One lucky team from the 2010 NFC West Division has a chance to make history.
Barring a change in style and general competence, there’s a more than decent chance that we’ll see a division winner with fewer wins than losses.
It’s a concept that seems to be an oxymoron.
To be a playoff team that’s been more successful at losing than winning is the very definition of counter-intuitive.
To be a division winner—a distinction that’s usually immortalized with a pennant inside the team’s stadium—and be below .500 makes this even more ridiculous.
Imagine Pete Carroll, Seattle’s head coach, giving the press conference describing his emotions—the Seahawks would be the dubious trend-setters should they win next Sunday of being the first ever 7-9 division winner.
And actually, in a strange way, it would be perfect karma if Pete Carroll was the guy in that position.
After all, it was the gregarious Carroll who fled USC like J. Bruce Ismay as the ship was sinking.
The water was about up to E deck when he signed in Seattle, escaping the sanctions and NCAA punishments—including a two year postseason ban—that inevitably followed his poor leadership through the Reggie Bush crisis.
Should NFL rules be revised to ensure that no below .500 teams are division winners?
Thinking about his reaction, it would have to be more embarrassment than anything else, though in this day and age of perpetually boring press conferences, I’m sure Carroll would find some positive spin on being so mediocre.
The Precedent (or lack thereof)
To give some history, since the 1970 merger, no NFL team has ever been worse than 8-8 and won their division. 8-8 teams have won twice—the 1985 Browns and the 2008 Chargers.
The simple fact is that teams with more than six losses have never won Super Bowl.
2008 Arizona was probably the closest—they were 2:37 away in Super Bowl XLIII before Big Ben crushed their dreams.
The 1979 L.A. Rams briefly led Pittsburgh before Terry Bradshaw connected with John Stallworth on a couple of big plays to ice their fourth Super Bowl.
Having said that, teams with more than six losses have a pathetic combined playoff record of 29-58 all-time.
The number of 9-7 and 8-8 teams increased exponentially following the expansion of the playoff format in 1990 and no playoff teams of more than six losses existed prior to the expansion of the schedule from 14 to 16 games in 1978.
Yet as is so commonplace in the NFL, more—or greater—is seen as better.
More teams, more regular season games, more playoff games.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this doesn’t always translate into quality entertainment and though the occasional 9-7 team has made a run, they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule.
The Losing Parties in This
Yet we’ve never seen a division winner have more than eight losses and more than that, it’ll inevitably mean that two of the Giants, Bucs, Packers group will be out of the playoffs though they could all be 10-6.
I know I’m preaching to the choir saying this, but can’t we fix this?
What’s stopping this from happening again if it does in fact happen this year? Not just for the teams left out, but for the horrible playoff matchups this creates.
Because of the NFL’s seeding, it’s a better deal to be a five seed in a year with a 7-9 division winner than to be a three seed.
The rational being that it’s better to have an away game at a horrible division champ—the four seed—than have a home game against a rabid wild card team—the six seed.
And if that ridiculous logic isn’t enough to prove why this should never happen, then think about Pete Carroll’s awkward press conference when he wins the worst division in the history of the NFL.
Actually, I take that back, don’t think about that, because that would just be hilarious.