Roger Goodell Won't Rule out NFL Playoff Expansion for 2014 Season

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Roger Goodell Won't Rule out NFL Playoff Expansion for 2014 Season
USA Today

Updates from Thursday, May 1

Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei provides a synopsis of an unnamed team president discussing the possibility of playoff expansion:

Team executives and league officials are expected to discuss expanding the playoff field at the league meetings later this month. Going to 14 teams seems inevitable, but the league may stick with 12 playoff teams this year. The reasoning? According to one team president, the league won't expand the playoffs unless the television networks give them the incentive to do so. Playoff expansion is all about negotiations with the networks and how much more money the league can make, and it won't happen unless the price is right.

 

Updates from Friday, April 25

Goodell talked more about the possibility of expanding the playoffs on Friday, according to Pat Yaskinas of ESPN:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that a proposal to expand the playoffs by two teams would not water down the postseason.

"We're very cautious on that," said Goodell, who was the featured guest at a fundraising breakfast for Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, which was founded by soon-to-be Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. "You want to make sure that you don't do that.

"We have 12 teams out of 32 that make our playoffs now. This would only take us up to 14. The competitiveness of our league, that's the difference to me. It's not just adding two more teams that didn't have a chance to proceed in the playoffs, that wouldn't be something that we're interested in. I think what we're seeing now is such a competitive league that a team that got in on the 13th or 14th spot has a chance to win it all."

Goodell continued to discuss the level of support the motion had, and said he believed the move would improve competitiveness:

"The reality is there are a lot of teams that other playoff teams are afraid of coming in in those 13th and 14th spots," Goodell said. "We're going to make it more competitive. I think that's the positive spot. That's what our competition committee, our membership, our ownership has all looked at and feels comfortable that, yes, it will be competitive."

Goodell said the league is currently talking with its broadcast partners and players about the proposal. Goodell said he believes the proposal has plenty of support.

"Yes, I do," Goodell said. "What we're doing now is talking to partners, our networks and our players, and making sure that, when we do it, we do it right."

Updates from Thursday, April 24

Bob Glauber of Newsday has the latest on a potential expansion of the NFL playoffs.

Original Text

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't think the NFL will expand its postseason for the 2014 season. He's just not ready to rule it out.

The league's owners opted to table expanding the playoffs at their annual summit on Wednesday, seemingly putting one of Goodell's biggest talking points in danger. But when speaking with the media, the commissioner indicated there was momentum in favor of the expansion—perhaps as soon as next season. 

"We had a good discussion on the floor with owners and other executives this week. I think there is a tremendous amount of interest in it, possibly even to the point of support," Goodell said, per Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today. "But there are things we still need to make sure we do right."

Despite his enthusiasm, the commissioner acknowledged getting the infrastructure in place in time for 2014 is still a long shot. 

"It's not out of the question, but we did not make that decision at all," Goodell said. "We have more work to do. I wouldn't rule it out but that's not the direction we are headed right now."

The commissioner has long been a staunch proponent of expanding the playoffs. Under the current proposal, the NFL would add two extra teams (one in each conference) to the postseason bracket, making the top seed in the AFC and NFC the only teams to get a first-round bye. 

The impetus here is revenue. An additional playoff game in each conference makes the NFL more valuable to its television partners, which are already paying exorbitant fees for rights. The second seed in each conference would also have a chance at hosting two playoff games instead of one, which would obviously increase ticket revenue.

Players have largely been mum on the issue thus far. Any change to the playoff format must be collectively bargained with the players, as it would involve increasing their workload. Goodell said he expects to meet with the NFLPA on April 8 to open dialogue about expansion, with the goal of bringing their thoughts back to the next owners' summit in May. 

John Raoux/Associated Press

The proposal already has support among coaches. Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin addressed the media Wednesday to offer his approval, though he couched it in concern of how additional playoff teams would affect division rivalries, per Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk:

I would favor it as long as it doesn’t lessen the significance of division play, and I mean that. I love the structure of division play and what it means from a playoff-seeding standpoint. If it doesn’t lessen that in any way, then obviously I’m all ears.

Will Grubb of SportsRadio 610 and CBS Houston provided a statement from NFLPA President Eric Winston:

For the record, I don’t put that expanded playoff in the same category as 18 games. We’re talking about one extra game, possibly, for two teams or four teams total, if you would count both AFC (and) NFC. ...

... I’m a big fan of radically changing a lot of the playoffs. Take Green Bay for example. This year hosting a 12-4 San Francisco 49ers team when I think Green Bay was 9-7 or 8-8. I don’t agree with that. I’d like them to not only add a game, I’d like to see them actually take a hard look here and say "what are we really doing here, what are we really rewarding?" ...

... We haven’t seen anything as far as some sort of proposal on how they want to do it, what they want to do, and which way they are leaning on it.

Whether this is ultimately a good or bad proposal is up to the eye of the beholder. Typical coaches will favor the change because an additional playoff spot makes it easier to make the postseason and thus theoretically makes keeping their job easier. Owners are looking at this as a pure money grab, but it's one that will ultimately give more fans an opportunity to see playoff football.

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The flip side here, though, is de-incentivizing winning. Adding additional playoff teams means more 8-8 or possibly even 7-9 squads will sneak into the postseason, and though the NFL loves selling the novelty of parity, the game is at its best when the better teams advance. It was ultimately a bust, but few would have traded a Denver-Seattle Super Bowl for any other matchup prior to kickoff.

Top seeds may also wind up receiving unfair advantages in certain seasons, nabbing both home-field advantage and the only bye via an arbitrary tiebreaker. These are likely the problems that Goodell mentioned in his press conference.

Either way, the expanded playoffs are coming. It's inevitable. The only question is when it's happening and what form they'll take.

 

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