL Owners’ Meetings in Orlando wrapped up with a news conference by Commissioner Roger Goodell where he made indications that the league may expand the number of teams entering the playoffs from 12 teams to 14. Steelers President Art Rooney II didn’t agree with Goodell’s assessment from the meetings. Goodell may have said, “It’s not out of the question,” but Rooney says there was no vote.
“We had a conversation about it…I don’t have a sense on how much support there is for it, although I think it has a chance to pass next year,” said Rooney.
In 1989, the NFL expanded the number of playoff teams to 10 with three of those teams being division winners and two wild card teams from each conference. In 1990, the NFL added an extra wild card team to the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. Prior to realignment, the league put into play a 12-team postseason format (three division winners and three wild card team from each conference).
“We have discussed it in various committees [including the Competition Committee], including broadcasting,” said Goodell. “We had a full discussion on the floor with the owners and other executives this week.” The idea is that with more teams competing for a playoff spot, the fan-excitement would increase. Whether this is another marketing ploy to garner more money for the league or not remains to be seen. Teams have not agreed to such a plan even as the Owner’s Meeting broke up. The NFL Players Association also has not had any formal meetings with the league to discuss the idea. “We have a meeting scheduled for April 8,” Goodell admitted. “There are some issues that we still need to work through.”
One of the issues that would present itself is to what level the league would expand the playoff system. Teams typically have players that are already broken down or trying to remain healthy to get to the current playoffs as they stand. Whether players will want to add even more games is a big question. If the league were to add more opportunities for teams to enter the playoffs, will NFL fans see teams with losing records get in on wild-card selections? How will the league decide where to get the extra two teams to make 14? Until everyone gets an opportunity to inspect the plan, a final decision is unlikely to be made. And Rooney points out something very important – how much support is there for this, really?
Other News From 2014 NFL Owners Meetings
(The Competition Committee is headed by Jeff Fisher and Rich McKay)
- Goalposts will be extended five feet higher in the air to eliminate questionable situations and make field goals easier for officials to judge. It passed with a 32-0 vote.
- The “NaVarro Bowman Rule” – recovery of a loose ball in the field of play will now be a reviewable play. It was instituted as a result of a play when Bowman recovered a loose ball for the San Francisco 49ers that was not reviewable and led to the Seattle Seahawks retaining possession in the 2013 NFL Championship game.
- Outside of two minutes, the game clock will continue following any sack upon a quarterback.
- The NFL’s Officiating Department in New York will consult with the game referee during replay reviews when necessary.
- Dunking the ball over/on the goal posts will now be illegal. No word as yet on what the penalty will be.
- Roll-up block protection has been increased to include from the side as well.
- Enforce defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage from the previous spot, rather than from the end of the run or from the spot of the foul.
- Preseason games not allowed to go to overtime. (This one seems like it should have been a no-brainer)
- A proposal by the Indianapolis Colts to allow teams to open their roofs (on stadiums with that option) at halftime. Some opponents to this idea felt that it might allow teams to alter the playing environment in the middle of a game, affecting players in non-specific ways. See: cramping up after playing a first half in the climate-controlled environment only to have the temperature drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Expanding the roster for Thursday night games – an idea that would allow more players to dress due to shorter week. Expansion of the practice squad was also tabled.
- Allowing cameras on the goal lines, end lines and sidelines (6 total). According to NFL writer Will Brinson, the idea was Bill Belichick‘s idea (although it was more likely a rib-rubbing rumor).
- Move the line of scrimmage for one-point extra point kicks to the defensive team’s 25-yard line. The league will continue to experiment with the idea of longer extra points, at least in the preseason. A two-point conversion line of scrimmage will remain at the 2-yard line.
- Modify pass interference so that it can be called within one yard of the line of scrimmage.
- Moving the PAT location to the 25-yard line.
- Moving the kickoff location to the 40-yard line.
- Proposal to make all plays reviewable, as well as personal fouls. “Less than 50 percent” of the coaches were in favor of adding any additional reviewable plays.
- Unlimited number of players on the injured reserve and return list.
- Proposal to dispose of 75-player cut-down during training camp
- Permitting a coach from challenging any official’s decision except on scoring plays.
- Permission to allow teams to trade players prior to the start of the league year – tabled
- Permit more than one player to return to the active list from injured reserve so than any player on IR could return after six weeks – failed
- Allow all teams test time with up to 10 draft-eligible players at their facility and allow any other club to attend such timing and testing at that facility – tabled
- Adjust the roster reduction (from 53) time after the fourth preseason game from 6 p.m. Eastern to 4 p.m. Eastern (making all cuts to be finalized at 4 p.m.) – passed
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